Experiment: Font psychology and choice

A font carries with it a rich embedded symbolism so the decision as to what font to use on the paddles was researched at this stage. A search of the literature revealed the following factors that I needed to consider:

  • Serif fonts convey elegance whereas sans-serif fonts convey informality and innovation
  • Bold fonts convey power and masculinity
  • Angular fonts convey durability (and yet more masculinity)
  • Simple fonts convey directness
  • Straight fonts convey stability
  • Upper case fonts convey power and strength

A viewer combines all these factors in their mind and constructs a collective meaning which they then apply to the context. A font can feel right or very wrong once this process has taken place. As an artist, what I’m aiming for is ‘fluency’, which in this context is when a viewer can quickly process the stimuli and get a good feeling. The font should just feel right, it should enrich the experience of reading the text and add to the narrative.

After the last experiment, I have settled back on using a stencil font as the burnt letters on the paddles are visually appealing, more readable and create rich shadows when in the water. Stencil fonts have a street art aesthetic which is equally appealing but I want to avoid a faux-military aesthetic as that is distracting from my goal.

I downloaded the 18 fonts below for evaluation and asked my peers which were the most readable and aesthetically appealing. The highlighted fonts were easily the favourites, Ombudsman Stencil and Riks (top to bottom). The others are either too modern, too thin, too bold, or just not readable. Of the two, I have chosen Ombudsman Stencil to go forward with as it is tall and powerful but most importantly has a heritage industrial feel to it. It also has an aesthetic that could be seen as officialdom; it could be a notice, a poster, a warning – all of which will enhance the impact of my work. I can also imagine this font being used on a nameplate on the side of a train, it has a confident warmth and I like how it sits between heritage and modern.

Summary & next steps

The next step will be to print the Ombudsman Stencil font out at actual size to visualise it on a paddle to confirm its readability and impact from a distance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *