Knowing Your Type.

FSC Advisor Sarah Hyndman, author of ‘Why Fonts Matter’ and founder of Type Tasting will be joining The FSC on 26th September to explore typefaces as cultural codes. The FSC ruminates in advance on the evolution of type and our subconscious response to the typefaces we see.

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“Ooh I love your writing!”

Granted, it’s not something you hear all that often now that everything is digital, but the look and feel of your words still matters. In fact, now that everything is digital, it matters more than ever. Because with such an abundance of choice, opportunities to manipulate the linguistic visual cues we create are exponential.

Even the very first ads meticulously considered their use of font to shape both the narrative and brand’s tone of voice; the value, virtue and messaging it wanted to instil in the mind of the reader. And when they wanted to change that narrative, typography was central to doing so. When Apple launched the Mac in 1984 their transition from Bauhaus inspired letterforms to adopt the stylistic qualities of a condensed ITC Garamond established a new typographic language that reflected a new direction for the company and products it would develop in the years to come. 

Form is equally important. When clever and cohesive, the playful crafting of font, layout and typesetting can set your brand apart, but when it comes to effectiveness, there’s a psychology behind the impact of stylistic choices and if there was ever a proof point in favour of the old adage ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, Ogilvy & Mather’s trademark formula still works today. It’s no coincidence that, despite the myriad of fonts at our disposal, the majority of ads still adopt one of a core 25.

Increasingly we’re seeing examples of ‘typostration’ - illustrative typography that serves to emphasise and enhance the story behind a photograph or image - in art direction and design.

Barrie Tullet’s Typographic Dante, a series of 100 type-based illustrations evocative of the 14th century poet created using ‘obsolete’ technologies - everything from the woodcutting and etching to Risography - has been 30 years in the making.

So popular was Ikea’s sofa planning tool that the brand released Soffa Sans in response to the swathe of memes it inspired and someone even created a font out of gerrymandered congressional districts in the US in a bid to get Americans to download it and use it as a way to “Tell Congress how happy you are that your vote doesn't matter." 

Possibly the most exciting aspect of typography is the way in which a font has the power to seep into our subconscious and inform our perceptions - a product’s quality or origin, a brand’s tone of voice and intention - recall and behaviour - our response to a message, or decision to make a purchase.

Quite simply, a typeface has the power to change how we see the world. 

“A font has the power to seep into our subconscious and inform our perceptions - a product’s quality or origin, a brand’s tone of voice and intention - recall and behaviour - our response to a message, or decision to make a purchase .”

And that’s exactly what graphic designer and author Sarah Hyndman wanted to explore further when she established Type Tasting as a platform for self-initiated self-funded investigations into the multi-sensory nature of typography and its impact on how we observe and appreciate it. Sarah’s research - quantified with a mixture of live experiments, surveys and interviews - has been published in books, shared in talks and replicated in workshops as part of her mission to change the way we think and talk about the craft - reigniting that excitement and showing how it can be used to create positive change. 

Sarah will lead an FSC Open session exploring how the typefaces we come in contact with intrinsically inform and influence the cultural codes all around us. We all know that any restaurant with a menu printed in Comic Sans should be avoided like the plague.

Pick your font wisely. Better still, join us on the 26th September and get Sarah to help you. Challenge your assumptions and take part in interactive activities designed to help you uncover the hidden messages shaping your perceptions over a couple over glasses of wine. No doubt you’ll now be paying a lot more attention to the label. 

FSC Open sessions are free, relaxed events hosting incredible thought leaders in technology, design innovation, creativity, social impact, environmentalism and more. Hear from fascinating members doing amazing things to disrupt the status quo in their industries and get your learning in alongside fellow freelancers, startup founders and just generally interesting people with a passion for collaboration, sharing ideas and meeting like-minded folks who want to drive change and do good stuff: stuff that makes a difference.