We don’t just read with our eyes

Graphic designers and type consumers interact with typography in very different ways. Each is just as much of an expert in their own field of experience, but one interacts consciously and the other subconsciously.

Graphic designers pay conscious attention to type and make decisions based on knowledge, carefully considering which typefaces to use and how to set them. By contrast, the experience of the type consumer is unconscious and automatic; it is mingled with instinctive associations, learned references, and stimuli from all of the senses. It is a visceral and multi sensory experience that generally takes place beneath the radar of consciousness, and that taps into the complex understanding of visual codes that we’ve been learning all of our lives. We are all type consumers when we are off duty.

We don’t just read with our eyes. The most important part of the process takes place in the brain, and because this happens automatically it creates the illusion that reading is a simple and effortless activity. In fact, the process builds on complex cognitive, linguistic, and social skills that have been developed from an early age. The task is performed by our non-conscious brain, which gathers a great deal of information from the type, independently of what the words are spelling out. Some typefaces take a short cut directly to the non-conscious brain, where they are processed like pictures. The most aesthetically pleasing solution might not be the most effective one, and being aware of this makes us better designers.

Rational decision-making involves cognitive processing as we think through a decision logically; this uses more energy, whereas instinctive decisions are processed instantly on a non-conscious level, in an area of the brain controlled by memory and emotions. This is where it is estimated that at least 85% of our decisions are made, so appealing to the instincts can make a decision feel easier to make.

In my opinion, if we want to encourage healthier eating, why not use typography and language to prompt customers to buy on impulse and by desire, instead of presenting it as a conscious and rational choice?

The below both contain the same snack bar, which would you WANT to eat?

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