Graphic Design Fonts are a Factor in Demographic Appeal

You pick up flyers all the time because they look cool, right?

Maybe you’re a mid-20’s young professional working for a trendy startup downtown and you saw the flyer for the international film festival as you were shuffling out of Bojo’s Coffee on 12th and Stanford. It caught your eye so you picked one up and read about the directors and their films on your way to The Collective Banjos concert at your favorite basement bar.

Whoever designed the flyer, designed it to fit specifically to your demographic. Everything from the photo or art to the phrasing and even down to the typography was chosen to catch the eye of the mid-20-somethings leaving Bojo’s Coffee.

The use of demographics and personas are a really interesting factor in the world of graphic design. When we create something, we consider the intended demographic with every design choice we make. For instance, we’re not going to choose Comic Sans for anything ideally, although it might work if we want to catch the eye of middle-aged stay-at-home-moms. And we’re not going to use Papyrus for anything – ever.

Understanding Typography

Staying up on the latest trends in design is key for your success. I like to stay up on local Midwest and Chicago events in the graphic design field and recently heard of an upcoming event at the Chicago History Museum called “The Textual Revolution: Typography Revealed.”

In preparing for the event, I’ve been doing a little more research on what goes into choosing typography for a certain demographic or invented persona.

There are always the standard, go-to fonts that every designer should have. These include a mix of serif and sans-serif fonts, but are, for the most part, very straightforward and easy to read with subtle differences.

After the basic level of serif and sans-serif fonts, there are a few that have been developed for graphic design use that you may not find on a standard laptop or desktop computer. They are typically free and easily downloaded, but these fonts require more discretion. With specially developed fonts, the designer has to have a persona or demographic in mind to know which font to choose.

These fonts make up the ground where designs typically fail or succeed. Either the designer hits the mark or misses it. But, how do designers even know which mark to aim for? How do they know which fonts fit their demographic?

Understanding the Demographic

Typography in design is a relatively new concept in terms of how long marketing has been around. There are few ways to really teach how to choose typography itself, so most designers rely on their expertise to deduce which fonts are a good choice and which aren’t.

Designers can usually take a stab at their intended demographic based on the event. For instance, a designer working on a handout for the International Film Festival can expect their audience to be interested in arts and culture, fairly young, maybe between the ages of 19 and mid-30s. They can probably expect a mix of males and females, not many kids and not many families with small kids.

As a result, the designer would choose a font that is upbeat and quirky to fit with the artistic vibe of the audience. They’ll want to choose something subtle and tasteful, but still eye-catching. They’ll avoid ‘teenie-bopper’ fonts or fonts you might see on a dentures catalog.

A New Direction

The typography event in Chicago should be interesting as it’s part of a fairly recent effort. Typography is becoming a bigger deal as designs have to be more specific and audience-oriented to stand out from the thousands of other ads we’re bombarded with daily.

It will be interesting to see if the event has any studies that show which fonts appeal to which demographics, or how designers can analyze a persona and match them to a font. A discovery like that could mean huge steps for demographic-based designers everywhere.