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The Power of Fonts

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     Words have power. Errol Morris, an experienced filmmaker and author, used this knowledge as a starting point for a more in-depth experiment. In this experiment, he explored if the typeface (or font) in which something is written affected the way a reader perceives a typed piece of work.

     To start off this experiment, he began by designing an online test disguised to look as if it measured whether or not the reader was a pessimist or an optimist. In actuality, it was designed to measure the way a reader responds to a statement when it is typed in specific fonts.

     In this experiment, he chose to examine the five fonts, Baskerville, Computer Modern, Georgia, Helvetica, and Comic Sans. “Comic Sans is a tragic mistake of a font,” said Aubrey Albimino, junior. According to fastcodesign, Morris’ experiment and online test showed that there is, in fact, one font of these five that makes the reader more likely to agree with the typed statement: Baskerville. Baskerville was designed by John Baskerville and is a 250 year-old serif font (serif means the small finishing strokes on the end of a character). In other words, the difference between a serif and a sans-serif font is “tails and no tails,” said Kelly Showalter, Graphics Teacher at BHS.

     Morris’ experiment proves that readers are more willing to agree with a statement that is typed in Baskerville than one that is typed in another font. With the success of his experiment, Morris wrote a book that included his procedure, process, and results called Hear, All Ye People; Hearken, O Earth.  

     This experiment affects many things in the world today. For example, when writing an essay for a tough class (or any class), would it be better to use Baskerville as opposed to another font? Morris’ research shows that choosing a font for a specific project or essay is actually more important than one might originally believe. On a larger scale, this research means that the font a political campaign uses to advertise or display information influences potential voters, whether that influence is positive or negative is still to be seen.

     For example, Hillary Clinton uses the font Unity (a customization of the font Sharp Sans by Lucas Sharp) for her campaign logo. Sharp Sans is a geometric, sans-serif font (fonts that do not have small finishing strokes on the characters). She also uses this font on her website and various other forms of advertisement.

     In recent years, political candidates have leaned toward more bold sans-serif fonts for their campaigns as opposed to older, book-face (or serif) fonts. While this makes titles and headlines stick out, it can be damaging to the smaller spaces on the page that are filled with text. In general, serif fonts are used for large chunks of text because it is easier on the reader, while sans-serif fonts (like Unity) are used for titles and headlines because they are very bold.

     Similarly, Donald Trump uses two sans-serif fonts on his campaign logo, Akzidenz Grotesk Bold Extended and FF Meta Bold. Both of these fonts have a similar effect on the reader, just as Clinton’s does. This is yet another example of how specific fonts can affect how the reader interprets online information.

     In today’s world, as books and various articles have been shifted online, typed words have become even more important. With many people relying on the internet for information, the way they receive that information is vital.

     “I use the internet a lot; I use it for school work, research, music, netflix, social media, and even iMessage,” said Rachel Christian, Senior.  Therefore, if one could influence the way a reader perceives something by using a certain font, it is important for the author to know this. However, it is equally as important for the audience to know just how much they are being influenced by what they are reading.

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The student news site of Blacksburg High School
The Power of Fonts