We see fonts everywhere. They display our messages and information on screens, signs, and just about anywhere else. The difference between picking a font that works and not is having someone be captivated by your words or disregard your message because they are too distracted by the typography. If may seem farfetched if you do not actively think about the design of everything you see, but it is possible to select an efficient font that will draw the correct type of attention and get your point across effectively.
Does it match the branding of your business?
Different fonts have varying uses. What is the purpose of the message you are making? Is it serious, or playful? Important, or passive? Is the text going in the header of your design, or the body? Whatever the purpose of your words, keep in mind an existing style that your organization may have already followed. If any other graphics have been made, you may want to refer to the previous designer for what fonts to potentially use on the project at hand and future projects.
Keep in mind your target demographic as well. If you own a bank, you will likely use a different font in your marketing than a company that sells pet toys.
If there is not a font that has already been used, a good practice is gathering a small, specific set of fonts to use under different circumstances. Doing this will give your group the benefit of consistency among projects, and help you market more professionally in your field. It is also wise to standardize fonts for very specific branding elements like emails and other correspondence across your company because these also reflect your overall image.
Is it legible?
How long is your message? Depending on your answer, you may want to adjust your font. Keep in mind that while you are typing your message you already know what it says and will be able to decipher it easier than someone just receiving that information for the first time. In general, if the info is important choose an easily readable font. Additionally, a good rule of thumb is that if you set the body of your project’s font to 10pt and it is still readable, then that font is legible.
More stylized fonts are often used in logos or the occasional headline, but should not be used in body copy. When in doubt, stick with simpler choices.
What are serif and sans serif fonts?
Serif fonts are those that have the small accent lines on the ends of letters known as “feet.” Sans fonts do not have feet. But why does that matter? Well, serif fonts are usually used for larger bodies of text because they are easier to read. The feet on the letters help the reader’s eyes follow the words to the edge of a paragraph. Also, serif fonts tend to feel more professional. It is often best practice to use sans font with a serif font; Sans for a header, and serif for a body. While this is often a good idea, keep in mind the length of the message you are trying to convey. If you have a body paragraph that needs to be read, then combining the two is a good idea. However, if you are making a postcard or image with only a few words attached then it would be wise to limit yourself to only one font (likely a sans font). If your organization has an official group of fonts already, there is likely a serif and a sans font within it that you can use to maintain consistency among other designs. Also keep in mind that there are other types of fonts, but often times the more stylized fonts are used more for specialized typography like logo design. Again, when in doubt, choose the simpler font.
Avoid using too many or too similar fonts
Having too many fonts in your design can disrupt the consistency that has been mentioned so much here. It can make the reader confused and create a situation where there is nowhere for the eyes to rest on a page. We’ve all seen designs where there are way too many fonts used – it looks terrible. Using no more than two is a good rule of thumb for a printed piece. When in doubt, simpler is always better.
If you choose fonts that are too similar you risk losing the reader’s attention. Having contrast in your font selection breaks up the information being displayed and makes it easier to digest. If your fonts are too different, however, it can cause an issue with legibility. Jarring the reader and creating a chance that they will look away from your message is likely not in your best interest.
Fonts can go out of style
If you think about printed pieces from the 1940s, you probably envision a certain type of typography. Now imagine a concert poster from the 1970s – do you see a type font with round, colorful, in-your-face letters? In the 1980s we witnessed flashy sharp typography with newly developing 3D effects. The point is, fonts are like every other kind of design – they can evoke a certain period, they can be trendy, and they can become dated with time. Choose accordingly!
Pay attention to current typography around you. What fonts can you identify as being common? Are there any that seem to be out of date?
Where to get fonts
Using this new information, you can go out and find the perfect font for whatever project you are working on. Keep in mind that fonts can be free to use, but many are licensed and must be paid for to use commercially. Here are a few resources to start browsing for fonts and finding the best one for your situation:
https://fonts.google.com/ – All of Google’s fonts are open source and may be used freely.
https://www.dafont.com/ – Large free font archive, but many are not available for commercial use without payment.
https://www.fonts.com/ – Professional site featuring loads of premium fonts.
https://fonts.adobe.com/fonts – Commercially free to use fonts if you are a subscriber to the Adobe Creative Cloud.
Fonts to avoid
Before 2007, Arial was the default font used in Microsoft applications. That consequentially made it the default font for non-designers. This quickly gave Arial a recognizable, but very un-thoughtful look that you likely do not want for your business.
In 2007, Microsoft replaced Arial with Calibri as the default for their applications. Much like Arial, Calibri suffers from being a solid font with a bad reputation.
Whether you know anything about fonts or not, you have likely heard about Comic Sans. This unfortunate font is not inherently bad, but it was heavily misused in the business world and subsequently became a running joke on the internet. It is effective for text in marketing for children’s toys and comic books, but very distracting because of its reputation.
Papyrus is an extremely stylized font, often regarded as childish and unprofessional. It is widely disliked, but also somehow very common. Like Comic Sans, Papyrus is frequently joked about on the internet and television, even at one point being featured in a Saturday Night Live sketch making fun of the logo for James Cameron’s Avatar for using the font. Generally avoid this font for professional designs to ensure you are taken seriously.
Selecting the appropriate font is important to let your audience receive your information with the right mindset and emotions. It is the case far too often where a font is carelessly picked from a drop-down menu and thrown onto a flyer with important information. With a little thought and care, you can effectively convey messages in a more captivating and meaningful way just by choosing an appropriate font.