Fonts Matter? How the Shape of Words Shape Your Message

You’re probably aware that things like punctuation and capitalization can affect the “tone” of printed media. However, your typography can also play a surprising role in how your words are perceived. Here are just a few things that you’ll want to consider before picking your next font.

Shapes and Slopes 
In the 1930s, researchers wondered if the shapes of written words could communicate emotion like a kind of printed body language. The answer was yes. Their study demonstrated that upward-sloping lines were seen as happy and joyous while downward-sloping lines were associated with sadness. You can take advantage of this knowledge by making sure that the lines of your ads, signs, letters and banners are facing the right direction for your message.

Size 
A good rule of thumb is that your font should always be bigger than you think you need. This is especially true if you’re trying to catch the attention of passing motorists. A sign that’s perfectly legible at a standstill might turn into a small, blurry haze when it’s passed at 40 miles per hour, so you’ll need to consider visibility if you’re trying to create good signage for a billboard or brick-and-mortar storefront. Retail typography is always more complicated than personal typography.

Stereotypes 
Another way that your font can affect your brand is through industry perception. For example, Comic Sans is widely regarded as a silly, child-like font, so it would be entirely out of place in a professional newsletter. Not only would it stick out like a sore thumb, but its usage would also lose you the respect of any clients or employees with a graphic design background.

Mood 
Research has shown that the exact same document can be perceived differently when printed with different fonts. In one study on the “latent affect” of texts, a newspaper article was rated funnier when it used Times New Roman instead of Arial. This suggests that there are a lot of subconscious influences playing a role in how the shapes and strokes of letters interact with the brain. You’ll want to do some research into this phenomenon to make sure that your business sign is causing the right impact for your brand.

There’s more to selecting a good font than simply picking something that looks nice. You’ll need to consider a lot of different factors if you want your typography to send both conscious and subconscious messages to your consumers. Use these tips to make smart choices about your words.