The Psychology of Fonts For Logo Design

Communication is essential to every single human interaction and written communication is one of the most powerful tools yet devised by man. Amazing! But how does that relate to logo design? Think about it—when you’re designing a logo, you’re attempting to communicate multiple complex messages in the simplest form possible. You might have space for three or four words, or just a name…

How to make your logo font communicate more than just words

You’re probably thinking that it’s what the words say that matters. And, of course, it is. It might be the name of the company or it might be a catchy slogan—whatever, it will have been chosen with care to get the message across. So does it matter what font you use?

YES! It absolutely matters. Apart from what your chosen words communicate, the font you pick carries its own message. Pick the right font, at it will amplify the meaning of the words. The wrong font? Sending mixed messages on a logo design is nothing short of a disaster.

So which font should I choose?

Although the reader is generally not aware of it, every font elicits an emotional response. Serif, sans serif, script, modern and novelty typefaces are all freighted with meaning.

  • Serif fonts – these imply tradition, heritage, respectability and reliability. They’re like old friends but the younger crowd might see them as fuddy duddy. Think Times New Roman or Baskerville. A company that wants to emphasise its pedigree or heritage would do well to choose a serif font.
  • Modern fonts – these fonts include Futura, Avant Garde and Century Gothic. Strong and dependable but with a touch of chic sophistication as well. Modern fonts suit forward looking brands—perhaps good for fashion, companies in niche markets, luxury brands and purveyors of the exclusive
  • Sans serif – clean, simple, futuristic, sans serif typefaces are very popular, especially in educational applications. They’re easy to read and can play a neutral role. Look for Helvetica, Ariel or Franklin Gothic. These work well for companies that want to send out a straight forward message, that want to be seen as reliable and honest.
  • Script – cursive and handwritten fonts can be beautiful but care needs to be taken over legibility. A logo font may be very reduced in size and nobody is going to understand a message they can’t read or remember a company name that’s illegible. However, these issues notwithstanding, a script can convey elegance, femininity or creativity. A font that looks genuinely handwritten can also give your design a sense of informality or spontaneity
  • Novelty typefaces – a novelty or display typeface is any typeface that’s a little bit different from the norm—and generally one that you wouldn’t want to read a whole body of text in. These can work well for logos and wordtypes, and large companies will often have a display typeface designed specifically for their corporate logo. But be cautious! The joke can wear thin and staff and customers alike may tire of something overly childish (unless, of course, it is for a brand that is aimed at children). Examples of novelty typefaces include Spaceage Round, Jokerman, Matisse, Valencia and countless others.

To get a feel for how different typefaces work for different logo styles, think of your ten favourite logos and then analyse how the font has been used to reinforce the overall message. For example, what does the clean sans serif font used by Adidas say about the brand? The current Fiat logo, introduced to celebrate the company’s centenary in 1999, harks back to the original typeface, giving out a message of stability, endurance and heritage in unmistakeable style. Pick some others—what about Coca-Cola, Disney, Virgin or IBM? The typefaces of all these tell a story.

Think carefully as you choose your font. What subliminal message will it put across to the readers—and is it in line with the main message? Experiment with different fonts and you’ll quickly be able to discern which style is right and which is wrong—and thereafter you can refine the design by trying different, though similar fonts to see which looks best.

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