Design Matters: What Marketers Need to Know About Color and Typography [Infographic]

If you see a Coca-Cola can next to a Pepsi can it’s immediately clear that color and typography are powerful marketing tools. The distinct fonts and red versus blue backgrounds quickly differentiate what are two very similar products.

However, while the general importance of design is understood by most marketers, the specifics of what truly matters remains murky. Too often brands encounter grand claims—Red is bold! Helvetica is bad!—based mostly on opinion or small samples, rather than on good data.

So, what does the reliable science say? What are the key things marketers need to know about how color and typography influence consumer behavior?

Recently, we went through a host of research to find out. To see what we learned, check out the post below below as well as MDG’s new infographic, Design Matters: What Marketers Need to Know About Color and Typography.


While marketers intuitively grasp that color matters, many don’t get how powerful it truly is. Put simply: most people are visual creatures and they rely on color to an extraordinary degree.

Research on consumers’ first reactions to new products has found:

  • 62%–90% of a person’s initial assessment of a product is based on color alone

What exactly does color do? For firms, it serves two important purposes:

  • Color differentiates your brand and products
  • Color sparks emotion when seen by consumers

So which colors are the best for your brand and products? There are some general trends when it comes to color preferences, such as:

  • Men tend to prefer bold colors more than women
  • Women tend to prefer soft colors more than men

However, when examined closely, most broad pronouncements about color tend to break down. This is in part because a lot of color-related research is tainted by limitations such as:

  • Most women in studies can name a wider spectrum colors compared with men
  • People like the same color more/less depending on its label (“mocha” vs. “brown”)

The larger issue with tying colors to universal reactions—such as blue signaling competence—is that color associations vary widely from person to person, and from culture to culture.

A Shutterstock analysis showed how these eight colors have different meanings around the world:

  • Blue: Associated with both peacefulness and depression in North America and Europe; in India often associated with the Hindu god Krishna, who embodies love.
  • Green: Associated with luck, nature, and wealth in North America and Europe; in China, the phrase “wearing a green hat” means that a man’s wife has committed adultery.
  • Red: Associated with love and danger in North America; associated with communism in various parts of the world; in many Asian countries symbolizes good luck.
  • Yellow: Associated with happiness, optimism, and hope in North America; conveys good fortune in Egypt; associated with envy in Germany.
  • Orange: Associated with autumn and warmth in North America; color of the Dutch royal family; represents sexuality and fertility in Colombia.
  • Purple: Associated with royalty and nobility in many places; the color of honor in the United States; associated with mourning in Brazil and Thailand.
  • White: Associated with elegance and purity in North America and Europe; in much of Asia it’s associated with death, mourning, and bad luck.
  • Black: Associated with both formality and death in North America and Europe. In Africa it symbolizes age, wisdom, and masculinity.

So, if there aren’t universal meanings, how should marketers strategize their use of color? Research has found that color clearly influences consumer behavior in these key ways:

  • Brand match: Consumers express a clear preference for brands/products whose colors sync with their intended missions (i.e., green for eco-friendly in the U.S.).
  • Standing out in context: Consumers aren’t more likely to click on red buttons on web pages filled with red, but they’re more likely to do so on pages filled with white.

Fundamentally, it all comes down to context. To truly harness the power of colors, marketers need to think of the impact they’ll have on specific audiences and within specific situations.

Compared with design elements such as color, typography tends to get less love from marketers. That’s a big mistake, since good—or bad—typography can have a major impact.

In an MIT study, one group of people was shown an article with a clear font and good spacing, while a second group was shown the same article with a hard-to-read font and poor spacing.

The results?

  • Good typography makes readers more engaged
    • People find text easier to read and feel more in control while reading
  • Good typography puts readers in a better mood
    • People have a positive reaction similar to watching a humorous video

What does good typography entail? The Nielsen Norman Group has been studying consumer behavior for decades; their key recommendations based on usability research are:

  • Font size: Small fonts may look nice on designers’ monitors, but consumers aren’t fans
    • As the size of type increases, readers tend to exhibit faster reading speeds
  • Contrast: People want words to stand out, so avoid busy or textured backgrounds
    • Due to aging, a 40-year-old’s retina receives half as much light as a 20-year-old’s
  • Spacing: Text is easier to read with good spacing between words, characters, and lines
    • Reading speed and comprehension improve when extra line spacing is added
  • Font Type: While novelty fonts may be fun, they’re often frustrating to consumers
    • People find fonts that emulate handwriting or gothic style harder to read

When it comes to which specific fonts to use, there are a number of long-running debates, especially between serif fonts and sans serif fonts:

  • Serif fonts (i.e., Times New Roman) have strokes on some characters
  • Sans serif fonts (i.e., Veranda) do not have strokes

Which is better? In terms of usability, they come out even:

  • Testing determined that readers find serif and sans serif fonts equally legible

While neither is easier or harder to read, each font type does have certain associations:

  • Consumers view serif fonts as more traditional and established
  • Consumers view sans serif fonts as more casual and modern

As long as the font is clear and legible, the choice of which one to use should come down to what tone you’re trying to convey, as well as the perception of your firm.

  • Shoppers say that the most appropriate typefaces on products are those which best match the brands’ personalities

Ultimately, the learnings from typography research are similar to the learnings from color research: there are some general guidelines—such as making readability a priority—but a lot of the gains come from understanding your particular audiences and your brand positioning.

To find out more, check out the full infographic, Design Matters: What Marketers Need to Know About Color and Typography.

Design Matters: What Marketers Need to Know About Color and Typography [Infographic]

Learn more how branding and design can impact your marketing ROI. Contact MDG today at 561-338-7797 or visit

MDG, a full-service advertising agency with offices in Boca Raton and New York, NY, is one of Florida’s top branding firms. MDG’s capabilities include print advertising, direct mail marketing, branding, logo design, creative, media buying and planning, radio and TV advertising, outdoor, newspaper, digital marketing, website design and development, online video advertising, infographic development, email marketing, video marketing, mobile marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, paid search marketing, and SEO. To learn about the latest trends in advertising and branding, contact MDG today at 561-338-7797 or visit