TYPOGRAPHY TALKS – Holly Foster Media


Typography is one of those things most people don’t think much about, yet it is a powerful tool designers use to deliver their message.

The word “empathy” is shown above in a typeface named Helvetica. Helvetica was created in 1957 by Max Miedinger and has been used extensively across the globe. Why? Because it’s considered a neutral typeface, which makes it compatible with many types of content.

Helvetica, by design, conveys no additional meaning.

This week my assignment was to express a word’s definition by creating an artistic expression of the word. Because it is important to me (and I like a challenge), I chose the word empathy.

Before I explain my design, let’s take a look at the definition.

People often confuse empathy with sympathy, but they are vastly different. If I sympathize with someone, I retain my own point of view. When I empathize, I step outside of myself to experience the other person’s point of view.

“You’re experiencing a fraction of their emotions and feelings because you see things from their perspective” (Kramer, 2018).

According to psychologists Daniel Goleman and Paul Ekman, there are three types of empathy: cognitive, emotional, and compassionate (Bariso, 2018).

  • Cognitive empathy is the ability to understand how a person feels.
  • Emotional empathy happens when you share the feelings of another person.
  • Compassionate empathy moves us to take action.

As I said, I like a challenge.

To begin, I wanted to use a typeface with lots of curves to make it feel personal. I also wanted it to look handwritten. When I found the Noteworthy typeface, I felt like I found a winner.

Here’s my first pass.

Empathy requires compassion, a form of love, so the color had to include red.

Since I wanted my letters to appear closer together, I used Adobe Illustrator’s tracking tool to illustrate the emotional connection I wanted to convey (notice how the “t” and “h” are touching each other).

Empathic people are good listeners, so I decided to replace the “a” with an ear. The shape of the “y” said “heart” to me, so the emotional element was taken care of. To incorporate the cognitive aspect, I created a silhouette of myself.

The marriage of the visual elements of thinking, listening, and feeling with the Noteworthy font in black and red resulted in this final product:

© 2019 Holly Foster

When designed strategically, the combination of graphical and typographical elements can help you deliver your message effectively. Just make sure you do your research first.

until nxt time …


Bariso, J. (2018, September 19). There are actually 3 types of empathy. Here’s how they differ–and how you can develop them all. Retrieved from:  https://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/there-are-actually-3-types-of-empathy-heres-how-they-differ-and-how-you-can-develop-them-all.html

Hagen, R., & Golombisky, K. (2017). White space is not your enemy: a beginner’s guide to communicating visually through graphic, web & multimedia design (3rd ed). Boca Raton: CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, CRC Press is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an Informa business.

Kramer, B. (2018, August 13.). The critical difference between sympathy and empathy. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2018/08/13/the-critical-difference-between-sympathy-and-empathy/

Noteworthy font free download – FreeFontsPro.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.freefontspro.com/13692/noteworthy.ttf

Rube, T. (n.d.). How to show empathy. Retrieved from wikiHow website: https://www.wikihow.com/Show-Empathy

The history of Helvetica. (2018, September 6). Retrieved from: http://imagine-express.com/the-history-of-helvetica/

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0 thoughts on “TYPOGRAPHY TALKS

  1. Hi Holly,

    First and foremost, I think it’s very important that you distinguished between empathy and sympathy. I tend to think of empathy as getting to the level of the other person that you’re trying to reach (whether it’s down if they’re in a bad period or otherwise). Not necessarily related to design per se, but important.

    I think the curves characteristic of the noteworthy typeface go really well with your silhouette so that was a great decision on your part. I also think the emotions conveyed by the color red as your outline adds a nice little contrast to the black, which if left alone can come off as a little cold. The heart adds a lot more warmth too. This looks it could be the logo of a psychologist’s practice or a hotline of some sorts that deals with anxiety/depression. Very nicely done!

    -Mohamed Wali

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