Dissertation Proposal

Persuasion of Typography

Stuart Budd

Graphic Communication



I am going to undertake an investigation into why persuasive typography hasn’t been used more to influence the populations within communities into making decisions. I am going to carry out research considering how persuasive typography has been used within design to influence consumers to acknowledge what is seen before them. This will lead me on to why I have chosen to create an artefact. I want to under-go a project that will use persuasive typography to influence the public to do, or reflect on the piece. This will show how we can use persuasion within the community to influence what people’s actions may be. I have a considerable interest in the topic of persuasion as it is something I may be looking to do in a possible career. It is very much related to my course graphic communication as I will be able to take this body of work forward in the future to use as part as my portfolio.


Typography is one of the most important ways we communicate. We see this type of design everywhere we go, making it so important within daily consumption. Cyrus Highsmith, a typeface designer said, “typography is the detail and presentation of a story” in the book he wrote: Inside Paragraphs: Typographic Fundamentals. It can become the influence of the actions people do, seeing the same language used across a whole range of mediums. There is a lot of psychology behind what we perceive typography to be. It is essential to our brain that we respond to the way typography has been designed. We create emotions on how we feel which takes an influence into what we do.


Typography has always been a very popular way of communicating. McCarthy and Mothersbaugh (2002) suggested that the consumer’s ability to read and copy has a lot of significance to typography. They carried out a study by Moriaty in 1982, on typography trends which showed that magazines in the time were using up to 33% of typography of each page. This is because it is instantly recognisable, and you are draw to it immediately. To gain attention of the consumer immediately demonstrates how important this element within design is. Childers and Jass also carried out a study in 2002 to examine the use and effect of typography in advertisements. They concluded that the consumer can be easily influenced by typography that is representing a brand, also influencing motivation and the ability to process information (persuasion-and-influence.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/typography.html.). This is showing that typography has been an enormous part of design and that we are currently using typography in a positive way. It can have whatever impact it is seen to have, giving it huge amounts of meaning and flexibility.


The sustainable and Safer Travel team communicate across a wide range of avenues to communicate to the public. This company communicates to the public providing potential risk and increasing the awareness of hazards. There seems to be a lack of research into communication, with design focusing on the legal obligations rather than the psychological principles that display the effectiveness. Motorist follow a system called variable message signs, allowing them to easily follow signs representing warnings, instructions and directions. Variable message sign has been suggested to reduce the effectiveness as a channel in communicating urgent warnings. This is suggesting that results not using a psychological approach to influencing motorists to do what is intended. The effective warning of information to a motorist is used through words which attract attention, indicating the level of the hazards. It is important that people are aware of the oncoming hazard, so believability is very important in communicating. If a person doesn’t believe what you are trying to say through design, you will never persuade someone to follow through with your actions. It has been proven that getting people to avoid something by using persuasive design is easier, and more effect than trying to communicate the opposite. This behaviour engages the consumers causing them to feel that they have understood what has been said, and that you have told the truth. For example, showing red within the design will indicate a high level of hazard and this is the psychological response from the brain.


Poppy A. Husband & Elizabeth J. Hellier wrote about recommendations for the safer and sustainable travel team. They gave a brief over view about what is the correct way to communicate a message to people along the road. They have taken a lot about the way people are and the way people think when talking about road travel awareness. These range from a person’s mental health risk to the terms of language that are included within the design. What I found most interesting was the wording and the message design is that it follows the rule that is must ensure the readability of a message, and that the reading age of the public should be taken under consideration. Also, it has in the article, when using colours, you should stick the rules of psychological and use the meanings of colours literally to give of a better understanding and stop confusion. This is a strategy that has worked for the population, which is easy to understand and follow. It can highlight areas which are more important than others making it clear for the views to understand.


Persuasive design is all down to how the consumer’s behaviour reacts to your piece of work. Persuasive designs fail because people are not understanding behavioural change and do not what to accept what you are trying to communicate across. BJ Fogg underwent an investigation into a model called FBM (Factor Behaviour Model). This model has three principles which he referred to as motivation, ability and triggers. The models say that for a target behaviour to happen, one must be motivated, have sufficient ability and an effective trigger. With these elements working together as a whole, people can follow what is being communicated. With a lack of one or more of the principles, a miss-communication error will occur, and the piece of design will not become that effective. BJ Fogg represented this by using a diagram, with the level of motivation on one axes, and the level of ability across the other with a target, called target behaviour placed in the top right part of the diagram. This is showing that people with higher motivation, and a high level of ability can reach the target behaviour, which is their goal. For people to communicate properly with the design they are reading, they need to be within the target behaviour. The larger this target area is the better chance you have of communicating your message through. The final factor in his diagram is the trigger. Without a trigger the diagram would not work. The trigger is arguably the most important aspect for this diagram to work. If this is done properly, to a high standard, people should have no complications when assessing your work. BJ Fogg suggests that within people’s lives they do not participate in regular activities because there is not a trigger there to tell them they should. The motivation is there to continue with a chosen activity, along with the ability, but without a psychological trigger to remind them that the activity can be done, it doesn’t happen. This is not to say that the activity is not wanted to be done but that it has not been given the opportunity to remember to do it. A trigger can be from a sound to a message, or even just from spotting the activity. The trigger working on its own can be useless. For the trigger to work in the way you want it too, it must have the correct timing. The trigger needs to send a message to the brain at the right time for it work. Without good timing the piece can become counterproductive and not work correctly. The psychological effects caused by the trigger makes the human body react the what is seen before them. To make persuasive design that people will act upon, timing within the design must be correct to cause the brain to trigger the motivation and ability to act responsivity to what has been seen. (http://www.mebook.se)


The best persuasive design is created by what I have said is a trigger. This stimulates the brain, causing you to think more about what you have reacted to. I have chosen an example of persuasive design on the left which is to do with the harmfulness of smoking. I chose this example because I believe it is a strong piece of design work that a lot of people can relate to. By analysing this image, I have learnt a lot about what persuasive design needs to do to make your mind and body to cause a reaction.


In this image to the left, you have a clear sense of hierarchy in the typography, making you drawn to the larger text. This makes the reader instantly recognise the typography and consider it before your eyes examine the image itself.  From this hierarchy in the text, you can un fold what the meaning of the image is. There is no labelling of what the numbers are standing for on the life said of the graph. However, the designer has used his ability to use the hierarchy of the text, which enables you to understand the image. You know immediately that this is standing for the years you will live for if you smoke cigarettes. This is enhanced by the fact that the cigarette it lit and burning. It is telling the reader that if you light the cigarette your life expectancy drops instantaneously. The trigger that makes the reader feel emotion lies within the hierarchy of the text. It is saying how long can you live? This makes the person reading the message create emotion and makes them think about the consequences. Therefore, persuasive design works, targeting areas in the human brain that other aspects of design wont. It can become the most influential type of design by forcing the message that the product or activity is not good for you. The typography in the image boosts the impact of the result. This is because the designer has used it to his advantage amplifying the effects of smoking. For this to work and be persuasive, it needs to have created an impact on the reader. From this point on, the consumer of the piece will then follow the behavioural steps. If the design has the attention of the consumer, the consumer will build the motivation to act upon the image, generate the ability to do something about it, which would be to not smoke, and then to act upon the trigger that the image has caused.



I intend to create a persuasive artefact as well as a 6000-word essay on persuasive design using typography to highlight areas in which it’ll make an audience react. I am going to continue my research into typography, gathering a better knowledge of how typography can be used to make the most effective meaning. This will mean using colour as an aspect to gain attention and portray correct messages, as well as using a good sense of hierarchy to give the pieces more visual depth. I want to characterise how this type of design can have a much bigger impact within the community than what it is already is having. This is going to show the development of persuasion through-out the body of work, with results that will influence people into make the decision that the design piece is saying. Not only am I going to do more research into typography and how I can use it to the most effect way, but also look more into the persuasive techniques. I want to include persuasive metaphors. Through-out my time at Cardiff Met University, I have come across persuasive metaphors. I believe it is a very strong way of including the reader into the piece of work, and causing them to have a better knowledge of what is being said. It gives the audience a chance to relate to work. It will be more likely that the consumer will act across upon this if they are able to relate to it.


I have looked at some of the design posters that were made for Trumps presidential campaign. I thought that this would be a good body of work to analysis as it is very powerful, and persuaded nearly 63 million Americas to vote for him.


I have chosen this one image to include within this essay as I believe it represents why typography can be used in such a powerful way. It has triggered the behaviour of most American people as it may or may not be what each person wants. This poster is motivating people to get what they have asked for in a very simple way, which is too make America great again. It is saying that the country has the ability to do what the message is saying, but it is currently not been done. It is contradicting what was occurring before the presidential election.


This piece of typography works very well because it is giving the people what they want. It is relevant to want was occurring within the country and that moment in time. There is no element of shock but only ambition. This makes you believe that Trump has the motivation and the ability before he was elected. It is not persuading you as a voter to vote for him, but implying that by voting for him you will make America great again, not himself. This is a great way of achieving persuasion. It has the capability to enforce something upon you without you really knowing what is happening. It is implying that making this decision it the correct one to make. This piece of work has shown me that design matters to the person reading it. If they can relate to what they have seen, they will become much more likely to do what it is telling them.


I have also decided to look at the bike awareness posters and advertisement campaigns within this body of work. I think that this image is very strong, and contains the message within it very well. It makes the reader do exactly what the image says, which is think. What I found interesting about this image is the colour contents. Looking at the psychology of colour, red would be used to create a sense of a hazards. It draws your attention to it the quickest, and makes you act upon it. However, this image is not there to tell you about a hazard, so there could have been miscommunication errors if a red was chosen. I found it interesting how a yellow was used. I thought that this wouldn’t grab the reader’s attention as well as a red would and wouldn’t be that persuasive. When analysing the image, I thought that my initial thought was wrong. The yellow is a soft colour, so when a motorist sees it there is no sense of panic and they do not mistake it for a hazard. From this, the brain triggers emotion and makes you want to think about motor cycles and what the consequences could be if you were not to think about the chosen subject. Not only did I analyse the colours of the image, but how the text is used to make it more effective. The typeface that has been used has been stretched. When research and analysing more into the poster, I soon realised that this is an excellent piece of design. By the typefaces being starched it means it can be seen for a longer period. Motorist are travelling at up to 70mph which can make it difficult to read un-edited text from a distance. Stretching the text allows it to be there for a longer time giving the motorist a better chance of reading what it being said.


Persuasion can be a very powerful element within the design culture. It can single-handedly make a person do an action that they may or may not want to do. I want to take persuasion, and graphic design, to explore the ways in which I can influence people into doing what the poster or piece of works says within the community area. I will explore the best ways to do this looking at these areas which I have researched, putting them into practice. The body of work that I’ll create will show how people can easily be influenced into deciding from what they see, and how that triggers are the main influence for this to happen. I hope to argue the fact that there are not enough of these triggers around communities, which are not influencing people. I will undertake an investigation to see if more persuasive typography graphics will influence people into doing what is said through the work.










(2011). Persuasive Methods of Communication.

(2017). A Behaviour Model for Persuasive Design. [online] Available at: http://www.mebook.se/images/page_file/38/Fogg%20Behavior%20Model.pdf

(2006) Redström J. Persuasive Design: Fringes and Foundations. In: IJsselsteijn W.A., de Kort Y.A.W., Midden C., Eggen B., van den Hoven E. (eds) Persuasive Technology. PERSUASIVE 2006. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 3962. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg

(2014) Jennifer Amar and Olivier Droulers,”Is Persuasive Power of Typography Real? the Influence of Attitude Toward the Typography on Advertising Evaluation”, in NA – Advances in Consumer Research Volume 42, eds. June Cotte and Stacy Wood, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 783-783

(2017) María Saco – Power of psychology typography –





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