… “f” for font, that is. How important is your choice of font? How do professional designers get it right and how can you do it better?
Choosing a font can be bewildering. The digital revolution has delivered to our desktops more fonts than most of us know what to do with.
Sure … you can capitulate and just run with the default font setting in your computer application (usually a good generic option). Or you can be proactive and select a typeface that suits your purpose, your audience, your medium. So where do you start?
“Understanding that different fonts suit different applications is a good starting point,” says DDG’s Creative Director, Fred Thompson. “What is right for a logo is not necessarily right for a long block of text in an annual report or a navigation menu on a website.”
For designers, font selection and the way fonts are used (typography) are critical to the creative process. “There are many issues to consider with choosing a typeface,” said Fred. “Legibility, readability, reproducibility, impact, reader preference, image … it goes on. Is the typeface the right size, the right weight, the right style? We look to tick as many boxes as we can.”
“As professionals, we have accepted guidelines and best practices that merge with the creative process to achieve the optimum typographic result. But I’d recommend beginners focus on keeping it simple by sticking to some basic principles,” suggested Fred.
Here are a few tips for the typographically challenged:
- contrast – avoid mixing two very similar typefaces on the one page; think contrast rather than clash
- less is more – use a maximum of 3-4 different typefaces in the one document
- consistency – once you choose the fonts for your headings and body text, stick to them throughout the document
- continuity – don’t make sudden font changes mid-paragraph, mid-sentence or mid-word
- congruency – match the typeface to the content and the spirit of the text.
“That last one is probably the most difficult to achieve,” cautioned Fred. ”Letterforms have their own expression and can evoke emotions, memories or images in the reader’s mind.”
Consider the modular, unicase letterforms that define the machine age or the organic, fun fonts that reflect the pop art of the 1960s. Think about the friendly classic scripts of the 19th century compared to heavy gothic fonts. Decorative. Serious, Casual. A font can say it all without saying a thing.
“Our modern fonts draw their inspiration from all the others that went before. We can use them to express friendliness, openness, strength, tradition, innovation or any number of values that we want to ascribe to a document or brand image,” said Fred. “The choice of font can be just as important as the words themselves, or even the images that sit alongside.”
Consistency is one of the most critical drivers in brand expression, especially with fonts. Fred explained, “We encourage our business clients to adopt a corporate font. The creative team selects a suitable typeface (or two) from the thousands that are available and then we set some standards around how and where the typefaces can be applied to the various applications within the business. This ensures a consistent image is projected and saves individuals within the organisation wrestling with decisions about fonts.”
Fonts differ greatly … some obviously, some subtley. Chosen well, they have the capacity to set the mood of what’s written, to convey a brand value, to invite readership or to spark an emotional cue. Beware – if blundered, they can have the reader turning the page or hitting the back button faster than you can say “times new roman”.
So think carefully about what your font selection says about you and if in doubt … default!