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Every font has a distinct personality. But how can you identify it? This article will teach you the science and psychology of choosing fonts.

Welcome to a scientificresource on fonts.

Doyou spend WAY too long looking for fonts? Do you have trouble finding fontsthat“feel right” for your context?

Well, this article is for you.

I read 75+ academic articles on typefaces . And I compiled the actionable findings into this article. By the end, you’ll knowhow to decipherthe “personality” of any font, so that you can choose the best font in any context.

PDF Bonus : This article is 3,104 words.Click to download the PDF so that you can reference it moving forward.

Table of Contents

Part 1: How We Subconsciously Evaluate Fonts

In this part, you’ll learn the step-by-step cognitive process. You’lllearn whypeople associate personality traits withfonts (and how to identify those traits).

Part 2:Which Font Traits Should You Choose?

In this part, you’ll learn specificfindings from research. You’ll learn which font traits (e.g., serif vs. sans-serif) are more more effective in certain contexts.

Let’s play a game.

Among the fonts above, which is better for:

Like most people, you probably chose C, A, then B.

But why ?

They felt right? Seemed fitting? Looked good?

Sure. But WHY did those fonts feel right? Most people can’t articulate the reason because the mechanism occurs subconsciously.

So here’s the answer…

If you follow my content, you’ve heard me explainyour brain’s associative network .

If you’re a newb here, then watch my quirky video about spreading activation:

Your associative network plays a role in font perception. How? I summarized the steps in the following model:

Let’s look at each step…

You see a font…and that’s it. Pretty straightforward. If you want a deeper understanding, Koch (2011) explains the biological components offont perception (see pgs 17-27).

Fonts contain various components (e.g., line, weight, size, orientation). When you see a font, your brain disentangles those perceptual components:

Big whoop, right?

Well…yeah. It IS a big deal. To appreciate the importance, you need to understand a crucial concept.

Look at the traits from the previous image:

Notice something? Those traits are general adjectives. They describe stimuli outside of the font world. And that’s crucial.

Fonts share visual characteristics from the real world. If you want to choose an appropriate font, then choose a font that visuallyresembles your context:

then choose a font that visuallyresembles your context:

Here’s an example.

Kang and Choi (2013) created ads for a cell phone. When ads emphasized the “slim” nature of the phone, condensed typefaces performed better:

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Education
Proposals in states like Washington and North Dakota aim to streamline education from pre-k to Ph.D.
by Zach Patton | April 2011

It’s not exactly controversial to say that most state education systems could use some major repairs -- if not a complete overhaul. One such reform is currently being discussed in Washington state, where Gov. Christine Gregoire has proposed a plan that would radically rebuild the entire education structure in her state. The idea is attractively simple: a single state Education Department to handle everything from pre-kindergarten programs to post-graduate studies.

“Today in our state, we do not have an education system,” Gregoire said when she announced the proposed shift in January. “We have a collection of agencies that deal with the subject of education.” Washington currently has eight education agencies and 14 major strategic plans, according to the governor’s office. Gregoire’s proposal would create a cabinet-level education secretary, appointed by the governor, atop one seamless agency. The governor says that bringing all of the state’s education efforts under one umbrella -- “from the preschool to the Ph.D.” -- would save money and resources, and help ensure the best possible education experience for students.

Such a reorganization would give Washington the most centralized education department in the nation. Massachusetts has a single education secretary, but the state also has separately elected boards for each level of the education system. Legislators in North Dakota are debating a bill that would create a unified system similar to the proposal in Washington, but because the idea represents such a sweeping change from the current model, the plan attracted immediate controversy. The State Board of Higher Education and a public school administrators’ group have vowed to fight it, which would require a constitutional amendment. And in Washington, teacher unions have also raised concerns about Gregoire’s proposal. The voter-elected state schools superintendent, whose position would have been eliminated, railed against the plan as a power grab by the governor. (Gregoire has since said she’s no longer seeking to eliminate the superintendent position.)

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Still, ideas like the ones in Washington and North Dakota are inherently sensible, says Jack Jennings, president and CEO of the Center on Education Policy, a national advocacy group for public education. “The vision is the right vision,” he says. “But it’s difficult to achieve, largely because elementary and secondary education is a completely different kind of creature from post-secondary.” Even within higher education, Jennings says, it would be difficult to consolidate management of the “enormous variety” of institutions, from two-year community colleges to multi-campus research universities, not to mention for-profit proprietary schools like the University of Phoenix.

The 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal came to symbolize the fiscal risks of hosting. The projected cost of $124 million was billions below the actual cost, largely due to construction delays and cost overruns for a new stadium, saddling the city’s taxpayers with some $1.5 billion in debt that took nearly three decades to pay off.

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As a result, in 1979 Los Angeles was the only city to bid for the 1984 Summer Olympics, allowing it to negotiate exceptionally favorable terms with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Most importantly, L.A. was able to rely almost entirely on existing stadiums and other infrastructure rather than promise lavish new facilities to entice the IOC selection committee. That, combined with a sharp jump in television broadcast revenue made L.A. the only city to turn a profit hosting the Olympics, finishing with a $215 million operating surplus.

L.A.’s success led to a rising number of cities bidding —from two for the 1988 games to twelve for the 2004 games. This allowed the IOC to choose the cities with the most ambitious—and expensive—plans. In addition, as researchers Robert Baade and Victor Matheson point out, bidding by developing countries more than tripled after 1988. Countries such as China, Russia, and Brazil have been eager to use the games to demonstrate their progress on the world stage.

However, these countries invested massive sums to create the necessary infrastructure. Costs spiraled to over $45 billion for Beijing’s Summer Games in 2008, over $50 billion for the Winter Games in Sochi, in 2014, and $20 billion for Rio de Janeiro in 2016. For the 2018 games, the local government in Pyeongchang, South Korea, will foot a nearly $13 billion bill, up from the $7 billion originally projected.

These costs have led to renewed skepticism, and a number of cities have withdrawn their bids for the 2022, 2024, and 2028 games over cost concerns. Oslo and Stockholm both backed out of their 2022 bids upon realizing that costs would be higher than originally estimated. Boston withdrew from consideration for the 2024 Games, with its mayor saying that he “refuse[d] to mortgage the future of the city away.” The 2024 finalists, Budapest, Hamburg, and Rome, also withdrew, leaving only Los Angeles and Paris. In an unprecedented move, given the lack of candidates, the IOC chose the 2024 and 2028 venues simultaneously in 2017, with Paris and Los Angeles taking turns hosting.

The type family has been designed dynamically: move the sliders to experience the weight variations between the thin and black versions.
Jean-Christophe Bailly, Les animaux sont des maîtres silencieux, 2010

Thin Black

A text by Alice Savoie

A text by Alice Savoie

To study the plurality of the animal world for the purposes of creating a new type family: this is the surprising ambition of Faune that you can discover on this website.

Though natural history has had a strong influence on literature, poetry and painting, its impact on typography is still quite limited. Admittedly, the floral side of Art nouveau prompted a number of typefaces and ornaments such as those designed at the start of the twentieth century by Eugène Grasset and George Auriol for the G. Peignot fils foundry; but why has the diversity of animal species, teeming with morphologies, behaviours and rhythms, not been explored before now?

Faune’s reason for being is to attempt to fulfil this mission of proposing another manner of designing and combining typefaces, based on an encyclopedic visual knowledge that is transmitted by book history.

Next chapter:
Reinventing the notion of a typeface family
Reinventing the notion of a typeface family

At the origin of this second typographic commission, initiated by the Centre National des Arts Plastiques, this time in partnership with the Imprimerie Nationale, is a question: what would a contemporary and forward looking vision of the type family look like?

For over five centuries, the typographic palette available to us has been constantly expanding: blackletter and roman typefaces, then italic and bold variants, with or without serifs, multi-scripts, for continuous reading or titling… This variety demonstrates our ability to ceaselessly reinvent our relationship with letterforms, and with the text. More than a testament to creativity, this phenomenon also reveals an increasing desire for rationalization: type designers have made numerous attempts to name and classify this aesthetic diversity, and to have some control over the possible combinations that can be made between different type styles; they have also repeatedly criticized the hybridizations to which typefaces have been subjected.

The paradigm shift that is currently occurring, fostered by (among other factors) the diversification of mediums that enable us to read and write, has forced type designers to come up with a typographic palette that is adapted to this diverse and constantly changing environment. The most frequent response that is provided today is the development of vast homogeneous sets of typefaces, with multiple gradations of weights, of widths, of optical sizes, etc., that users are invited to draw from to meet their needs.

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