Testing the Psychology Behind Fonts

Monday, August 13, 2012

Studio 360 Episode 917, Morris, Abu Ghraib, Film Club Errol Morris (Nubar Alexanian)

Last month, filmmaker Errol Morris published a quiz on the New York Times website, titled "Are you an Optimist or a Pessimist?" Participants answered questions about safety in the modern era and their life outlooks. On the surface, the quiz seemed straightforward.

Morris was using the quiz to test people on something quite different. To make the quiz, Morris used a computer program that randomly changed the book passage to one of six different fonts every time a new user opened the page. The aim of the experiment was to see how people respond to different fonts.

Errol Morris joins The Takeaway with the results. 


Errol Morris

Produced by:

Ellen Frankman and Joe Hernandez

Comments [14]

Todd Margules

Baskerville was found to be statistically more "credible" font - Comic Sans the least.

Aug. 14 2012 02:18 PM
S. Kauffier

The problem is not his voice, it's his incredibly slow delivery.

Aug. 14 2012 10:22 AM
Ignace Kuchazik from Okinawa, Japan

Odd to let a guest play like that, but it was a playful topic to begin with, a surprise survey. Why are people whining about Errol Morris' voice?? Perhaps it's an innate thing, like dislike of songs by the Beach Boys. Sounded fine to me. Anyway, it brought my attention to how well Femi Oke was hosting the show. In fact I enjoyed listening to Femi so much that for a moment I considered taking the day off from work so I could listen to the rest of the show. I don't have that many vacation days though. Nicely refreshing, it'd be great if she's on the whole week! Can I post this in Baskerville?

Aug. 13 2012 07:17 PM
RSmith from USA

Great show and composure by the host! What is her name and does she host any other radio shows?

Aug. 13 2012 05:35 PM
S. Kauffier from San Férien

A qualitatively poor, informationally impoverished, and disappointing segment.

Typefaces have been designed in the western tradition since the renaissance; there are people who spend their entire working lives designing typefaces - obviously the design makes a difference in conveying the message!

Mr Morris' purgatorially slow speech nearly had me turn the radio off (but the part of me that kept saying "Get to the point dammit!" stopped me). It was so awful that it left me wondering whether the show was testing for a reaction. Please don't ever have him on the radio again. I'm sure he'd be fine in print (even comic sans).

On the plus side, top marks to Femi for polishing up her elocution.

Aug. 13 2012 05:30 PM
Christina from NYC

I am a text designer for books at a major publisher. All I do is choose fonts. This topic interests me greatly but . . . . I CANNOT listen to this segment because . . . ERROL Morris has the MOST ANNOYING delivery ever. EVER. EVER!

Aug. 13 2012 03:58 PM
fontana from ny

this guy's voice is terribly unique. his discovery isn't. anyone who studied Typefaces KNOWS they matter a lot.

Aug. 13 2012 03:57 PM
tom nemec from port monmouth ,nj

Unfortunately this man is not the first to come to this information. I cant understand how he can say that he wondered about what a different font would do. This is old knowledge. I dont get it. Why do people go in public and claim they had the idea one night as a bright flash. Why aren't they more honest saying i heave read about this or many popel have experimented with this before.

Aug. 13 2012 03:53 PM
Tisha from NJ

I only hope some kind soul taped this segment for Mr. Morris's benefit.

Aug. 13 2012 09:59 AM
Carol Rheuban from NYC

Errol Morris: this is the worst voice I've ever heard on the radio, test that voice against any other instead of fonts! Painful to listen to, make it stop... and never have him on again.

Aug. 13 2012 09:59 AM
Tisha from the world

I only hope some kind soul is taping this interview for Mr. Morris's benefit.

Aug. 13 2012 09:57 AM
Xtina from E. Village

This may be the worst segment of all time, anywhere. What is wrong with this speaker? When the host has to berate him to get him to answer a question, you know it's bad. Is this why Celeste and John both took the day off?

Aug. 13 2012 09:56 AM
rickevans033050 from 10473

To bad this dude is so full of himself that in the two or three minutes he squandered telling us what Femi was able to summarize in about 20 seconds we could have learned something. What a waste of kilowatts.

Aug. 13 2012 09:55 AM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

The Spellbounds of Baskerville?... The Playgrounds of Baskerville?... I pray Errol Morris never enters into Advertising; he will have us eating out of his Client's hand...

Errol sounded spry and excited to be messing with the heads of New York Times readers...He was like a kid playing a trick on his parents. His behavior put a smile on my face. I learned more about him than about the Baskerville font, which was fine with me...

Aug. 13 2012 08:10 AM

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