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Monday, 26 October 2015 | By Gerry Mulvaney


By Gerry Mulvaney, European Sales Manager, Landa Digital Printing

So, you have clicked on the website and started reading my blog. But I suppose, like me, you don’t pay a great deal of attention to the typeface in which the blog is set.

In fact for the most part I think we accept that words in front of us on a computer screen, book, newspaper or packaging are there to entertain or inform, and the style of the typeface is of little importance to the content.

Of course behind the scenes there is a great deal of deliberation by the graphic designers and editors about the choice of typeface. Typography is an art form that has attracted the most eminent designers over the years – think Gutenberg, Bodini, Caslon, Gill and Baskerville. The decision to use a certain typeface is a very subjective one and the beauty of it is very much in the eye of the beholder.

I found it rather interesting to come across an article* recently about the famous filmmaker and writer Errol Morris and an experiment he had conducted in the United States. The experiment sought to establish if the choice of typeface had any bearing on the reader’s acceptance of the veracity of the content they were absorbing.

Morris found a willing partner for the experiment in the New York Times and together they published an essay which ostensibly set out to test whether the reader was an optimist or a pessimist.

What they didn’t reveal was that they were really looking at whether the typeface used had any impact on the willingness of the reader to accept the truth of the statement. Morris had no particular social science behind the choice of typefaces used in the experiment – he simply selected three serif and three sans serif faces: Baskerville, Computer Modern, Georgia, Helvetica, Comic Sans and Trebuchet.

Are some typefaces more believable than others?

There was a response from around 40,000 readers and the outcome was that Baskerville appeared to be the typeface that they had faith in to convey the most truthful statements. It seems extraordinary that a typeface crafted around 250 years ago by John Baskerville should have such relevance today over the more modern typefaces, but that was the view from New York Times readers.

Online essay about the typeface experiment by Morris

The results of Morris's experiment were published online in an essay called
“Hear, All Ye People; Hearken, O Earth!” and have been put into print

I am sure that the psychologists and social scientists out there can provide some evidence as to why this should be the case, but Errol Morris has simply accepted the results for what they are and is now using Baskerville to produce all his manuscripts.

In a wider context, the impact of typography in affecting our enjoyment of reading or purchasing decision making is probably not widely appreciated by the consumers. But you can be sure that a lot more research will be going on into this subject by the big brands and their cohorts of graphic designers.

Amazingly from the manuscripts of Gutenberg to the very latest Apple iPhone, typography continues to play a big part in our everyday lives. And yes you are right – to prove the point this blog is written in Baskerville!

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