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When to use rounded fonts

People preferred a fun or pleasurable product (e.g. a mobile game) up to 26% more when its ads or packaging used a curved (vs sharp-edged) font.

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📝 Intro

You’re putting together a campaign for a new line of chocolate cookies that your company is launching. Your creative agency comes to you with a host of options for the font to use for your ads and packaging.

Looking through the fonts, they look similar, with some using rounded letters and others using sharp, strong angles. How would you choose which to go for?

Scientists found the answer.

P.S.: Fonts that look as if they are handwritten work in a similar way to curved fonts.

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People prefer round fonts in ads for pleasurable products, but not for functional products

Topics: Ads | Messaging & Copy | Ecommerce
For: B2C. Can be tested for B2B
Research date: November 2019
Universities: Zhejiang University

📈 Recommendation

Use fonts with soft, rounded edges in your ads and packaging if your product is mostly bought for pleasure or excitement (e.g. chocolates, holiday packages, decoration items). People will like your product more.

If your product is bought for its functionality and effectiveness (e.g. tools, insect-repellant candles), the shape of your font isn’t as important.

🎓 Findings

  • People like products bought for pleasure more when their ads or packaging use rounded fonts (vs sharp-edged fonts).

  • As part of a series of 4 experiments, researchers found that:

    • When ads used a rounded font (vs a sharp-edged font), people liked a

      • Mobile game 26% more

      • Soda 24% more

      • Milkshake 11.2% more

  • The effect is weaker or disappears for products that are bought for their functionality or effectiveness.

🧠 Why it works

  • Fonts used in logos, ads, and packaging have a subtle influence on how we perceive a product. 

  • We tend to like curved visual objects, compared to sharp edges, as we consider rounded shapes to be smooth and soft.

  • So we feel more pleased and engaged with fonts that have rounded edges, as they seem friendlier.

  • This is especially important for products that give us pleasurable experiences, but less so for products that we buy for their functionality (e.g. work tools)

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  • The experiments looked at the impact of fonts on how  people view a brand or product, but did not measure their effect on sales.

  • The research focused on whether fonts used curved or sharp edges. Other factors in the font, like whether it’s bolded, italicized, or underlined, would also impact people’s judgments.

  • The study didn’t look at luxury products, or products targeting specific genders - this may likely impact the effect, as masculine products often use sharp, angular typefaces.

🏢 Companies using this

  • Coca-Cola and McDonald’s both use rounded fonts for their logos. In contrast, Pepsi recently changed its logo to a more angular font, despite also being a pleasurable product.

  • Utilitarian products in various categories use more angular fonts in their logos, including:

    • Tech companies including Microsoft and Dell

    • Cleaning products like Harpic

    • Personal care brand Gillette

Cadbury correctly uses rounded and flowing fonts throughout its ads for its Dairy Milk chocolates.

⚡ Steps to implement

  • Think about how you’d like to position your product - whether you want to focus on its utility and effectiveness, or its design and aesthetics as well as the emotions it evokes when using it.

  • If you’re updating your font, make sure to do so consistently in all key places, including on:

    • Digital platforms, including your website and social media.

    • Ads you’re running

    • Your product and shipping packaging

    • Physical displays at outlets

  • Your typeface can also play an important role making your brand feel more personal, increasing sales and customer satisfaction. Fonts that look like they’re handwritten can make your brand feel more human, increasing sales. When used for thank you notes, sent with a customer’s delivery, these fonts can double the likelihood of future purchases.

🔍 Study type

Online experiments.

📖 Research

🏫 Researchers

  • Lei Wang. Zhejiang University

  • Yining Yu. Zhejiang University

  • Ou Li. Zhejiang University

Remember: This is a scientific discovery. In the future it will probably be better understood and could even be proven wrong (that’s how science works). It may also not be generalizable to your situation. If it’s a risky change, always test it on a small scale before rolling it out widely.

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