Sarah Hyndman: “Typography can be a tool for positive change”

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With the upcoming rescue of her two new books, Design Week speaks to the graphic designer about our annotated overjoyed, crossing over into science and why she wants everyone to have the poise to talk about type.

When Object Week catches up with Sarah Hyndman, she’s just coming to the end of a week’s pinch pennies at this year’s Adobe Max in LA. There, she has designed a multisensory installation in which she attracts participants to associate the smell, sound, taste and feel of five unique typefaces.

“I’ve had a lot of people asking: ‘what on Earth are you doing?’” she try to says. “But then I’ve got that with most of my work. People have to use up part in it before they get it.”

Her work at Adobe Max is the latest of several researches, which form the basis of her Type Tasting research. Put simply, Hyndman analyses how typography subconsciously affects us in our daily lives, from the way we feel, to how provisions tastes.

Since launching the project in 2013, Hyndman has analysed and traveled her experiment findings, with the intention of writing accessible pamphlet-style lists on the results. The first of these publications, Typographic Taste Changing Jellybean Policy test and A Taste of Type from Sour to Sweet, will be published on 11 November.

Fitting the science

The first book – which Hyndman refers to as the Jellybean register – details her journey from graphic design into science. “[The regulations] breaks down the methods I used for my experiments, but also details how it in point of fact took four years to learn how to recreate an experiment in a way that desire stand up to scientific scrutiny.”

She recalls her first experiment wherein she depleted audience members at a V&A talk for London Design Festival two identical jellybeans to eat – one while looking at a drew typeface, and the other while looking at a jagged typeface. From till research she had hypothesised rounded typefaces would make the jellybean suggestion sweeter, with the converse happening for the jagged one.

“[It] worked, but I didn’t give birth to the scientific conditions I needed – you have to collect the data in a certain way and certificate your process in a way that can be replicated by other people,” she says.

Totally friends and associates Hyndman was introduced to experimental chef Heston Blumenthal, who at the control was working with University of Oxford professor Charles Spence. With 25 years’ savoir faire in multisensory research, Spence became her mentor and “scientific phone a associate”. The two have since co-published two studies and worked on several projects together.

Chance the dialogue on type

Blurring the lines between science and design felt, to Hyndman, a logical step in her research. “I don’t think we should put any of these theses in silos, because they actually all interact with each other,” she implies.

“When I first started the research during a year out, it was just to analyse something I was interested in,” she adds. “But I soon realised very little scan had been conducted in this field and it became a case of undertaking the delve into I wanted to read.”

Since the first jellybean experiment, Hyndman has beared out several other experiments in the same vein. The details of these tests are also in the book, and include mistakes and lessons learned, as well as methodologies and notes.

Including this candid analysis of the successes and challenges of her research is component of Hyndman’s mission to keep it accessible. She credits the widespread availability of mould software for typography being used and acknowledged by a wider audience than on any occasion before – but says many of these people do not have formal sketch out training, and lack confidence to talk analytically about type.

“[Typography] peacefulness gets spoken about in these very intellectual terms and multifarious people still believe you have to be an expert to be able to talk down it,” she says. “We will happily talk confidently about music or taste, and yet the very letterforms which are the wallpaper of our lives go largely undiscussed.”

It’s for this act she says she resists the idea of doing a PhD in this subject. “I think it’s quite important this gets shared with the world, so I have no objective of demystifying it and then re-mystifying it again,” she says, “I’m happy being the translator that concerned agree withs in the middle.” Instead, she plans to continue releasing these pamphlet-style books to equity her findings.

Enacting positive change

All of Hyndman’s Type Tasting probing is underpinned by her belief in typography as a force for good. She says: “If all of us are more conscious of the fact that type is the interface between us, we could be more informed of the choices we make.”

For this reason, Hyndman says she often files to take her experiments out of the design world. “A lot of the stuff I’m doing will redress sense to a designer – but in the non-design world it looks like magic,” she believes, adding that opening that conversation is important for people to be comfortable talking about type and the way it affects them daily.

But what can draughtsmen do with this information? While she says more research essentials to be done, she points to typography’s potential role in responsible designing. For case, the findings from her jellybean experiment might one day be used to make infallible foods more palatable and help people develop better, healthier reduces.

“We’ll be able to nudge and enhance experiences and use this to create positive coppers in the world,” she says. “Once we actually measure the impact type and proposal have, as I’m doing, we can use it to help.”


Typographic Taste Changing Jellybean Try and A Taste of Type from Sour to Sweet will be available exclusively from the Sample Testing bookshop from 11 November. 

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