Fonts and Fluency: The Effects of Typeface Familiarity, Appropriateness, and Personality on Reader Judgments
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
The advent of digital typography has seen the printed letter permeate many aspects of our world, due to its function as the visual manifestation of verbal language. However, few scientific researchers have paid attention to these innocuous and ubiquitous characters. Furthermore, existing typeface research has generally been divided into two strands: For nearly ninety years, communicators (writing, marketing, business, and design professionals) have made attempts to investigate how typefaces of different classes and styles might indicate different personalities to the viewer, and explored the notion of typeface appropriateness. More recently, psychologists have taken advantage of word processing software to manipulate perceptual fluency by changing the fonts of different documents, finding several interesting effects. In this study, two experiments were conducted, with the aim of acknowledging and synthesizing both lines of inquiry. In Experiment 1, a restaurant menu was printed with either an easy-to-read, fluent font or a difficult-to-read, disfluent font. It was expected that reading the disfluent font would influence participants’ (n = 110) choices from the menu as well as certain judgments about the dishes. However, there was only one significant effect, whereby participants who read the disfluent font expected to enjoy their chosen dessert less than those who read the fluent font. In Experiment 2, participants (n = 94) judged a person of the opposite sex using the Big Five Inventory, a measure of human personality. The target photograph was paired with a name set in one of two fonts (familiar and unfamiliar). Female participants rated the target higher on the factor of Openness when the name was printed in the novel font. The results of the current study indicate that to some extent, document designers may safely continue selecting typefaces through intuition, and do not necessarily need the supplementation of additional empirical research.