The Personality of Typography

In the 1st century BC, the Romans used different styles of writing for different types of communications. Roman square capitals were used for official or formal communications, while old Roman cursive was used for casual missives and directives. In 1440AD when Gutenberg invented movable type, and thereby the world’s first font: Blackletter, little did he know how crucial a role his invention would play in modern communication.

When you’re reading words on a page, do you think about how the font makes you feel? If you are comforted by it or confronted by it? If it feels whimsical or clinical? Type conveys weight—both figuratively and literally. While different thicknesses of letterforms perform an aesthetic purpose in emphasizing or contrasting a point, every typeface also has its own intrinsic personality. This feeling that a font evokes is an abundant and effective resource readily available to all of us.

Typography is a type of coded message that can deliver all sorts of information to your audience.

Beyond the message itself, the letterforms themselves speak volumes. In a recent study by The New York Times, it was determined that certain fonts inspire confidence, while other fonts weaken confidence. Baskerville generated the greatest amount of trust, Georgia aroused a more negative reaction, and Comic Sans sparked a sense of contempt. In another study by Wichita State University, certain types of fonts were shown to have certain personalities across the board. Script/Funny fonts were seen as youthful, casual, attractive and elegant, whereas the Serif and Sans Serif fonts were seen as stable, practical, mature and formal.

Type can say everything about a brand or company’s personality, offering tone and voice. It can offer authenticity… simplicity… it can shout, or be subtle. Cute or clever. Bold or beautiful. Elegant or rough. It can convey what you can’t sometimes just tell your audience: “hey, we’re serious,” or conversely, “we don’t take ourselves that seriously.”

Photo credit: Coca-Cola

Interestingly enough, even if the letterforms are of a language you cannot read, the feeling evoked, as well as the personality expressed, can be undeniably recognizable. Take Coca-Cola for example. Whether in Bangladesh, Bulgaria or Thailand, their signature typeface is immediately recognizable.

Here at Element Six, we place a lot of weight on branding elements such as page architecture, imagery, color, style, and of course, typography—all stylistic elements that communicate on an emotional and subconscious level. Type is a foundational brand element that anchors the brand’s visual style moving forward. When creating a brand identity it is one of the first things we look at. When building a creative concept or campaign, it can drive an idea or capture a concept and ultimately, typography offers you a way to clearly differentiate yourself from your competition. In this crowded marketplace, why not rely on a tool that is readily available, has tons of diversity and has been around for centuries?

Sources: Oxford UniversityThe New York Times, SURL – Wichita State University