Talking fonts live on BBC Radio 4

Sophie Thompson Peter Bleksley
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Yesterday I was invited to be one of the guests on BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live to talk about how we respond to typefaces. I took along some of the games that had gone down so well at the Pop-up Type Tasting at the V&A for the London Design Festival the previous weekend. Above is actor Sophie Thompson playing the ‘Feel Me’ game matching what she can feel to one of the fonts shown, if you came along to the event last weekend you know exactly which font she’s feeling from the expression on her face!

It was such an interesting programme to be on. Sophie is delightful and a pleasure to listen to, and I was excited to meet Peter Bleksley who is one of the hunters on ‘Hunted’ with the most amazing voice. It seems that we would all love the challenge of being on the next series and going on the run in an attempt to evade capture for 28 days. Third guest Trevor Lyttleton founded a charity which works with the elderly and we had a great chat afterwards about the power of typefaces on packaging to trigger nostalgia and bring back memories.

Scroll down for links to listen to the show.

Trevor Lyttleton

The programme is relaxed and chatty and we all join in throughout, my typeface segment is in the last 15 minutes. I worked hard to keep the interview from vanishing into technical talk (such as on the difference between a font and a typeface), or the history of type (such as the origin of the word font itself —yes I know that now!). My work takes the viewpoint of a type consumer and asks how we respond to typefaces as we read them and absorb their messages subconsciously. I use metaphors such as food and dating to take the conversations away from the industry jargon that can sometimes be found intimidating. In my opinion there are parallels with wine and art: each field has its own complex language used by the experts, but you don’t have to be an expert to appreciate a good glass of wine or a breathtaking painting.

The games I demonstrated are part of my ongoing research into type and perception. They are intended to be fun and thought provoking but all have a serious reason behind them. The smell game is an ice breaker, but the findings are linked to investigations into how food packaging can be designed to nudge people towards healthier eating. The touch game demonstrates that our brains translate what they experience through one of our senses across the other senses. Also, as graphic designers we are also being asked to design 3D environments in which both objects and typefaces move authentically, so it is important for us to think about what Futura or Comic Sans might feel like and how they would move.

bbc website jars

snff this all

Listen to the four minute version:
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Listen to the whole show (we all chat throughout, my interview is in the last 15 minutes):
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Click here to listen to the programme on SoundCloud (if you live outside the UK)

BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live was on 26th September 2015, presented by Aasmah Mir and Richard Coles.

Read about Sarah’s research in Wired:

wired logo LR

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