Have you ever wondered why our traffic lights have the colours red, yellow and green, and what makes us either stop, slow down or take off at full speed? Have you noticed that Arial is usually the preferred font for everything official, but Comic Sans is not? The answer to this is all in our head- each of these colours generates a certain reaction in our brains, which creates an outburst of emotion! As Arial is clear and can be easily read even in documents with small font sizes, it is preferred for official communication, such as emails and resumes. Comic Sans sends a really bad message; most designers have tossed it into their trash bins!
Each colour and font has a specific feeling attached to it and in some cases, more than one. In this case, it becomes really important to choose the right ones for your design needs as they can help communicate a direct message to your recipient. In this article, we’ll help you understand the need for the right selection of fonts and colours and their subsequent impact.
Colors and Fonts Impact How You Feel!
Yes, you read that right! It is scientifically proven that colours directly impact neurological responses in the brain and can make you feel/think in a certain manner. Colours can get you to see what you should see, feel a certain way and therefore, impact your actions. In the case of the traffic lights mentioned earlier, the responses specific to each colour come naturally as our brains have been conditioned to react a certain way depending on the colour. For example, the red colour has always been associated with danger, which gives a signal to your brain to stop and reconsider. This is why red has been traditionally used to convey danger or caution. Similarly, fonts influence how readers perceive any text, a product or even an entire website. Each font has letters associated with it, which have their own weights, widths and styles. Video games use certain font templates such as Good Timing Typeface, Grandis, Aguda and others exclusively. These fonts are closely associated with certain genres and are often used to identify certain games.
As colours and fonts affect us so deeply and can be used in so many ways, a lot of research goes into using them right. The choice for a brand’s logo is one of the most well-thought and planned decisions. Extensive research is carried out to understand how to design logos, what colours to use and the font to spell out the company’s name. These logos should also be able to incite the desired emotions in its target audience and maintain a favourable image. Lauren Labrecque and George Milne’s article in the Journal of Academy of Marketing Science studies how marketers can use colours to alter brand personality and purchase intent. They carried out a series of studies to understand how colour influenced the likability and familiarity of brands. The authors carried out a series of studies to understand how colour influenced the likability and familiarity of brands, which emphasises the importance of colour.
Another article by the same authors in the Marketing Letters Journal focuses on the importance of colour differentiation in business and how certain industries prefer to use certain colours for their logos. Their research showed that the blue colour is used in over 75% credit card brand logos and about 20% of fast food brands. Red, however, is used by 60% of retail brands but not by apparel brands. The image below (source: Canva) gives a summarised look into colour choices made by brands for their logos.
Like colours, fonts also have the ability to guide people’s thoughts and associations. Font psychology helps use the right font – be it for logos, body of copy, websites, titles and other printed materials. It is also useful in avoiding fonts that send a different message than what must go out. Remember, proper font choices fuel UX experience and affect design. The image below perfectly illustrates how different font choices can change the tone of the same message! The first is bubbly, whereas the second literally gives one the chills.
What Factors Influence Font and Colour Choice?
A good combination of colours and fonts can narrate an exciting story! While choosing the right option for your business, focus on what matters. Note down a few core business questions and match your choices to the answers. For example, the colour and font choice for your logo should be able to help people identify and associate emotionally with your business. Any advertisement material you create should convey the desired message effectively. Lastly, your business must have recall value with your target audience and their needs must be met. Your choice here will bring forth specific emotions, which should help build strong relationships and elicit the desired behaviour. Your choice will bring forth these emotions, which helps build strong relationships and elicits the desired behaviour.
For example, if you are an online retailer selling quirky TV and movie merchandise, your logo and website MUST reflect that. Use a font style that stands out, gives a casual vibe and sends out a joyful message. People buy such merchandise as they generate feelings of happiness and nostalgia. These feelings must be reflected in the choice of fonts and colours, so that it can create the right mood for customers to browse and make their choice. Choose bold and bright colours to go with it, especially those colours that spark joy, such as yellow, peach or even blush! What is also important here is to ensure that the fonts and colours are in sync with each other, else the message can be confusing. The font you choose must be legible and visible with your colour scheme, or else it becomes unreadable.
In this process, it is also very important to LIMIT your choices. Choose only colours that work with each other. Sometimes, colours also need to be mixed with each other to get the right fit. They can be lightened to get a tint, darkened to get a shade and mixed with grey to be toned. There are a lot of resources available that can help you understand the same. One such website is Coschedule, whose extensive blog contains details on colour psychology and appropriate colour choices. One approach adopted by designers involves choosing colours and designating them as primary and secondary depending on their use.
Similarly, limit the number of fonts used, preferably to three or four maximum. You can use different fonts for headings, subheadings and the body, but try to keep it as consistent as possible. Choose your fonts based on the subject matter of the content, as it helps establish the right tone. Designmodo’s series on font psychology throws light on how to choose the right fonts to convey the intended message.
Types of Colours and Fonts
There is a variety of fonts and colours available for use and there are new ones added regularly. In the interest of this article, we’ll take a look at some commonly used varieties. We’ll also touch upon the logo choices of a few companies to help you make your choice!
Font styles convey subtle messages. Bold and black fonts are dominant, italics are decorative, ultra thin fonts are influential and rounded/bubble fonts are jovial. In addition to this, fonts are usually classified into four main types:
- Serif- Serif fonts are traditional, formal and sophisticated. They are mostly used by established organisations to convey trust. Some Serif fonts are Garamond, Georgia and Times New Roman. Companies like Vogue and HSBC use serifs for their logos.
- Sans-Serif- Sans-Serif fonts are the talk of the town as they are modern, humanist and clean. Their simplicity and legibility makes them a popular choice. Examples of sans-serif fonts are Arial, Helvetica and Calibri, used by many new-age companies such as Netflix and Google.
- Script- Script fonts are personal, creative and distinctive. They look similar to cursive handwriting and appear fancy and whimsical. Script fonts include Lucida Script, Tangerine and Pacifico. Brands like Cadillac and Instagram use Script fonts. There are also some fonts that appear hand-written similar to script fonts.
- Decorative- Decorative fonts are diverse and include diverse forms and shapes. They are stylish, unique, dramatic and used mainly for advertising purposes. Some decorative fonts are ChalkDuster, Graffiti and Grunge. Companies like Disney and Lego use decorative fonts and have unique logos.
Colours are rooted in behaviour and culture. With colours all around us, we are constantly feeling happy, sad, angry, calm, energised and many other emotions. It’s also possible that one colour can make us react differently under different conditions. This is seen with the three most widely used colours- red, blue and green. While red is associated with danger, it is also used to represent passion, love and strength. Similarly, blue can be used to show calmness and confidence but is also perceived as cold. Green shows growth and productivity along with balance. Don’t forget that green also represents being eco-friendly.
In addition, colours can be broadly classified as:
- Warm Colours- Red, orange and yellow are associated with happiness, optimism and are attention seeking. Red has proven to increase a person’s appetite which explains why many food and beverage companies use red in their logo.
- Cool Colours- Blue, green and purple are calming and soothing. Purple is often used to spark creativity.
- Happy Colours- Yellow, orange, pink, red and pastel colours are bright and light, thus associated with happiness and joy. If you look at many invites for children’s birthday parties, they are an explosion of happy colours like red and yellow!
- Sad Colours- Blue, grey, brown, black and white are dark and muted, thus sad. In addition, black is a classic colour that represents sophistication, seriousness and power, whereas white is minimalistic, simple and fresh. Black is a popular choice for many brands.
- Calming Colours- Blue, green and white have the ability to induce calmness and a sense of tranquility.
- Energising Colours- Bright red, yellow, neon green and royal blue are some colours that bring about a spurt of energy due to their brightness and strong base.
The choice of colours and fonts is not at all random. In reality, it is a well- defined and well- researched process that considers the emotions associated with each colour and font and uses it to communicate the desired message effectively. While making this important choice, care must be taken to ensure that there is a limit on the number of font or colour choices and balance is maintained between all elements.
Some other considerations that come into play here:
- The colours used are in sync and don’t clash with each other
- Spacing used between different font types should be correct
- The text must be well-aligned, justified and indented.
As a final step, you can use the points below as a checklist-
- Examine the direction taken by the content and its relationship with the font used
- Check if the contrast between the colours and fonts is in place
- The design should maintain its rhythm!
You can check out some more research to better understand the implications of your informed colour and font choice respectively. We suggest that you take a look at the logic behind the colours of the McDonalds logo and this video on why America’s highways have two fonts. These should aid you in making the right choices to spruce up your design!