Top 5 Typeface Tips

Below is a quick guide to some of the fundamentals that are key for every designer to know.

1. Consider the brand and target audience.

Whether you are creating a piece to compliment an existing company, rebranding, or building a business from scratch, it is always important to consider the brand. Think about what the company does and what message they want to evoke. Is the company a fun fashion brand or a serious law firm? Typefaces can either help or hinder this process.

A wealth management company, for example, wants to elicit the feeling of trust and give the client a sense of confidence. It may be hard to believe that a font has enough power to accomplish such feelings, but here is an example:

Wealth management

The first faux logo was created using the font face Calisto MT, designed in 1986 by Ron Carpenter. Arguably, there are plenty of other fonts that could have done the job, but Calisto MT does a sufficient job of creating a semblance of trust and reliability just through the appearance of the logo.

Here is the same company name, this time using the font Chalkduster, created by Apple in 2008. The Chalkduster font conjures more feelings of childlike silliness than it does confidence and dependability. This font would be better served as a font for a children’s book.

Wealthmanagement 2

Much like heeding the brand, knowing the target audience plays a large role in font selection. A company may target different audiences at different times. There is an appropriate font to choose for every occasion that compliments the brand.

2. Choose a headline font with character.

Headline fonts can get away with a lot more “personality” than body copy fonts. Headlines are meant to stand out and garner attention. Below is an example:


Both example headlines (in ChunkFive Roman and Amble) work as headlines. However, the thickness and slab serif of the first font (ChunkFive Roman) helps to make it jump off the page and assigns a personality to the piece.

3. Select complimentary headline & body copy fonts.

It is just as important to find a font to pair with the headline or logo as it is to find the main brand font. Designers often select a workhorse font as the body copy font. A workhorse font works well with just about everything and succeeds at many different sizes. When mulling over a body copy font selection, it is consequential to consider the font styles used in the logo and headlines. A slab serif font like ChunkFive, designed by The League of Moveable Type, used in example 2, works well with a san serif font like Gotham, designed by Tobias Frere-Jones in 2000, used as the greeked body copy also shown in example 2. To further demonstrate this point, below is another example:

Headline 3

In the first example Gotham is used as the headline font and Kepler Std is used as the body copy. Gotham works as the headline because the san serif workhorse style font pairs nicely with the serif body copy.

In the second example, with Gotham as the headline font, the chunkfive body copy font draws too much attention away from the main headline. The two fonts compete with each other for attention.

4. Use size to create hierarchy.

Almost any font can be used as a headline if sized proportionately (whether or not any font SHOULD be used as a headline is another matter). The largest typeface on any given page or piece should be the information or title that is most important. Generally, the size should decrease as importance diminishes. If there are too many headlines or snippets of information that are the same size, they compete with one another, and the viewer does not know where to pay their attention.

5. Differentiate between web & print fonts.

Not all fonts are created equal! A font that is suitable for a webpage does not always translate well to paper or vice versa. A web font needs to be legible at many different sizes and translate well to a variety of devices. Many have also argued that serif style fonts are easier to read as printed materials and that san serif fonts are more legible on screen. A designer may choose a font that the brand should use for web purposes and a different font that should be used for printed materials.

Web fonts are made up of tiny squares rather than printed fonts, which are made up of tiny dots. A web font must either be a system font (basic font installed on all/most devices) or it must be hosted on a server. Even then, there are no guarantees that every viewer sees the same font in every browser. As a general rule, the more complicated a font is, the more likely there will be issues viewing it on screen unless it is part of an image.

By Lindsey Tabor, Graphic Designer

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