A good design is sure to evoke an emotional reaction, whether it be happiness, power, comfort, adventure, or even anger. To accomplish this, designers make use of a variety of different elements such as shape, composition or color. For example, yellow is energetic and cheerful; circles convey community, unity or love; vertical lines communicate strength. All of these design elements are relatively well-known, but we don’t often think about the emotional impact of one integral element: fonts.
Font psychology can be described as the emotional reaction viewers have to the fonts they see. Different fonts have the ability to impact our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in unique and sometimes very specific ways, so that’s what font psychology helps us to understand. When you know how people react to fonts, you’ll be able to make your designs that much stronger and have more control over how they are perceived.
To help you get started, we’ve broken down the psychology behind some of the most popular font families below.
WTF? (What the Font?)
Examples: Times New Roman, Georgia and Garamond
Serif fonts are considered to be some of the most traditional of your font options. They’re usually used to create a classic, traditional, or stable feeling in a design. When we see serif fonts, we’re most likely to feel a sense of trustworthiness, respect, authority, and formality. If you’re designing something for a business that is well-established, or you’re attempting to evoke knowledgeability and authority on a subject, serif fonts will be your best friend.
If you’re looking for a font that bridges the classic look of serif with a more youthful look, slab serif fonts are a great choice. In slab serif fonts, the serif is squared off making it look chunkier and bolder. If that’s what you’re going for, check out Courier, Rockwell and Museo fonts.
Sans Serif Fonts
Examples: Arial, Century Gothic and Helvetica
Simply by removing the serif, sans serif fonts communicate a more clean, modern feeling in your designs. They manage to straddle that line between minimalistic and engaging, between openness and straightforwardness. When viewers see sans serif fonts, they may feel a sense of modernity, progress, sophistication, or innovation.
You’ll often see sans serif fonts used in association with tech companies as well as other brands who consider themselves modern and forward-thinking. When older companies refresh their branding, it’s very common for them to adopt a sans serif font and retire their serif typeface. Delta, Google, and Burberry are just a few examples of this trend.
Example: Lucida Script, Lobster and Zapfino
Script fonts are known for being either fun or romantic (or both). With their graceful, swirling lines, they evoke feelings of femininity and elegance, but their hand-written appearance could also communicate creativity in the overall design. When someone sees a script font, they’re most likely to feel a sense of romance, whimsy, fanciness, and light-heartedness.
Due to their potential to evoke deep emotion, script fonts can be a fantastic option for visual brands, but don’t overuse them. Their artful, fanciful appearance can quickly become visually overwhelming and even make the copy illegible.
Get Out There and Font It
There are hundreds of thousands of different fonts for you to choose from when creating a design. By better understanding font psychology, you’ll be able to find the font that makes your words and your design come to life. And if you’re still not sure if your design rocks, don’t be afraid to reach out for a second or third opinion. Ashore has helped thousands of designers automate and manage the proofing process. With easy-to-use review links, threaded comments, and version comparison, you’ll have everything you need to enable a fast, productive review process. Sign up for a free Ashore account today, and start flaunting your font psychology knowledge in your designs.