The shape of a letter impacts your actions

DESIGNated Drives is a segment about design’s impact on our behavior and lives.

What does Pope Emeritus Benedict have in common with millions of professional American business-people, the Town of Platteville EMS, schoolteachers nationwide, and a four year old girl?

Source: Mashable

No, seriously. When Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (that’s the 16th) stepped down from the Papacy–he wrote a letter to the millions of Catholics around the world explaining his decision  and the impact it would have on the global community (the answer: the election of a total BAMF Pope).

There’s just one problem.

See the problem yet? Let me show you:

He wrote it in COMIC SANS, long lambasted as the least professional and general crappiest font to have ever existed.

Letterform is important

We’re all familiar with the Sundance laurel leaves:

It’s clean, simple, and makes it look nice and official. Why is it?

Just like how suits can impact the way someone looks to others and themselves, so can letter forms.

The Psychology of typefaces

After the invention of the computer, the world became filled with an overabundance of fonts. Generally, they can be divided into the following categories


Each font style has its own characteristics and psychological impact.

So what are these impacts?

This post from the Content Group goes over the major impacts of choosing one font over the other. In general:

  • Script: trustworthiness, lasting age, tradition
  • Sans Serif: Cleanliness, simplicity, innovation
  • Slab Serif: Strength, boldness
  • Modern: Style, fashion, cleanliness
  • Script: Elegance, creativity, high-class
  • Other Fonts: Anything from scary to frivolous and whimsy to Comic Sans.

Our Credibility

In 2012, The New York Times launched a study where they wrote an article in two different parts and quizzed participants to rate the credibility of the content.

In play were Baskerville, Georgia, Helvetica, Comic Sans among others. The result?

Baskerville was the most trustworthy. Comic Sans the least.

According to the 40,000 readers who took the quiz, Baskerville generated the greatest amount of trust, yet the strikingly similar Georgia typeface didn’t spark as positive a reaction. Comic Sans caused many to disregard the results and even sparked a sense of contempt in some readers.

“Typography is one ingredient in a pretty complicated presentation,” Mr. Highsmith said.

~MDG Advertising quoting the NYT Study

The right outfit for the right words

There are many factors that impact our credibility, among them being our dress, speech, mannerisms, an body language. Part of our speech is our written word–and type face choice is an important part of that.

While what we write probably won’t make people as angry as that time CERN announced the discovery of the Higgs-Boson Particle in Comic FREAKING Sans,

Rather, we were blown away by the fact that a team made up of some of the most undoubtedly brilliant people in the world believe that Comic Sans is an appropriate font for such a historic occasion.

~The Verge

, we do owe it to ourselves and our audience to remember that the font we choose will have an impact on our credibility. We only have a few seconds to make an impression. When it comes to the written word, we do that through the typeface selection.

Let’s make a positive change to our credibility and the general aesthetics of the world: let’s stop using Comic Sans and start thinking about the appropriate use of fonts.



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