Elegant to Goofy – Choosing the right tone of voice for your design
An essential skill of successful designers is the ability to put yourself in the shoes of your client, and their customers, and see the world from their perspective. This emotional empathy is fundamental to many aspects of design and it should be applied to choosing typefaces to impart a particular tone of voice to your audience.
Sarah Hyndman is particularly active in exploring the ‘psychology of type’, how and why typefaces provoke certain responses. Intuition plays a huge part in picking the right typeface but I’ve also found that a little technical know-how can help you pin down why a typeface feels a certain way.
Two fantastic examples crossed my desk last week. Both of these new script fonts emphasise the tone of voice they communicate above all their other features. Elicit script, is a joint design project between Laura Worthington and Monotype’s Jim Wasco, and Mikkel Script & Sans is by Nils Thomsen of TypeMates.
Both typefaces have an excellent pedigree, coming from renowned designers, but that’s where any similarity ends. In their promotional examples, Elicit Script flows gracefully across the artwork offering a range of styles from ‘Relaxed’ to ‘Elegant’, while Mikkel comes bouncing effusively onto the page with ‘Smooth’ and ‘Goofy’.
There are many other types of script styles such as aggressive blackletter or corse handwriting for example, but what makes these two typefaces elegant or goofy?
For brevity, let’s look at the writing tool each simulates and the way that these tools are applied in the typeface.
Being scripts, both emulate a handwritten style. Elicit Script emulates a pen with a fixed nib. The width of the strokes varies as the nib is rotated and pressure is applied producing a precise, even quality to the way the ink flows.
Mikkel mimics a brush which conforms to a different set of rules. There strokes are more curved and they start and finish with more roundness in their shapes. The sweep from the brush also gives the strokes more freedom of movement.
Both tools are being used with expertise in these typefaces. The pen of Elicit script has a measured, comfortable pace, as though someone is taking great care to create beautiful shapes but they are relaxed and confident doing so. Mikkel’s brush meanwhile is much faster and more energetic, suggesting the need for speed and exuberance over formality or solemnity. The writer here is really keen to tell you something, fast.
Examining the choice of tool and how’s it’s being used offers us valuable clues about the intentions of the writer. We can then ask ourselves whether these match our application of for the typeface. On your next project, enhance your instincts with some expertise to narrow down your typeface options and achieve the exact tone of voice required.