Formatting: what does your font say about you?

Formatting: what does your font say about you?

Typography and the science behind fonts may not be every one’s cup of tea. And whilst there are plenty of resources around for the dedicated font lover – books and articles that lovingly detail the nuanced differences (and history) behind each font type. Let’s be honest most people probably don’t give too much thought to their daily font usage.

However, according to some pretty reputable sources, fonts could well have a significant impact upon a potential client’s response to your content. Somewhat surprisingly, there are a number of studies on the effects of typography. Now, I’m not going to bore you with all the facts and figures but there is one in particular that I feel demonstrates just how powerful font usage can be. It was conducted by Errol Morris, a documentary filmmaker and called Hear, All Ye People; Hearken, O Earth. Driven by a need to understand the impact of fonts (and maybe a little too much time on his hands) Morris tested 45,000 people and their reactions to the same text in six different fonts. In an interview with Co.Design Morris commented

if you say, “the atomic number of gold is 79,” there’s a view that that has to be true, that it couldn’t be otherwise. But what if the font in which that sentence is expressed influenced our perception of that truth somehow? Would there be a way of testing that, to test our capacity for credulity? Whether we’re more willing to accept it as true because it’s written in one typeface or another?

The results were pretty amazing: the readers who were given the passage in Baskerville were most likely to agree, whilst Comic Sans seemed to be the least respected font. (And graphic designers worldwide breathed a sigh of relief.)

So for those novices to fonts, for whom there seems to be little difference between Times New Roman and Gill Sans I have compiled a concise list to help you navigate the font territory.

Fonts can broadly be broken down into four genres: Serif, sans-serif, script and novelty or decorative. Subliminally, each of these represent a different brand identity and impact upon the way customers interact with your business.


Recognisable for: Little kicks or feet at the edge of each letter.

Serif Fonts

Generally considered to convey a respectable, reliable and comfortable brand it is often used when targeting an older demographic with the hope of portraying stability. Interestingly, it has been used in the past by incredibly modern brands such as Google and Netflix, allowing them to straddle their trademark innovation whilst firmly planting their brands as fixed and long-lasting.

Sans Serif

Recognisable for: (Literally meaning without serif) sans-serif is the only font not to have serifs (little tails) at the end of each letter.

San Serif Fonts

Sans Serif is generally recognised as portraying a clean, modern, stylish and chic brand. Unsurprisingly it is used by LinkedIn amongst many other well known brands.


Recognisable for: Being the font most closely related to handwriting

Script Fonts

Script has a cursive style that reflects creativity and elegance. Used by a number of retail brands it is an attention grabbing font it is used by premium drinks brands such as Jack Daniels as well as a number of Vintage brands conveying timeless beauty and elegance.

Novelty (or Decorative)

Recognisable for: Being used almost exclusively for engaging and unique headers.

Decorate fonts

This font conveys a unique and amusing feel and is perfect for a more innovative brand (particularly those whose target demographic is children). It is almost impossible to read this form of text in prose format, and it is reserved almost exclusively for catchy logos, such as the iconic Disney branding.

There you have it, my brief overview of the four main font categories. So next time your writing a document, think about what font your using and how it might change the way the reader responds to it. If you need any help in choosing the right font for your business, feel free to drop me a line.

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