The person who sends this card doesn’t take themselves too seriously. The type is big, bubbly and fun, and it has a nostalgic feel to it — a little like a retro Instagram filter. There’s no formality or politeness with this message — no delicate hairlines or dainty flourishes — what you see really is what you get. And with a hint of curvaceous adult movie poster typefaces from the 1970s to it, the typographic innuendo is pretty clear.
I think this is the most romantic of this collection of Valentine’s cards. Not only is it on the right side of corny with its comic book approach steering it clear of saccharine sweet romantic soliloquies, it also puts the spotlight firmly on you, the recipient of the card, by celebrating your awesomeness. But be in no doubt that superhero costumes may be provided, and this won’t just mean wearing your underwear on the outside.
Graphic designers love this type style, describing it as “cool”, “contemporary”, “stylish” and “an arty type”. But if you receive this card it’s really not about you — it’s all about the sender. The message is not that they’re looking at you, nor that they only have eyes for you, it’s “look at me”, “see what good taste I have” and “be impressed by my visual eye-test pun”. This is an invitation for you to admire the sender, almost like they’ve sent a Valentine’s card to themselves.
This card is the typographic equivalent of being picked up and thrown over the sender’s shoulder, which of course is great if you like the direct, straight-talking and physical approach. In surveys, this style is described as “strong”, “bold”, “confident”, an “alpha personality” who likes to be both seen and heard. However, this card is trying very hard to be the antithesis of cheesy hearts, flowers and romance. I think the sender protests too much and there’s really a romantic softie hiding behind the brash exterior.
At first glance this is an elegant card to receive. It has a touch of 1920s Art Deco glamour, but its sans-serif simplicity stays on the tasteful side of brash or glitzy. The type nods to a golden age of Hollywood and maybe hints at “you’re my movie star”. Yet take a closer look, and that drop shadow gives the letters a perspective that angles them away from you… if this was a person’s face it would be looking right over your shoulder, checking to see who’s standing on the horizon behind you. Maybe you’re not the sender’s only “love at first swipe”?
This is the type style of pub signs the length and breadth of the UK. It’s just traditional enough to feel safe and homely, but just elegant enough not to feel too cheap. It speaks of a comfortable and familiar relationship; one that’s established enough not to need surprises any more. You might like to dress up just a little for your Valentine’s evening, and maybe even order something a little more expensive from the drinks list, but you’ll likely still spend the evening sitting at your regular table and reminding yourself to put the rubbish out in the morning.
Typographically, the sender of this card is taking you back to the not-so-distant nostalgia of the halcyon days before social media. This is a time when fonts were bitmapped, the internet was dialled-up and games arrived in the post. Maybe they’d secretly like to keep playing instead of settling for you, or perhaps they’ve still chosen you even though you’re only as good as the fourth most popular Pokémon (according to Google). However, let’s not be so cynical, and see the sender as an old-fashioned and sentimental soul who thinks you’re a good catch.
This looks like Times New Roman, which is a classic system standard default font. This is a traditional and unsurprising style; a comfortable default that tells you the sender is safe and reliable, but somewhat lazy when it comes to romance. However, you can console yourself with the knowledge that they’re unlikely to by trying to catch anybody’s eye elsewhere with decorative or flirtatious fonts. They’re all yours.
The person who sends this card is happy, friendly and approachable. The uppercase message is confident, but the curved letters suggest dulcet tones rather than bullish shouting. This is the typographic equivalent of a big smile or a hearty hug. Don’t, however, expect your Valentine’s night out to involve sophisticated planning or extravagantly expensive gestures. The sender of this card wears their heart on their sleeve and they say it as it is—so you’ll know if you’ve got them feeling x-heighted and it’s time to do some kerning.
Is the person who sends this card suggesting that they actually put a sheet of paper into a typewriter and tapped their message out by hand? Or more likely they’re an aspiring scriptwriter or director who’s secretly dreaming that their name will appear on the opening credits and impress the hell out of you when you settle down to watch Netflix together? The real test is who gets to choose what show you watch — or whether their idea is for you to write the script together when you discover that “watching Netflix” is really a euphemism.
All photos taken by Laurence King.
Sarah Hyndman is a graphic designer and author with a specialism and interest in the psychology of type, having previously released books including Why Fonts Matter and How to Draw Type and Influence People. Her new game, What’s your Type: The Type Dating Game, is available now through Laurence King.