We’ve all seen them. Those flyers with a parade of typefaces used to emphasize every other line. You can’t make hide or tail of the message because each line is crying out for it’s own attention.
Type has a feel, a history, and each typeface has a hierarchy of it’s own. To an every day person this isn’t common knowledge, but to us designers who sat through courses dedicating a good 3 hours a week to type in our years of design school, it’s no light matter. Typography is an art.
Typeface: what most call a font is actually a typeface, a consistent design that is applied to letters, numbers, and punctuation.
Font: a collection of a typeface to include variations like bold, italic, etcetera
Serif: those little feet at the bottom of letters
Sans-serif: sans little feet
So how do you avoid the horror? Here are some tips:
1. Try to restrict your typefaces to two font families only.
One for headlines and one for content. I know it’s tempting to throw in that third one for emphasis but avoid it if possible. Instead opt to use the font’s variety. Choose to semi-bold important words, or italicize quotes.
2. Body Content: Choose your personality with care.
Body content take up a great deal of real estate on a page. So you want it to reenforce your underlying brand. Want to convey a traditional, dependable, and solid reputation? Consider a serif font family like Times, Garamond, or Palatino. If you want to be seen as modern, approachable, and straight forward look to sans-serifs like Arial, Gill Sans and Frutiger. This is a very basic Coles-Notes version, but all font families have great variations that have subtle messages, explore them and see what each offers.
3. Reserve Script and Novelty typefaces for headlines.
They are wonderful for showing class, elegance, personality or fun. These typefaces, however, are hard for the eye to read, so don’t have mass amounts of content in these type faces unless of course you are designing a wedding invitation.
4. Standardize your fonts
Once you’ve got a combination of font families and typeface you feel represent you well, keep them consistent in your materials. Over time your clients and audience will grow to recognize your materials at a glance.
There are always exceptions to the rules, but starting with the basics is recommended. The more experience you get playing with type, the better you understand where to bend or even break those rules.
Thinking with Type, Ellen Lupton