Georgia, Man

January 29th, 2007  |  Published in etc

The Effect of Typeface on the Perception of Email:

The results from this study suggest there is a relationship between typeface selection and the reader’s perception of an email. The email presented in the typeface that was judged in previous studies to be low in appropriateness for email (Gigi) was perceived to be less stable, less practical, more rebellious, and more youthful than either Calibri (highly appropriate) or Comic Sans (moderately appropriate). This finding suggests that documents presented in typefaces that are viewed as less appropriate are seen as less serious and less professional in nature. The appropriateness of the typeface also affected the perception of the email author in that the email using Gigi created a perception of an author who is less professional, less trustworthy, and less mature. Finally, the typeface that was lower in appropriateness led participants to conclude that the author was a lower level trainee employee. When choosing a typeface for a document, the level of appropriateness should be taken into account in order to avoid sending unintentional messages.

The results did not find significant differences between the moderately and highly appropriate typefaces. In previous work Shaikh, Chaparro, and Fox (2006) found that Comic Sans was perceived as happier, more cuddly, younger, and more passive than Calibri. However, in the present study, significant differences were not found on these adjectives. A possible explanation for this is that Comic Sans has become so commonly used, that readers have become immune to its casual, happy nature.

The millions of people that email friends, family members, and co-workers should be aware of the fact that typeface can have an effect on the perception of the content. Typefaces should be chosen to reflect the message of the content and care should be taken to ensure that the typeface does not conflict with the intentions of the author.

The part that should be freaking you out: People prefer Comic Sans to plain old Courier New. Weirder yet, all of Microsoft’s new Vista fonts have preternatural people-pleasing powers. Mercifully, people hate things that are much more awful than even Comic Sans more than Courier.

Interesting that Impact is at the very bottom. It has the virtue, compared to some of the other scripty ones, of being readable. I think it’s that essential American dislike of loud people (not loud celebrities) coming through.

Oh … via reddit.

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