Choosing the right type for the job
With millions of fonts available, it’s a hard task to choose the one that’s right for what you need. Here are a few tips to help you.
What does your font say about you?
What impression does your font give about you? Is your font saying ‘relaxing holiday’ when it should be saying ‘efficient business enterprise’? Do your fonts clash or complement each other? An inappropriate choice of font could lead viewers to make erroneous assumptions about your business or brand, distracting from the design’s intended message.
What types of fonts are there?
These are the 4 basic categories of type:
Serif: The most traditional category of type, often used in books and newspapers for body text. It can be identified by the small lines or ‘feet’ on the ends of each letter.
Sans Serif: A sans serif font has no small lines on the ends of the letters which makes it more modern in appearance and easy to read at any size. It can be thick or thin, short or tall, fat or condensed, and is a good choice for titles, captions, credits or graphs. It’s also a good choice for larger bodies of text. Most web designers prefer to use sans serif fonts due to their versatility and high degree of on-screen legibility.
Script: These fonts are generally curvaceous and connected, imitating cursive handwriting. They can be full of character, friendly and fun or elegant and sophisticated, so are conceivably a good choice for branding and logos but are rarely used in website design due to their potential lack of legibility.
Display or Decorative: These are unusual fonts designed to get your attention and are generally used sparingly for a specific effect or purpose. Like script fonts, they can be formal or informal and inspire any kind of mood. They are not suitable for body copy.
Context and audience
Think about who will be viewing your design and how. For example, the font for a large body of text needs to be easy to read or the font on a business card needs to be legible at a small size. A website needs to use fonts which display clearly on a screen (be it a laptop, tablet or phone). Also think about the demographic or age of your intended audience. Will your choice of font attract them? Will they relate to it?
If you want to use your font on a variety of projects, is it versatile? Does it come in more than one weight such as light, regular, medium, bold and heavy? Does it have various styles such as condensed and extended? If your designs are text heavy, then you can create a harmonious look by using different styles and weighs of the same font.
Using more than one font
It’s tricky to decide how many fonts to use and to choose fonts which will work together and not clash. Find a shared quality between your fonts. This could be a similarity in letter height or width. Also fonts by the same designer often share a similar look or feel. Use different sizes, weights and colours of fonts to create a visual hierarchy, showing the viewer what’s important and where to look.
How many fonts are too many?
There are no rules, some projects require a more decorative approach, but generally two or three fonts would be the maximum amount to avoid visual confusion.
Using fonts is mostly a matter of trial and error. As you become more experienced you can soon work out how to use them most effectively.
This is a great video explaining the history of typography by Ben Barrett-Forrest