Do the fonts you use matter? Yes, here’s why

- July 14, 2022 5 MIN READ

Typography is often one of the most overlooked players in the game of visual branding. Yet when chosen wisely, fonts and different lettering styles can create a genuine emotional reaction that deepens people’s connection with your brand, writes Shayne Tilley, head of marketing at 99designs by Vista.

Coca-Cola, for example, is synonymous with its cursive, flowy font with a swift tail underlining the word ‘Coca’. It feels retro but not dated, cool but not cocky. It represents the essence of the brand and how it wants its consumers to feel.

And therein lies the psychological power of fonts – a power that can be leveraged by even the smallest of brands.

Old, retro Coca-Cola sign

Have a look through the top font design trends of this year, and you’ll get a glimpse at how quickly certain styles of typography can not only draw your attention, but impact how you’re feeling too.

By understanding how fonts influence certain thoughts, emotions and behaviours, you can better choose the right ones for your brand.

So, let’s dive into the value of fonts and how any small business can use them to their advantage.

Why do the fonts you use matter?

93 per cent of personal connection is non-verbal, according to Albert Mehrabian’s Rule of Personal Communication, which means that visuals set the tone for your business’ relationship with consumers. Naturally, things like quality, reviews and pricing matter, but that initial impression consumers have of your brand is heavily influenced by what they see and how that makes them feel.

The fonts you use are a core part of this – not only as part of your logo, but for your website, social media platforms and other forms of branding.

People have very specific thoughts and reactions associated with certain fonts. By understanding those associations, you can shape how consumers respond to your brand and how they connect with it on a deeper level.

Imagine you’re throwing a party. Would you use the same font for the invitation as you would for, say, the poster for a technology conference? Likely not. Rather, you’d want to use a playful, perhaps more stylish font that creates excitement for your upcoming event.

The fonts you use are as equally important as the ones you don’t. Consider this scenario: you’re looking for a lawyer, so you google ones in your area and click the first result, only to be greeted with a website drenched in the notorious Comic Sans. Would this inspire confidence in this lawyer? Would they seem authoritative and professional enough to support you? Not at all. You’d be pressing the back button without a second thought.

While these are extreme and obvious examples, they illustrate a fundamental truth: the fonts you use send a message, whether intentionally or not. Typography should work in harmony with other design elements like colour, shape and spacing to create the impression and personality you want your brand to embody – and your customers to embrace.

How can you put font psychology into action?

Understanding the power of fonts is all well and good, but how do you make sure you’re using the right ones that communicate the message you want to send?

First, it’s most important to map out your brand personality. How would you describe your brand if it were a person? How do you want your brand to make people feel? By addressing these questions, you’ll be better positioned to find the fonts – and colours and shapes, for that matter – that align with who you are and how you want to be perceived by your customers. From there, you can select a font that will help you achieve those goals.

Despite there being thousands of fonts out there, luckily most fall under one of four styles, each of which is associated with certain human traits. By familiarising yourself with these, you can be more strategic in the fonts you choose for your brand.

1. Serif fonts

Serif fonts, which have decorative ‘feet’ at the ends of each letter form, are strong and classic. They convey a sense of knowledge, trust and authority, which is why they’re often used by traditional brands like financial institutions and law firms.

For that classic feel with a bit more boldness, you can consider a Slab Serif typeface.

Serif font logo by elm&tweed

Example of a Serif font from elm&tweed

2. Sans Serif fonts

Sans Serifs, lacking the ‘feet’ at the ends of each letter form, are modern, clean and simple, making them a popular choice among technology companies.

If you want to be considered sophisticated, forward-thinking and innovative, consider a Sans Serif font.

Sans Serif fonts examples

Examples of Sans Serif fonts from Mike Barnes (left) and Milos Zdrale (right)

3. Script fonts

If you’ve ever been mesmerised by the calligraphy on a wedding invitation, you’ve experienced the effects of Script writing. Script style fonts mimic cursive handwriting.

With a range of options from fancy to down-to-earth, script fonts can be associated with elegance, creativity and playfulness.

Script fonts examples

Script font examples from Milena Vuckovic (left) and from Flavia²⁷⁶⁷ (right)

4. Handwritten fonts

Handwritten fonts are the newest kids on the block and take on the nature of natural handwriting (rather than the more polished Script fonts). Of course, as people’s handwriting can vary drastically, so too can handwritten fonts. This style is fun and free and inspires creativity, and as a result, has become quite popular as a headline or logo font.

If you’re looking to bring a unique touch to your brand, a handwritten font could be just what you need.

Handwritten fonts examples

Handwritten examples from Cit (left) and Brands by Sam (right)

In researching and determining what fonts you’re going to use, keep in mind your ultimate goal: to enhance your visual branding to better appeal to and motivate your target audience.

While you’ll use multiple fonts, colours and shapes, they should all work cohesively to match with your brand personality and connect with your customers.

If you can’t seem to find the right one, professional designers can either help you uncover a rare gem or customise a new font altogether. With any luck, people will only need to see your logo font to immediately think of your brand – just like Coca-Cola.

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4 of the freshest design trends to power-up your small business branding in 2022