Font Psychology: Understanding Why Fonts Matter

  • By Grishma Shah
  • 26 Oct, 2021 Reading Time 12 Mins
  • 1 Comments
Font Psychology in Branding

Fonts have always been an element that is often taken for granted but play a crucial role in triggering different emotional responses. The science of choosing a particular font is defined as font psychology.

The fonts that you choose go a long way in generating a specific emotional response with your audience.

In this article, you will learn everything about font psychology and how it helps brands connect with their audience.

Let’s get started.

What is font psychology?

Font psychology is a powerful concept.

The fonts you select can significantly shape the attitude and emotion of your audience towards a product or a brand.

Font psychology is the study of how different fonts can influence the feelings, emotions, and behaviour of the audience.

For example, if you choose to use Roboto instead of Times New Roman, it is will reflect as modern and clean instead of being old and traditional.

Understanding the emotional response connected with each font in design is called font psychology.

Why is font psychology important?

Font psychology is important because it helps you choose the right fonts.

While designing a particular product or a brand, you want to decide on how your audience will perceive its value. Will they be happy, excited, full of satisfaction, or curious?

As you anticipate a specific emotional response from your audience, you start aligning your logo, voice, style, colours, and layout.

However, fonts also play a crucial role in communicating the brand or marketing message and activating the desired emotions in your audience.

Understanding font psychology will give you a helping hand and make you understand the perception of each font and in what ways should you use them to attract your audience.

Main Categories of Fonts

Fonts can be classified mainly into 5 different categories. Let’s have a look at each category one by one.

1. Serif

Serif fonts are the long-established, traditional fonts in the industry.

A serif is known by the small extra stroke found at the end of the main vertical and horizontal strokes of a few letters. Popular serif fonts include Playfair display, Merriweather, Times New Roman, etc.

Serif fonts depict luxury, authority in font psychology
Serif

They are traditionally used for large bodies of texts mainly paragraphs in magazines and newspapers as it is an easy-to-read font. The font showcases a variety of different characters and personalities through the smallest details.

Serif fonts showcase class, heritage, trustworthiness, and traditional and formal traits. Serif fonts are best used for logos, body copy, and titles.

They are used by brands that want to convey respectability and traditions like Vogue, and Time Magazine.

2. Sans-Serif

Sans Serif fonts have an interesting history. Sans serif fonts emerged early in the 18th century but were popularised in the 19th century.

They are seen as a clean and modern font as compared to Serif fonts. Popular examples of sans-serif fonts are Roboto, Arial, Helvetica, Source Sans, Open Sans, Segoe UI etc.

Sans Serif are perfect for both formal and informal usage and best used in web design

Sans serif fonts are also much simpler and clean, which helps in evoking a sense of cleanliness, also giving a minimal brand look.

They are the most simplified fonts out there. This font showcases honesty, clarity, modernism, and cleanliness. They are best used for small text, body copy, logo, and titles.

Big brands like Google, Facebook, and Spotify use sans serif font for greater readability.

3. Slab Serif

The origins of slab serif fonts date back to the 19th century.

They are generally used by car and technology brands like Volvo and Honda who want to build confidence and trust in their audience while showcasing modern creativity.

Slab Serif is a distinct font and most suitable for titles.

Popular slab serif fonts include Roboto Slab, Courier New, Rockwell, Museo, etc. This font helps to add a sense of substance to your brand.

Slab serif fonts showcase confidence, boldness, creativity, contemporary, and solidarity. They are best used for logos and titles.

4. Script Fonts

Script fonts are fancier than serif fonts and reflect handwritten or cursive writing.

As everyone’s handwriting looks different and unique, script fonts also feel the same way. They are often formed by letters that are connected and flow together fluidly.

Script fonts have handwritten style

As script font is distinctive and cursive, it can be hard to read. Use them with care. Don’t use them for long-form copies. They are best suited for short calls to action.

Popular script fonts include Pacifico, Dancing script, Lucida script, etc.

Script font showcases the elegance, creativity, informality, and a personalized approach. They are best used for creating logos or fancy headlines.

5. Decorative Fonts

Decorative fonts are more diverse and unique than script fonts.

They don’t have any formal structure and include every font that uses peculiar shape, layout, and stroke, just like graffiti fonts.

Decorative fonts are more diverse and unique than script fonts.

Decorative fonts are creative fonts as they don’t fall under any font category. They are best suited for logo designing, and sometimes for headlines and calls to action. Brands such as Lego, IBM, and Disney use Decorative fonts as their logo.

Decorative fonts should be used in small case scenarios as they are majorly trendy and may fade away over time. Decorative fonts include Bangers, Fredoka One, Lobster two, etc.

What Is Font Hierarchy?

Font hierarchy is a systematic structure ordering fonts to showcase and highlight the most important information first, followed by the second most important information, and so on.

Font Hierarchy in Visual Design

It is important because it adds a sense of structure, and makes your content look managed and easier for people to read. 

Following is the common font hierarchy structure

  • Firstly, the most important words you read belong to the title.
  • Secondly, you read the subheadings of each section.
  • Moving on to reading the subsection headlines.
  • Finally, we land on the paragraph text with the smallest font and the longest body copy.

You can use a combination of different styles of font with a variety of strokes to make the content easy to scan and read.

Other Characteristics of Fonts

Apart from categories, fonts used with different characteristics can bring out the desired perception of your messaging.

1. Light vs. Heavy

The light stroke of fonts in design reflects feminity, beauty, and delicateness while the heavy stroke depicts boldness, solidarity, and masculinity.

Visual difference in light and heavy weight fonts

That’s the reason why fonts of brands like Tiffany & Co. a luxury and comfort jewellery brand are thin and tall to attract and appeal to their female audience.

While a brand like Rolex, a luxury watch brand is bold and heavy.

This is done to attract and appeal to the male audience in the market.

While both logos use the same serif font, the difference between the light and heavy strokes conveys a different message to a different audience.

2. Expanded vs. Condensed

Expanded fonts are associated with spaciousness and relaxation. while, condensed fonts are known for being concise, precise, and economical.

Visual difference between expanded and condensed fonts

The logo of Mitsubishi, an industry brand, has a condensed logo and font format to showcase that its machinery is economical and precisely manufactured.

However, Netflix, a renowned entertainment brand has a logo seen as spacious and loose which indicates relaxation. Also, the spaces between letters of the Netflix logo depict the comprehensive catalogue of movies they have in store. The gap is huge so does their movies catalogue.

3. Lowercase vs Uppercase

Lowercase font reflects compassion and kindness while uppercase font reflects authority, control, and a sense of power.

Visual difference between lower and upper case font

The logo of Airbnb perfectly reflects the emotions of comfort, kindness, and being approachable.

While Jaguar, a luxury car maker brand, uses uppercase letters to showcase its car’s power, control, and authority in the automobile industry.

Choosing the Right Fonts for Your Brand

1. Knowing your brand personality

Before selecting the fonts for the design, colours, and layouts of the content, it’s important to create a well-defined brand personality.

It is what your customers will know you for, connect with you, and remember you for.

Selection of fonts should be in line with brand's personality

All of the components of your brand such as brand colours, layout, voice, logo, and fonts should align with and communicate your brand personality properly.

Spend some time analyzing your business goals and target audience and think about how would you like your brand to be perceived by your audience.

Do you want your brand personality to be classic, exclusive, trustworthy, bold, or casual?

Before taking any steps further, spend some time crafting your brand personality.

2. Reflect on the tone of the message

Once you’re done with your brand personality, it’s important to focus on what type of feelings and emotions you want to convey to your audience through your brand.

The fonts chosen should reflect the brand's voice and tone

A sincere message asks for a serif or sans serif font and a trendy informal message asks for a script or decorative font.

Imagine a bank using a script font that includes cursive letters! This will not only convey a wrong message but also diminish the value of the bank in the eyes of the audience.

3. Readability is crucial

While it’s great to have a fancy and memorable logo, a non-negotiable rule in fonts in design is that it should be legible and easy to read.

If the line spacing is too tight, it is not readable

Having a tight line spacing makes the life of the reader much harder and the business loses potential clients as well.

4. Combine contrasting font styles

You might think of choosing a font and using it consistently throughout the brand content.

Using contrasting font and font pairing in visual design

However, using a combination of contrasting font styles will help you create an aesthetic appeal for your brand. It is also a significant way of showcasing font hierarchy.

For instance, you can use a serif font in your headlines to grab the reader’s attention and use a sans serif as your paragraph text for easy readability.

Also, you can try using different strokes of the same font. But remember, not you overuse this font combination.

Top Sources to Get Latest Fonts

We bring you the best websites that hold the latest and largest collection of all types of fonts.

1. Google Fonts

Google Fonts has emerged as the leading website for open-source fonts for both desktop and web usage.

It is an interactive web directory for browsing the library, and APIs for using the fonts via CSS and Android.

As of December 2021, Google Fonts had 1,321 font families, including 197 variable font families.

2. Adobe Fonts

Adobe Fonts partners with the world’s leading type foundries to bring thousands of beautiful fonts to designers every day.  It provides all creative cloud subscribers with access to its font library, under a single licensing agreement.

Like Google Fonts, it is an interactive web directory for browsing the library and APIs for using the fonts via CSS.

You can browse through 2605 font families that exist as of December 2021.

3. DaFont

Probably the number one go-to choice of designers for fonts, DaFont has a mammoth library of 63,243 fonts and it keeps on growing.

You can browse through a huge variety of fonts, and download fonts in TTF/OTF formats.

4. Font Squirrel

Font Squirrel is one of the best resources for free, hand-picked, high-quality, commercial-use fonts.

All the fonts on the site have free desktop licenses, meaning they can be used in commercial graphics and images free of charge.

Apart from downloading the fonts, you can use it to generate web fonts from the OTF/TTF files you have and also you can identify the fonts from an image you liked.

5. BeFont

BeFont is another great website to get fonts. This website shows a true type preview as well as a creative (image) in which the font has been used.

It allows you to try before they buy and another great feature is that it allows independent font designers to submit fonts as well!

6. Cufonts

Last but not the least, Cufonts, a relatively new website, has positioned itself as the world’s most comprehensive Webfonts supported free font archive.

Like BeFont, it allows users to submit fonts too. Cufonts has a rather practical categorization such as Brand Fonts which houses fonts used by popular brands, fonts for Instagram users, and so on and so forth.

Conclusion

Fonts in design are a crucial piece of block in setting up brand personality and voice. You should always have the font psychology at the back of your mind while working on your project.

It’s always one of the most overlooked aspects of communicating ideas to your audience. But fonts are just one aspect of visual design. If you want to explore more, read our article on how visual design influences UX design.

Understand the brand personality, target audience and their interests, voice and tone of the message and subsequent emotions while selecting fonts for your next project.


BLOGS

Similar Blogs

Hiring a product design agency - Things to consider.

Apr 21 12 mins read

How To Choose A Right Product Design Agency?

Choosing a right product design agency can be challenging especially when you got thousands of choices. But, we have made…

Improving UI UX through team work

Feb 18 12 mins read

Team up for better UI/UX designs

This article describes why teamwork is important for creating better digital products and how designers can leverage it.