Organic Launches 'Crealytics' to Study Impact of Serif Fonts

Taking Design to a Whole New Level. Or Not.

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Conor Brady
Conor Brady
These are interesting times to be a designer. In a profession where you are trained to develop a personal style and to hone an ability to develop original ideas, how do you mitigate the element of risk that inevitably goes along with the drive for innovation? Especially at a time when clients are being increasingly cautious when spending their budget. At Organic we have been debating this for a long time, in an attempt to develop longer and better relationships with our clients, and we think we have found something unique. We call it Crealytics.

Over the last few months we have worked closely with our Marketing Intelligence team to analyze deeply a customers emotional and physical reaction to design. To begin this we looked at the design elements that we could actually analyze, like font choice, size, amount of red utilized in the design, and a photographic trends analysis (like the use of tilt-shift photography). We assigned values to each of these elements, which enabled us to come up with a baseline metric on how that particular piece of design would perform in the eyes of the consumer, literally.

We went through a series of rigorous customer observation exercises and noticed some startling results, one of which was the use of serif over san-serif fonts. We saw customers respond with much higher font scores when we used serif fonts like Georgia – in fact the longer the serif the higher the score returned. Could decades of Swiss design been so wrong? I personally am a huge fan of Helvetica (I loved that documentary!), but does this mean that I am doing my client a disservice by advocating it in my design? When I know that a maybe less visually impactful serif font will deliver a better ROF (return on font) for my client?

One interesting additional trend that we saw was when we attached Geographic tags to font usage. In New York and Miami we found that Helvetica was much more acceptable, maybe because these locations were closer to Europe? Customers commented that they could literally feel the "Euroness" of the design. One customer commented " just seemed cooler than those stuffy old serifs like you get in the New York Times. In fact those make me feel a little sick." Conversely on the west coast customers in San Francisco gravitated towards serif fonts like Baskerville. One customer commented "they are just so much more friendly, I feel like the words are talking to me when I see a serif. My children seem happier too." Studies in LA were inconclusive, other than the fact that the larger the size, the better the response-score.

We have also seen through the decades how powerful a great image can be, especially when coupled with the right copy. With the proliferation of digital photography, all consumers have a cheap and accessible way to make a personal contribution to this great art. The downside of this for designers is their choice of photographic sources has become almost unmanageable, apart from one consistently reliable tool, Flickr. Using Flickr to find and potentially crowd source your art direction has proven to be the savior of many campaigns and agencies. It is a great resource for observing trends in photography like "tilt-shift", "an image a day" and "what's in my bag?" By tagging images in Flickr we were able to develop a proprietary metric that allowed us to find emerging trends in photography, driven by the consumer favor. When these trends are identified we are able to integrate them into our campaigns, seeing immediate uplift in response. When we showed one consumer a current campaign idea we were working on she commented, "that's amazing, I have just been thinking about how cool blurred photographs were – how did you know that?!" When we informed her that this style was in fact called "tilt-shift" photography and was popularized by a device called Lens Baby, she responded "wait....a baby took this picture. No wonder it is out of focus?"

At Organic we will continue to work on sharpening these metrics, making them less fuzzy if you will. On April 1st we will launch our Organic Crealytics™ practice. Steve Kerho head of Organic's Marketing Intelligence team commented, "I am amazed to work with a creative team that is so driven by finding ways to reduce their design to numbers – this is very rare in our industry." Conor Brady CCO at Organic commented, "I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I am destined to a future without Helvetica. I am not sure how I feel about this, but I do feel a responsibility to my clients. I see a future full of serifs."

Note: Reports that Brady is the driver behind a twitter group called #usehelvetica were strongly denied.

Conor Brady is chief creative officer at Organic, an Omnicom agency.
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