Perhaps one of the most underestimated elements of design is typography – the visual display of written words. When it comes to design, the way that words are displayed has quite an impact on the viewer. For the purpose of this article, I’ll mostly refer to typography as your choice of font (or typeface, again, there are differences between typeface and font, but for the purposes of this article, they’ll be used interchangeably) to keep it basic, but understand that there’s a whole science behind typography.

The specific typeface that’s used to present your content – whether it’s your logo, your web content or print material – impacts how your viewers think of your brand. There’s an infinite number of fonts available and a whole plethora more being created on a daily basis. Let’s take a deeper look into the wonderful world of typography to ensure that your brand is sending the right message to the right audience.

With so many options around, typographers have classified fonts based on their common characteristics. The downfall to that is that because there are so many fonts, there are also different classification systems. Which classification system you’d like to use is ultimately up to you, but the “most” standard classification is the Vox-ATypl Classification.

Luckily for marketers, they don’t need to be a design expert to grasp typefaces and understand their impact on brands. There are 4 very basic categories, and each category has different, but consistent, associations.

The 4 Categories

  • Sans Serif – Sans Serif fonts are considered clean & modern fonts, as they don’t have the a small line (also known as feet) at letter ends. They’re are simple and minimalistic, straight to the point. Sans Serif fonts are more common in digital design rather than print, but that doesn’t mean their use can’t be executed flawlessly in print.

The great thing about Sans Serif is that it’s rather timeless, and no fuss. But on the flip side, these fonts can also be less inviting.

Sans Serif vs. Serif
The graphic above shows the difference between a Sans Serif font and Serif font.
  • Serif – Serif fonts are known as traditional fonts with the feet at their ends. Serif is considered traditional because its use has been dated back to the mid 1400s; think of them as the granddad of fonts. They instill a sense of reliability, comfort, and even responsibility but they’re typically more conservative.

Serif fonts are a good choice for making your readership feel comfortable – it’s a tried and true style that everyone is familiar with. A potential downside? Serif may give off an “up-tight” impression.

  • Display – Display fonts are large, distinctive fonts that truly give a font a personality. They’re designed to grab attention easily, so they’re big and bold, friendly and outgoing.

Display fonts will invite fun into your message, but you’ll have to select which one you want to use especially carefully. Sometimes display fonts are considered a little too “out there”, making it hard for some people to take your brand seriously.

  • Script – These fonts typically suggest an exquisite sophistication, or even a personal touch depending upon the style. They either have elegant, flowing loops similar to calligraphy, or they may be a little more casual in the sense that they can be similar to handwriting.

A calligraphy-type of Script style is typically associated with luxury, elegance, and sophistication, while a handwriting-type Script can add a more personal, heart-felt touch. Because the two are very similar, the you really need to understand the mood you want to set. Selecting the wrong Script could give off the wrong impression for your brand.

Other Factors to Consider

Let’s fast forward a little bit and assume that the tone has been determined. You’ve found a category that matches the direction you’re going in. You’ve browsed the related fonts, and found something that really represents your brand. You’ve gotten through, in all probability, the most painstaking part of typography selection. Way to go!

But you can’t just slap that font anywhere. There are a few more things to consider!

  • Try combining fonts. Chances are that you work with different elements – you’ve got a logo, body text, print material, headlines, titles, etc. You don’t want them to be all be the same – that’s a little much. Combine fonts whose tones complement each other, but don’t mix different moods. That’s not to say you want 10 different fonts, but two or three could be a possibility.
  • Explore styles & variations. Play with bolds, italics, small caps, all caps, etc. Use these different variations to create some contrast. This helps break all your text up, which helps keep your readers’ attention and improves readability and overall aesthetic. Contrast is a key element to excellent typography, so don’t choose something too similar to your other font choices. Keep it balanced.
  • Experiment with spacing. There’s line spacing, professionally known as leading. This is the space between your lines of text. There’s letter spacing, technically known as kerning. This is the distance between 2 letters. Lastly, there’s word spacing, also called tracking. This one is easily confused with kerning, but it’s the spacing throughout an entire word.
  • Play with color. We’ve covered Color Theory & Psychology before, explaining that colors have their own set of emotions. Play around a bit in order to set complementary moods throughout all your design and branding materials.
  • Try something new! While they may have some aesthetic appeal in certain situations, fonts like Comic Sans, Times New Roman, Lucinda Handwriting, Papyrus, Impact, Kristen ITC, Lucinda Calligraphy, Bradley Hand, Brush Script, Scriptina, Mistral, Courier, Jokerman, Curlz, and French Script are extremely overused. They are no longer unique and typically outdated. There are many alternatives to these fonts that are unique, fresh, and current.

When it comes to selecting and designing your typography, there are so many wonderful choices out there. The possibilities really are endless, and it can be a lot of fun picking and choosing. If you find yourself undecided or overwhelmed, feel free to contact us! We’ll be more than happy to help you discover the wonderful world of typography!

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