We spend a lot of time with type that we’re unaware of its subtleties. Serifs, descenders and em dashes all have attributes that affect us in ways we don’t consciously acknowledge.
Typeface communicates mood while punctuation creates rhythm, creating complex networks of information in our brains even when we’re reading only a few words.
An odd and fascinating investigation was performed recently by Errol Morris at The New York Times. A select a portion of this op-ed article was generated in one of six fonts. Following the article is a survey designed to test how truthful readers judged the statements.
Baskerville, an old-style serif typeface, was determined to be the most believe-able typeface with a statistically significant 1.5% advantage.
Baskerville’s success is interesting and, upon reflection, unsurprising. Serifs make this typeface easy to read in printed form, so it’s been used for over a hundred years. It’s familiar and formal; the typeface of newspapers and bibles.
You can visit nytimes.com to read the details of the experiment.
Georgia, Baskerville’s inflated cousin, came a close second in believability. Least believable is the scourge Comic Sans.