Monotype says fonts make us feel things, but which fonts are the most trustworthy?

Collated in collaboration with Neurons, a new study from Monotype finds that the right type can boost positive reader response by 13 per cent. But what is the “right type”?

9 June 2022

“Type is a profound emotional influencer in our world,” states Phil Garnham, creative type director at Monotype: “Brand is typography”. It’s a bold, but founded claim. With typography linked so closely to the look of every brand you have ever seen, it wouldn’t be a jump to assume it’s linked to their success too. The latest research from the mega foundry confirms that the crucial design element at the very least impacts how we see brands. Executed in collaboration with neuropsychologist Thomas Zoëga Ramsøy, and his company Neurons, the scientific study tracks how different fonts make us feel; from their capability to inspire trust and sincerity to how memorable they can be.

While we’ve all experienced a dip in trust or questioned a scam upon the sight of a dodgy font for a supposedly legitimate company, these aren’t immeasurable abstract notions for Monotype. The study found that setting words in certain fonts measurably boosted consumer response by up to a significant 13 per cent – a huge increase from the 0-5 per cent range Neurons expected to see. To measure emotional response, the organisations surveyed 400 participants, using three kinds of stimuli in an online testing solution: single words, a sentence using those words, and a sentence with the words including a brand. Each of these was set in three typefaces – FS Jack, a humanist sans; Gilroy, a geometric sans; and Cotford, a languid serif.


Monotype / Neurons: Why fonts make us feel (Copyright © Monotype / Neurons, 2022)

Setting words in Cotford Display Regular, for example, sparked a nine per cent increase in trustworthiness, a ten per cent increase in how memorability, and an increase in the appearance of “quality”. The report explains: “Serif designs such as Cotford have long been associated with the world of fashion and luxury, meaning people’s subconscious reaction is driven by years of cultural association”, – thus explaining the link to luxury.

For those looking to foster a sense of trustworthiness, typefaces with strong roots in calligraphy, like Cotford and FS Jack, seem to promote a deeper, instinctive emotional reaction in readers. In fact, the humanist sans FS Jack Regular boosted sincerity and honesty by ten per cent and five per cent respectively.

But why? Marie Boulanger, Monotype brand designer, states: “We think that a possible explanation for this could be some of the formal qualities associated with this type of drawing; basically the ‘human’ in humanist. The open terminals, the squarer curves, the double-storey /a/ and /g/ are usually described as a little bit warmer than their geometric counterparts.”


Monotype / Neurons: Why fonts make us feel (Copyright © Monotype / Neurons, 2022)

When it came to testing out longer sentences in various fonts, like a slogan, Gilroy Bold, a geometric sans, came out on top – showing a 12 per cent increase in prominence and a five per cent increase in competitor standout. Marie explains in this instance, the use of a bold type could have played a factor, as well as this type’s prevalence in the tech and start-up world. Fascinatingly, Marie adds: “I wonder if legibility played a part in people’s emotional response. If messages are easier to read, do you trust them more?”

On what this study means for the design industry going forward, Phil concludes: “Our work with Neurons reinforces type’s powerful effect on people. The qualities we read can influence whether a word is interpreted as soft, fluffy, warm or hard, sincere, and cold. These tonal qualities guide meaning, they leave a subconscious mark on the brain, we retain that feeling, we remember the words brands use as a voice [...] On the flip side, brands that take type for granted and employ a poorly chosen typeface risk alienating their customers, negatively impacting the bottom line.”

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Monotype / Neurons: Why fonts make us feel (Copyright © Monotype / Neurons, 2022)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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