The emotional power of typography


Sarah Hyndman has explored how typography has influenced us over the past decade; set up experiments and studies around its effect on our moods and senses and demonstrate how letterforms have powers far beyond mere readability or decoration.

Hyndman, designer and founder of the Tasting company, published the book The Type Taster: How Fonts Influence You in 2015, and his interest in the subject has not waned since. Now, with the help of a grant from the Canada Council, she has created a kind of innovative new “exhibition”: but one that comes to you, in a little box.

Elixir: A Mood by Sarah Hyndman

Title Elixir: Mood, the project is described as “an expansive sensory exhibition” that aims to take its viewers “on a journey through different moods” through the power of typography, sound, image, texture and smell. . The project draws inspiration from previous physical installations created by Hyndman for events and exhibitions, including Adobe Max in Los Angeles and Sense Me at the Trapholt Museum in Denmark.

“These are combined with the interactive and sensory elements I developed to counter Zoom fatigue in my online events during lockdowns,” she explains. “I think the blending of ideas from virtual and physical realities opens up exciting new possibilities for the future of events and exhibitions.”

Inside each box is a series of three zines, along with three small bags each containing a different scent object (one takes the form of dried plant matter, the others look more like perfume sample sticks). Each perfume corresponds to different exercises within the pages of the zine, which also include sensory cues such as textures to feel, typographies optical illusion and links to soundtracks, including a collection of audio recordings from NASA open source data, as well as ASMR indices and kinetic type examples online.

Part of the project’s goal is to help people “discover how using more of your senses can evoke your emotions and create a sense of space,” says Hyndman. As such, each zine contains a contrasting pair of “moodscapes”. “These are designed to take you out of your usual day-to-day life. You can interact with each of the six moods through language, links, textures, smells and typographic meditations,” she explains.

She adds: “A typography was chosen to signal each mood. Its forms give you clues and it is combined with language as the basis of each soundscape. Each character is then suspended in a pill-shaped capsule in the physical exhibit.

Elixir: A Mood, by Sarah Hyndman
Elixir: A Mood by Sarah Hyndman

The design of the zines themselves is simple but quite beautiful: all black and white and (obviously) with a distinctive aesthetic. The title “elixir” and its connotations of Victorian apothecaries appear throughout as an illustrative motif in intricately drawn old-style eyeballs, pointed noses and pointing hands, to delineate the various meanings used by the exercises. The pages, like the letters, play with the idea of ​​light and dark; and fun activities and blank scrapbook-style boxes are featured, which users can fill in as they go.

It’s a clever take on the exhibition format in a post-lockdown world: obviously, you can “walk around” the exhibition from your own home (or wherever you fancy taking the box); and it also makes good use of QR codes, taking them out of the realm of track and trace and turning them into something more enjoyable. In addition, Elixir plays with the idea of ​​the hybrid format: if it is a beautiful print, the experience only becomes possible thanks to its online elements.

“The experimental format explores the limits of an installation, removing it from the traditional exhibition space,” Hyndman explains. “Realities are mixed as the boundaries between the physical and the virtual are blurred…where the tangible and the intangible meet.”

Like a real exhibition, the boxes, created in a limited run of 100, are “on display” for a limited time until December 31 this year, after which the digital items will be disabled (but clearly once you get between the hands on one, there’s nothing stopping you from coming back to “visit” long into the future).

Elixir: Mood is available for purchase at


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