Meaning Is Not Always Meaningful: Considering Typefaces and Emotion in Brand

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In Everyday Situation
We are attracted to a brand—an ad or logo, and we cannot describe why it happened to us. Is it because of the design, color, size or something else that crossed in our mind? We cannot reach the answer to this question, because we don’t have enough rationale to explain what happened inside our brain when processing information.

For some brand designers, they are able to explain the answer to that question. Maybe they will explain it due to the combination of different elements of brand that affect human perception such as color, size, and font.

Indeed, designers are able to explain. But, are they able to precisely measure the impact of those elements? For example, does a red color produce positive emotion better than black? This is a chance for psychologist to perform what they got in the university.

In the area of marketing and brand, we know that emotion is a significant topic for everyone. Marketer, designer, and brand developers are working hard to design such a great brand that can affect human emotion. However, they cannot understand emotion comprehensively. To put emotional elements in brand, they need help from psychologist who has numerous ideas to bring emotion in brand.

In the area of marketing and advertising, emotion theory has been used for many purposes. For example, consumer behavioral theory argues that if we want to retain consumers, we need to make sure they are happy with our products without considering the price. As we already know, happiness is a part of positive emotion. But, how to measure one brand could produce significant positive emotion? Psychology will answer it further.

Psychology as a science, understands emotion comprehensively. Applied psychology has given some significant contributions to measure the effectiveness of a brand to produce positive emotion. Psychologist believes that combination of appropriate elements in a brand will produce positive experience.


Meaning through typefaces
In marketing terms, we called this as “user experience”. User experience refers to how the combination of all elements in a brand produces significant change in people’s affection, feeling and behavior. Here, in this article, I want to introduce one of the important elements: the typefaces.

Samuel Juni and Julie Gross—researchers from New York University define typefaces as the variation of font or types of font that people use to describe semantic meaning in word. Their research has showed that choosing different typefaces will produce different perception and affection for readers.

They were conducting an experiment that involves 102 participants from northern university students. And two groups were selected and given the same article with different typefaces, Times New Roman and Arial. Quantitative analysis showed that Arial font is perceived more cheerful than Times New Roman. On the opposite, Times New Roman is perceived as angrier than Arial even though participants read the same article. Research from Juni and Gross gives us an empirical insight that small element also gives contribution in how people perceive and feel towards words.


Dual modes in cognition
To understand this phenomenon, I will borrow the cognitive processing theory from Susan Fiske and Shelley Taylor, dual modes in cognition. The first mode is automatic process and the second mode is controlled process. Automatic process refers to how people think in uncontrollable, unintentional way, which considered as low effort thinking. Imagine you’re going to cross the street, first thing you do is looking from left to right to create a mental scheme in your head about the condition of the street. In this condition, we don’t need to measure accurately the distance between cars and our body before crossing the road. On the contrary, controlled process refers to how people think consciously, using logic, rational and considered as high effort thinking in processing such information, e.g. doing math exam at school.

Dual process cognition theory gives us the explanation of meaningless and meaningful. It gives us the understanding that different typefaces act as a medium to influence people’s perception and emotion. Sometimes, when we believe the choice of words is meaningful, it is not always meaningful for others. And that’s why you need to incorporate further research before developing your brand.

Writer: Indro Adinugroho
Editor: Sugiya Oki

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