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Type 2
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3.1 Type With Personality

Can typography communicate with us on a deeper level? This lesson explores how we attach emotional qualities and personalities to typefaces, and how typographers use this to design products that sell.

3.1 Type With Personality

Hi everyone, welcome to the third section of this Tuts+ course of The Art of Typography. In this section, we're going to put the past behind us and look at what the field of typography is looking like today and I can tell you, it's looking pretty exciting. In this lesson, I want you to think a bit more about the role that typography plays in our lives. So remember the international style and the Helvetica infested subway? Well, modernist typographers were all for making typography a much more significant part of our everyday lives. They wanted typography to shape our emotional responses to the world, not just for our choices to buy commercial products. But also in shaping how we respond to public communication, including that signage on the subway. Now let's take a look at some typefaces, a really varied bunch. And all I want you to think about when you look at these is how these typefaces make you feel. Okay so lets look at those again. So how did you feel about this one? Firstly what is it? So this is Futura which is a modernist style 1920's typeface. I personally really like Futura. It's very clean and minimal. Which makes it very easy to read, but has a rounded, bouncy quality too, which suggests a bit of friendliness, wouldn't you say? So we like Futura a lot. Okay, so what about this hello? How did this make you feel? Compared to Futura, this typeface feels a bit more ungainly, it looks a bit sharper. It has a more direct in your face style, perhaps aided by those lower case letters being closer in size to that upper case H. I would say it looks a bit less friendly than bouncy Futura. It's a bit shouty and bit less elegant. Now what if I was to tell you that the Swedish mega-brand Ikea decided to ditch Furtura in favor of this typeface which is, drumroll, the Verdana, which is one of the most popular fonts used on the web. When IKEA underwent a rebrand a few years ago, they decided to go with Verdana for all their advertising and printed marketing. As they argued that Verdana had a wider appeal internationally, and would translate better online to other languages, especially Asian languages. Unsurprisingly the fact that friendly Futura was replaced by sharper, clumsy-ish, calcia Verdana caused quite a bit of upset in the design community and there was even a petition to bring back Ikea's original type choice. I leave it to you, whether you prefer Futura or Verdana, but you can't deny that the seemingly simple decision as to what font to use for writing up the price of a flat pack bed is actually a really loaded issue. And just look at some of the reactions from the design communities at Ikea's decision. Word can't describe my disgust, said one Twitter user from Melbourne in 2009. Yuck, sad, idiots, repulsive. These are just some of the comments about Ikea's rebrand on a design blog. When Bloomberg Businessweek journalist Damien Joseph went to interview Allan Haley who's director or Words & Letters at Monotype Imaging which is the firm that had refined Futura for Ikea in the past. He asked him what would you say if I told you that they were just letters and not much has changed? It's one of the most well-recognized companies in the world. This won't affect them. And the reply I got, Ikea will look like any company that uses Verdana. It will look like any newsletter or menu from a deli around the corner. It doesn't differentiate them. These are all pretty emotive reactions, right? So, let's get back to our hellos. So what about this one? Does this have a distinct personality? To me this font seems friendly and optimistic, but it also looks juvenile and well, frankly, a bit irritating. We can't beat around the bush here. This is the infamous Comic Sans. Which also happens to be one of the typefaces that popular American psychologist, Eric Sigmund, defined as being favored by self confessed attention seekers, in his 2001 study of the fonts preferred by different personality types. Hm. So I can see that. Comic sans is very characterful, it's extrovert, but it's also poorly designed, which maybe says something about the person who chooses the font. And it will also shape how others perceive information, when it's set in comic sans. They're probably unlikely to take this person's hello very seriously. On to something very different, how about this one? So this one I think feels a bit haughty, it even feels a bit more gendered, very feminine. It makes me think of elegance, authority, and ultimately it makes me think of things that are expensive. This is no surprise as this is Didot and this is the type face of choice for high end fashion and lifestyle magazines like Harper's Bazaar and Vogue and Porter. In fact, Didot and his colleague, Bodoni, have become synonymous with fashion. And they're now used on all sorts of fashion product packaging in the credits of the Style Network and also on the cover of Madonna albums. So basically Didot is aspirational. It can make you feel richer and more stylish than you actually are and make you more inclined to spend money. If Vogue's title was set in Comic Sans instead, you certainly wouldn't want to buy the outfit worn by the cover style. How about this typeface? This is a bit more subtle. It's a more curvy, humanist Sans Serif and it feels quite trustworthy somehow. It's kind, non-judgemental, friendly in an advisory source of way. Does it make you feel the same? Well, this is certainly how pharmacy companies would like you to feel when then set the packaging of that product in this font which is called Optima. It's clinical, health and beauty associations also extends it's role as the brand font for Estee Lauder. Optimist, kindly, neutral qualities have also made it a perfect choice for reflective purposes. You can see on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. and also the September 11th Memorial in New York. So, what has this exercise demonstrated to us? Well, I wanted to show you how typefaces can embody human qualities. We read our own emotions and personalities into their curves, tails, and stems. And this will have a significant impact on how the viewer responds emotively to the content of the text. All we said here was hello, but there was a multitude of personalities who said that simple word depending on the typeface. And it's not just typefaces that define the emotional response to a piece of text. Typography as a whole can be manipulated to shape the emotions of the type. Just take a look at this example. So here we have a magazine cover with no header. Let's bring in a header set in Adobe Garamond Pro. Okay that's looking all right. It's a bit quiet though. This doesn't shout luxury and glamour to me. But if we set the header in all caps, in all upper case, the cover is transformed. And now the title is impressive, authoritative, exciting. It looks glamorous and aspirational. Even subtle tweaks to typography can help you communicate a psychological message to your viewer, and often these messages are taken in subconsciously. So, what can you take away from this lesson for your own typographic designs? Well, this just gives you another layer of things to consider when setting your type. You don't just want to think about the technical aspects of typography, like setting your alignment, tracking, leading. You also need to think about the personality of your typography, and adjust your type to fit with the context and with the message that you're communicating. So whether you want viewers to think high value or a bargain, or convince your colleagues that you're an approachable guy, or a serious career climber, you can shape typography to communicate the right emotion. In the next lesson, we'll be tackling another hands on project. I'm looking at how you can inject your own personality and unique emotive qualities into type face design by vectorizing your own designs.

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