Fonts, Fonts, Fonts

Fonts, Fonts, Fonts

Fonts, fonts, fonts

Where would we be without words? They’re everywhere, unleashing information and communicating messages through thousands of languages all over the world. From billboards to books, subtitles to signs, logos to labels - you simply can’t escape them, nor would you want to. They’re vital.

What people don’t realize, however, is that each time a word is processed, a font is chosen to represent it.

By definition, a font is all the letters, numbers, punctuation, and symbols that make a typeface. Most typefaces fit into one of four categories, which include decorative fonts, scripts, and fonts with and without serifs. Each of these categories have specialized sub-categories. Knowing that, it’s no surprise that designers spend hours pouring over font styles and options. With so many typefaces to choose from, how do you even begin to select the appropriate one, or the combination of several? 

The first step is to analyze the purpose of the text. Is it a large body of information to be read, such as an article? Or, is it a persuasive message, such as in an advertisement?  Are you designing wedding invitations, or the announcement section of a newsletter? Living in an information-saturated world, there is an incredible amount of font options that can be applied to each word we read, and it is important to choose the style suitable to the purpose of the message.

While typeface design, like all art, has no strict rules, there are some guidelines that can make selecting a typeface less overwhelming.

For an informational message, the best typeface to choose is one that is highly legible. Typically, typefaces with serifs, such as Times New Roman, are the most legible, or easiest to read. Select a typeface with conventional letterforms (think: the font of the letters you were taught to read within grade school). Many serif and sans serif fonts use conventional letterforms. Find a typeface that is generous with spacing, in-between and inside of each letterform. The extra space makes reading easier. Avoid decorative, unique typefaces, as they are not meant for a large amount of text. For high readability, be sure that the font you choose is fit for the message you apply it to. For example, a typeface designed for headlines would be great for headers or posters, but not for an entire paragraph of text.

For a creative message, such as a logo, poster, or graphic, consider using script or a decorative typeface. These styles of typeface are used to create an aesthetically pleasing message. Consider the words used in the text, and then visualize your message as a word painting. Use a font that complements the word itself, such as a flowing, light typeface for the word, “breeze.” If you are using more than one typeface, it is good to choose types that contrast. That will give your message a cleaner and professional look, as two similar fonts used together could look jumbled.

If you find yourself stuck, you can’t go wrong with a tried-and-true typeface combination. The simpler, the better. For example, using a plain, sans serif font for a bold headline, and a simple font with serifs for the body of the text may not be the most edgy choice, but professional designers agree: it’s a classic.

Whatever the context of your purpose, the closer you match the essence of the typeface to that of the topic, the clearer your message will be.

Don’t be afraid to test a few different options before settling on the one. Research different typefaces, and try creating some of your own personal classic combinations. Once you are familiar with the guidelines of typeface, it is easier to recognize an opportunity to break the rules and design something outstanding.