Ampersand Conference 2015- Friday 13th November • Brighton

Think Outside the Font - Sarah Hyndman • Notes by George Wood

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Sarah Hyndman is an expert in multisensory typography and the founder of Type Tasting. She is primarily interested in how typefaces evoke emotions and influence the consumer.

The talk began with a series of fonts, we had to say whether they belonged in the higher and more expensive end, or the cheaper end, purely based on their appearance. Everyone in the audience was in agreement of course and the fonts were distributed as expected.

Typefaces have a visual language we all understand and recognise

There has been a lot of research on the legibility of typefaces, but we know that's not all they are about. Fonts are evocative; a single typeface can turn a word into an entire story. Sarah is interested in the experience of consuming typefaces rather than the standard industry language of using them as designers.

Typography Karaoke

The next mini game we played involved the audience, as type consumers, shouting out things based on the fonts displayed on screen. The fonts were laid out differently and people reacted in exactly the same way to each one.

Every time you see a typeface used, the context you see it in informs you

The more times you see a typeface your brain gets familiar with it and instinctively knows how the font should feel and what emotions it should evoke.

During the rest of the talk we looked through some of the various experiments which Sarah has conducted in order to gather evidence on how fonts affect people in different ways. This included a font dating game where people had to vote on which font they would date! When this game was played externally some people came up with large backstories and reasons as to why they would date one font over another - purely based upon their preconceptions after seeing similar fonts before.

The Type Taster
Props from one of Sarah's research sessions.

Serif or Sans-serif

Research has been conducted to compare how people feel about serif fonts versus sans-serif fonts. Sarah has looked into this herself and with the help of some scientists managed to formulate some figures with interesting results.

People were given pairs of typefaces side by side and asked various questions such as; "which wardrobe would be easiest to build?". One set of instructions was in serif and one sans-serif, with this example 90.7% said it would be easier using the sans-serif.

There were two other examples and serif was chosen by the majority as the best choice for a well researched documentary and the most skilled orchestra. Both winning by large majorities.

What Would Fonts Taste Like?

Another interesting idea Sarah has conducted experiments on is how fonts can affect taste. In one test every member of a group got two identical jelly beans and was asked to eat them whilst looking at two different fonts, 11% of people thought the sweet tasted sourer whilst looking at a jagged font, and 17% thought it tasted sweeter whist looking at a rounded font.

Below is an example of how people feel about three separate fonts:

How people feel about different fonts
These stats show how different fonts are interpreted by people.

This proves that type can do something powerful. In the future, could different fonts be used on food packaging as a placebo in order to encourage or discourage people from eating certain foods based on their contents.

Sarah proved that design and type are powerful communication tools and I can definitely see many ways we can implement certain typefaces in order to evoke a specific emotion from the user.

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