As journalists, it’s fair to say that we like words. And as journalists in the events industry, it’s interesting to know how much effect the wording, or even the font of text, can have on the success of an event.
From menu covers to exhibitor display signs, or festival logos, each property of a font has a psychological effect.
And it’s crazy to think that choosing font is an art in itself. You have to think about going back to basics. Factors like layout and structure, colour scheme, text boxes and of course the appropriate font have to be taken into account to be effective. Often in marketing materials, font psychology is used to boost sales, promote trust, increase positive customer experiences as well as brand loyalty.
So in events, do we go into enough detail choosing the right fonts?
The Moses Illusion
How many animals of each species did Moses take on the Ark?
If you answered “two,” then please re-read the question. Go ahead.
Earlier this year, Psychology Today reported on the effect of fonts on something called the Moses Illusion (1), caused by a failure of semantic processing. When this question was put to students in the 1980s, eight out of 10 failed to notice that Noah rather than Moses was the biblical figure associated with the ark story. Surprisingly, David Lewis, Ph.D, author of The Brain Sell: When Science Meets Shopping, found that when an unfamiliar font was used, however, the failure rate fell from 80 per cent to 53 per cent.
In another study, participants were asked to rate a tomato soup and were given two versions of a menu – one in a plain Courier font and the other in a more elegant Lucinda Calligraphy font. Although the tomato soup and the text of its description were identical, those who had read the menu written in the Lucinda Calligraphy font were much more likely to rate it as “tasty, fresh and enjoyable.” So it seems that the more elegant font subconsciously made participants perceive the food as more superior.
The question is, should font choice make such a difference?
“Absolutely, your font choice makes a difference,” says Emily Brouder, group marketing manager at Mash Media. “It’s as important an element of your company or event brand as the logo, strapline or corporate colours. The font that you choose for your brand or your event is an integral part of the image, style and theme you want to convey. Disregard your font selection and you could be sending completely the wrong messages about your event or brand, and in some instances, even working against it. Your brand exists in every interaction your audience has with you, right down to the invitation, an agenda or a menu.”
Lewis adds: “Most of the challenges that face us each day can be dealt with perfectly effectively by a form of thinking that operates, much of the time, outside conscious awareness. While this allows us to do much of our routine on ‘autopilot’ as it were the system is—as the Moses Illusion demonstrates—prone to error.”
So do familiar fonts enable you to read text with ease or do they subconsciously allow you to skip over errors because you’re not paying as much attention to detail as you would with a new unfamiliar font? And what does this mean for events? Do exhibitor stands with familiar fonts on their signs seem more approachable? Are you more likely to attend a festival if the style of writing on its website appears inviting or ‘cool’ even?
What do you think fellow #eventprofs? How do you choose your fonts? Comment below and have your say.
Here’s an infographic on the psychology of fonts and the type of events certain fonts could be suitable for.
References: (1) Erickson, T.A. & Mattson, M.E. (1981) From words to meaning: A semantic illusion. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behaviour, 20, 540 – 552.