Psychology of onscreen type: investigations regarding typeface personality, appropriateness, and impact on document perception
Three studies investigated the perception of onscreen typefaces. In the first study, 379 people rated the perception of 40 typefaces’ personalities using 15 semantic differential scales. The results of a factor analysis revealed 3 correlated factors (Potency, Evaluative, and Activity) that explain the perception of onscreen typeface personalities. Participants also rated each typeface on perceived legibility. Results indicated that serif and sans serif typefaces are perceived as more legible than display and script/hand writing type faces. Study 1 also explored the common uses of typefaces and attitudes regarding type faces. Participants reported changing the typeface often in programs like Word and PowerPoint but seldom in email, instant messaging, and spreadsheets. Participant attitudes about typefaces were positive with most indicating a belief that typefaces are an important part of document design and should be use appropriately. In Study 2, participants used a paired comparison methodology to determine the appropriateness of typefaces on a variety of onscreen documents. The results of this study were Thurstone Scale Scores that indicate the position of several typefaces on appropriateness continuums. General results imply that for documents such as website ads, the most appropriate typefaces have personalities that are somewhat congruent with the featured product’s personality. For all other onscreen documents (assignments, email, resume , spreadsheet, and website text) the most appropriate typefaces were those that were also high in perceived legibility (serif and sans serifs). Study 3 examined three aspects of six onscreen documents (website ads, Assignments, email, resumes, spreadsheets, and website text): personality of the document, perception of the author’s ethos, and participant’s typeface preferences. The personality of the typeface was found to influence the Potency and Activity scores of the document’s perception. The level of typeface appropriateness was more likely to affect the document’s score on the Evaluative factor. The ethos of the author was negatively affected by using an in appropriate type face. For the website text and resume, the perception of the author was negatively affected by both the neutral and the inappropriate typeface. On the website ad, participants preferred both the neutral and appropriate typeface almost equally. On the other 5 documents, the appropriate typeface was most preferred.