Choosing Fonts – A quick and dirty guide
When working on any design – a website, a flyer, a business card, anything – your font choices are of utmost importance. The right font can support your message, but the wrong font can undercut a strong message. Imagine a letter informing you that you are behind on your rent written in a comic book font. Or a child’s birthday invitation written in the same font your bank would use. When it comes to hiring a graphic designer, anyone worth their salt will know just what fonts to use and how to combine them. But if you’re doing something on the fly and need to choose your own fonts, it can be a little daunting. How can you be sure you’re choosing fonts that will support your message – not tear it down?
Designers spend months in school, and years out of school, learning each and every type and subtype of font. But not everyone has the time, or money, to get a design degree. That’s why we’ve created this quick and dirty guide to choosing fonts for your project.
First a caveat: there are many different fonts and font subtypes. This guide is by no means exhaustive. This a quick and dirty guide to give you a leg up and have your projects look anything but amateur.
Font Types – What You’re Working With
There are three basic types of fonts: Sans-Serif fonts, Serif fonts, and Display Fonts. Before we learn how to mix them, we’ll briefly look at each type and when each one is good for.
Serif fonts have a professional and bookish appearance. A “serif” is a small decorative flourish on the end of the strokes that make up letters and symbols.
Newspapers, books, and anything that has a lot of words will use serif fonts. Serif fonts are also better suited for print than the web.
Sans-Serif fonts are simply fonts without the serifs. The fonts are often used to imply minimalism, modernity, and sleekness. Apple, for example, makes great use of sans-serif fonts in their branding.
Sans-Serif fonts work best online and for shorter bits of text.
The last type of font we will discuss are display fonts. These fonts can be anything from childish writing halloween faux-blood fonts. These fonts are heavily stylized and are best used sparingly.
A display font is often used for titles on covers or posters, and can often double as a logo. Coca-Cola would be an example of a display font that is also a logo.
Choosing Fonts and Putting Them Together
Combining fonts is like making any recipe. Too much, or not enough, of one thing can quickly ruin what you’re trying to achieve. Here are some simple tips to choosing fonts and putting them together in your project. Keep these in mind on your next project.
Don’t Use Too Many Fonts: It is best to stick to three or fewer fonts on your design. This will allow your project to look consistent in tone, and not be distracting. Too many fonts is a common mark of an amateur.
Create a Style And Stick To It: There are some basic text sections most projects will have: headings, subheadings, the body, and subtitles. If you decided to use Arial as your heading font, make sure every heading is Arial. Keep the sections consistent throughout – all subtitles should look the same.
Display Fonts Are For Headings Only: While using display fonts can be a lot of fun (they look awesome!), they can be incredibly hard to read especially at smaller sizes. Keep display fonts for headings only.
Pick One Font to Focus On: It works best to choose one primary font for your document. This font should represent the vibe and personality of your project. If you’re creating a brochure for a standard bank, you’d want your primary font to be a serif font. If you wanted, you could spice up the project with a sans-serif font for a specific unique section. But really use additional fonts sparingly – they’re just seasoning.
Keep It In The Family: If you are using Arial as your body text, it is good practice to use an Italic Arial as your subtitle font, and a larger Bold Arial as your heading font. This keeps your document consistent, and eye-pleasing.
We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the art of working with fonts, but hopefully, this guide will help you in choosing fonts for your next project. This information will also help you in discussing fonts with a designer, should you choose to use one.
To really power your branding, it is a great idea to have a standard guide to what fonts you use on every project for your brand. Knowing what font you will use before you begin is an excellent backbone for every business and will greatly increase brand awareness.