September 2, 2014 9.02 am This story is over 87 months old

The psychology of fonts: What your typeface says about you

Think carefully before you choose fonts: The typeface you use not only represents your company’s motives, but your characteristics as well, explains Lisa Yates.

Did you know that the font type you choose for your logo could influence how others see your business? Have you ever sat next to someone who has sneered at a Comic Sans logo? I would be surprised if not, as this is just one font that seems to be able to curl the toes of most creative types.

When designing a logo, you’re attempting to communicate multiple messages in the simplest form possible. The typeface you use not only represents your company’s motives, but your characteristics as well. 

Pick the right font and it will amplify the meaning of the words, but pick the wrong one and you could end up sending out mixed messages – which would be nothing short of a disaster.
So which font should you choose? Here’s my quick guide to the different types of fonts on offer and the psychology behind them:
Serif fonts – think Times New Roman or Baskerville. These fonts are characterised by a slight decorative projection added as an embellishment to a letter. Implying a sense of tradition, respectability and reliability, this type of font would be good for a company looking to emphasise its pedigree or heritage – but be warned, a younger crowd might see them as too ‘old school’.

Sans serif fonts – think Helvetica, Ariel or Franklin Gothic. Clean, simple and futuristic, Sans Serif typefaces are very popular, especially in educational applications. They’re easy to read, which makes them ideal for the visually impaired and work well for companies wanting to send out a straightforward message and give the impression of reliability and honesty.

Modern fonts – these fonts include Futura, Avant Garde and Century Gothic. Strong and dependable but with a touch of sophistication. Modern fonts suit forward-looking brands and are ideal for fashion lines, companies in niche markets and luxury brands.

Script fonts – cursive and handwritten fonts can be beautiful but proceed with caution! Care needs to be taken over legibility when using a font like Zapfino or Scriptina. A logo font is often reduced in size for stationery etc. and nobody is going to understand a message they can’t read or remember. However, these can convey elegance, femininity or creativity. A font that looks genuinely handwritten can also give your design a sense of informality or spontaneity.

Novelty fonts – these typefaces are a bit different from the norm and generally you wouldn’t want to read a lot of text in them. However, they can work well for logos and singular words. Beware though, staff and customers may quickly tire of something overly childish (unless, of course, it is for a brand that is aimed at children). 
Custom fonts – can’t find what you really want in a typeface? Then you could always have a custom font created. For companies like Coca-Cola, Disney and Pinterest customised fonts have become synonymous with their brand. It’s an expensive option but one that will give you a unique look that stands out, consistency across your brand and above all the freedom to do what you want.

So think carefully before you choose your font. What subliminal message will it put across to your customers? Experiment with different fonts and you’ll quickly be able to see which style is right or wrong for you.

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Lisa Yates is the design manager at Lava, an award-winning marketing agency in Lincoln.