The Psychology of Typography : Can fonts make us feel?


Q. When is a font not a font?

A. When it’s a powerful marketing and advertising tool.

Powerful? Marketing and advertising tool? Absolutely yes.

When we look at typeface it is processed by our semantic memory.

Semantic memory is the system that you use to store your knowledge of the world. It is a knowledge base that we all have and much of which we can access quickly and effortlessly. It includes our memory of the meanings of words – the kind of memory that lets us recall not only the names of the world’s great capitals, but also social customs, the functions of things, and their colour and odour.  Semantic memory is a form of reference memory that contains information accumulated repeatedly throughout our lifetimes [BBC – Radio 4 What are semantic memories?].

So when we look at a font our brain is flooded with memories and emotions.  Have a look at this and take a moment to focus on your feelings.


Are you feeling happy?  Remembering your childhood?  Recalling a holiday at Disneyland or a favorite film? So it appears that a font is not just a font, it’s a key that unlocks memories and emotions and that is what advertisers can tap into to promote their brands.

Typeface can also be used to express someone’s emotion to us as is the case of the iconic album The Wall.  This was a concept album dealing largely with themes of abandonment and personal isolation symbolised by a metaphorical wall on the album cover which was designed by cartoonist cartoonist Gerald Scarfe to tie in with the album’s concept.


If you are interested in reading more have a look at the BBC News Magazine report Do typefaces really matter? and The World article How fonts affect perception.


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