Psychology & Type

Colin Trechter's picture

Does anyone know of some places or books that would assist me in some type research? Basically I am looking at social implications of typography, type psychology and typographic associations, I would appreciate both design and non-design points of view if available.

Ultimately I would like to (after extensive research) create a typeface (hopefully more than one) based off of this research.

Any suggestions as to where to begin?

I can be reached via email:

Colin Samuel Trechter

illix's picture

I've looked into graphology long ago, and that could be one place to get some inpiration from. Good luck.

hrant's picture

Look at the work of Ovink and Javal.


Stephen Rapp's picture

I don't remember where the link is, but there is a recent slide show somewhere on the web showing famous typefaces and their personality types. Maybe someone can chime in with that link. Its basic and comical, but does have some logic behind it.

hrant's picture

Michael Brady (or was it John Langdon?) had an article in an issue of Baseline magazine about font "personalities", but -I presume like the slideshow Stephen mentions- it was largely subjective. Ovink and Javal* were scientists (among other things) who used empirical methods (which is not to say their results can be trusted blindly, especially since their work is ~50 and ~100 years old respectively, and font perceptions change).

* And more recently possibly Kevin Larson.


John Hudson's picture was largely subjective. Ovink and Javal* were scientists (among other things) who used empirical methods...

Empirical methodology can be used to measure subjective responses, which is what has been done with 'personality' responses to different typefaces. You get a bunch of people, show them a bunch of typefaces, record what 'personalities' they assign to each, and then look for significant response patterns, e.g. most of the people saying Comic Sans is 'playful'.

The trouble I have with this kind of study isn't that the responses are subjective, but that there is no effort to discover why a particular typeface is assigned a particular personality, which means that the study doesn't know what it is studying: is the personality in some way inherent in the typeface, or is it associated with the use of that typeface in e.g. advertising?

Nick Shinn's picture

Typefaces are like actors.
Some can play many personalities, others only themselves.
Some get typecast.
As far as choosing types goes, art directors are more like casting directors; working with type, more like movie directors.

In as much as a good man can play a bad man, it's pointless to speak of the "psychology" of a typeface in the abstract.
What matters is the performance.

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