Fancy Font or Simple Font?

Choosing the right font is always challenging although I have always leaned towards simple fonts. An interesting study I read on the Neuroscience Marketing website pointed out one of the benefits a simple font has when convincing people to volunteer, register or sign up for a product or service.

Research by Hyunjin Song and Norbert Schwarz shows that the way we perceive information can be affected dramatically by how simple or complex the font is. In particular, their work found that a simple font was more likely to get the readers to make a commitment.

The researchers expected that getting people to commit to an exercise regimen would depend on how long they thought the workout would take. A longer estimated time would be a bigger commitment, and people would be less likely to sign up. That’s all simple logic, but Song and Schwarz decided to test two groups of subjects. The first group saw the exercises described in a simple font (Arial), while the second group saw the exact same text presented in a harder to read font, Brush.

Click for a clearer image

The results were astounding – the subjects who read the same instructions in the hard to read font estimated that the regimen would take nearly twice as long, 15.1 minutes vs. 8.2 minutes. Needless to say, the group that thought the exercise would take only 8 minutes was significantly more likely to commit to the regimen.

The clear Neuromarketing takeaway is that if you need to convince a customer, client, or donor to perform some kind of task, you should describe that task in a simple, easy to read font. Since this phenomenon is related to the concept of cognitive fluency, you should also make the type size easy to read and use simple words and sentence structure. These steps will minimize the perceived effort needed to accomplish the task, and your success rate will increase.

When Do You Use Fancy Fonts?

Roger Dooley* wrote a follow up post on Neuroscience Marketing about when you can use a fancy font effectively.  One situation where fancy, hard to read fonts can actually work better than simple ones is if you are selling a costly product. Describing it using a hard to read font will suggest to the viewer that more effort went into creating that product.

Song and Schwarz presented test subjects with a description of a menu item printed in either a simple font and a more hard to read font. The subjects who saw the difficult font rated the skills needed by the chef significantly higher than the subjects who saw the simple font.

These findings suggest that a restaurant wanting to justify higher prices could print the menu descriptions in a font which is harder to read. Long descriptions with big words will also slow down the reader and imply that more effort and skill is needed to prepare the dish.  Of course, it is logical that the content itself should also suggest the skill and time needed to prepare the dish.

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* Roger Dooley writes and speaks about marketing, and in particular the use of neuroscience and behavioral research to make advertising, marketing, and products better. He is the primary author at Neuromarketing, and founder of Dooley Direct LLC, a marketing consultancy.

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