Denotative Meanings

Typography refers to the process of designing text, as well as to the style and appearance of text. 1 Typography can be distinguished by features such as typeface (font), point size, line length, line spacing, space between groups of letters (tracking), space between pairs of letters (kerning), weight (e.g. bold), and slant (e.g. italic). Other features of typography include colour, layout, and interplay with whitespace. 2

Typography can impact the semiotic reading of elements such as the brand family name, the brand descriptor, slogans, and monograms. Colour, finishes, hot foil stamping, and embossing and debossing can impact the appearance and semiotic reading of typography.


“Good typography plays an important role in both the quality and effectiveness of the printed product, especially in the eyes of the customer.” 3

According to the advertising and design industry, different fonts and styles (including character size, spacing, italicizing, bolding, etc.) convey different qualities or personalities. 4


Overarching Theme Sub-Theme Connotative Chains
Lifestyle Luxury / Glamour  The style of font can contribute to a product’s luxury positioning:

  • Serifs (short lines at the end of main strokes that depict the pen’s arrival from the previous letter and its departure for the next 5)  –> Hand writing, calligraphy, literacy –> Available only to the upper classes –> Luxury


  • The luxury implied by calligraphic font can be further enforced by use of certain colours, embossing/debossing, and hot foils.



Lifestyle Gender  Tobacco company documents acknowledge how fonts can have a gendered identity, and marketers will choose certain styles of fonts on packaging to appeal to the gender of the product’s key target market. 6

  • Curvy, thin, fluid script –> Lightness, wispiness –> More stereotypically feminine
    (“The use of script moves a brand more female.” 7 “Scripted writing appears to lend more femininity and softness to the brand.” 8)


    De Luxe

    Avanti Special

  • Squared edges, shadowing, serifs, capital letters, block or bold format –>Substance, weight –> More stereotypically masculine






  1. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Typography. Available at: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/typography. Accessed August 17, 2011.
  2. Ambrose G, Harris P. Typography. New York, New York: AVA Publishing SA, 2005.
  3. Zorn-RC; Moore Response Marketing Services for American Tobacco. Montclair Direct Mail Templates & Schedule. Available at: http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/ore33a00. Accessed December 8, 2011.
  4. McCarthy MS, Mothersbaugh DL. Factors in advertising-based persuasion: A general model and initial empirical tests. Psychology and Marketing 2002;19(7-8):664-691.
  5. Bringhurst R. The Elements of Typographic Style. Vancouver, BC: Hartley and Marks, Publishers, 2008.
  6. Philip Moris. Marketing Research Department Report. Available at: http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/fpl93e00. Accessed December 9, 2011.
  7. Pollay R. How Cigarette Advertising Works: The Role of Packaging seen through Industry Documents. Available at: http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/kfn70g00. Accessed July 25, 2011.
  8. Brown & Williamson – Perception Research. Available at: http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/lrt02d00/pdf Accessed December 8, 2011.