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The Fun Side of Fonts

Erica Williamson November 18, 2019 Branding & Design, Creativity

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Times New Roman, Helvetica, Arial…every day we are inundated with messages containing these basic fonts. Information from street signs, commercials, presentations and emails all start to blend together into a generic lump. There are literally thousands of more interesting fonts, and I believe that choosing the right one is the most important component of a design.

Using fonts to convey a message

You’ve probably seen those “fonts matter” posts that circulate social media from time to time. They usually show a sign or package that looks like it has a bad word on it because of poor font choice. Besides basic legibility, fonts are the most important design element to create a memorable brand voice or message. A good font choice sets the right tone for the content before the viewer even thinks about the meaning of the words.

The most straightforward way to illustrate this is to use the below example:

Let’s pretend that we can’t read English. At first glance, without even reading the words, the text on the left note gives off a happy and dreamy vibe because of the flowy, soft shape of the letters. We know that the content is going to be something positive. On the other hand, the text on the right note looks foreboding and spooky because of the rough jagged edges. While it seems obvious that you wouldn’t use the font on the right for a happy message, more subtle variations in fonts can also have a big impact. Take these font variations for a logo design:

Both are sans-serif fonts, yet they evoke completely different feelings. If I had to guess what kinds of companies these are for, I’d say the one on the left is something more natural and playful while the one on the right is for a serious or more corporate company. This concept can be applied to anything from logo design to a marketing message.

Using fonts to define an experience

I recently returned from a trip to Disney World. At a park like this, making guests feel like they’re immersed in a theme is top priority. As I was waiting in line for the Haunted Mansion ride, I noticed that the Exit signs used a spooky font that isn’t typically used for Exit signs.

There are actually specific ADA rules that are supposed to be followed for wayfinding signs, but Disney must be able to bend those types of rules! It is a small detail that probably isn’t even noticed by most guests because it blends in so well with the rest of the ride queue.  But I think if the font wasn’t used, it would detract from the overall mood of the Haunted Mansion.

Using fonts to create a memory

As a marketing agency, Smartfish receives many requests to create “Instagram walls”. These are all the rage for events right now as they make an excellent photo opportunity that can also be branded. People want to take their pictures against a pretty background, so this is an easy marketing tactic since there is such a large audience on social media. It’s a win-win for the brand and the consumer! A fun word or quote really does the trick to attract people. But it has to be done in a memorable way, and this is where font choice comes into play. I’ve seen this done in a range of ways – from a single bold sans-serif word blown up to larger-than-life scale, to smaller, delicate script fonts lit up in a bright neon pink.

Earlier this year Smartfish traveled to the PPAI Expo in Las Vegas. At one of the hotels there was the below “LOVE” installation since Valentine’s Day was approaching. Of course, I took a picture standing beside the letters and tagged the hotel. These word feature statement pieces have become a mark of a tourist destination, with the most memorable becoming a sort of rite of passage for a person’s trip.

A word’s personality comes to life when the right font is used. The increasing number of available fonts can sometimes make choosing the best one for a project overwhelming, however if approached with its end use in mind, finding fonts can be the most fun part of a design.


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