The world of typefaces and fonts can be a bit confusing if you’re not super familiar with typography. So, here’s a short guide to help you choose the perfect typeface for every project.
There are hundreds of typefaces and many have a large variety of fonts, so half the battle is decisions fatigue.
First, let’s talk about the difference between a typeface and a font. Many people use the words interchangeably, but they are actually different. Typeface refers to a family of fonts. It’s basically like the last name that ties all the fonts in the family together.
Fonts are the different weights of a typeface, like book, roman, italic, bold, etc.
Here’s an example. Roboto is a typeface, and Roboto Thin is a font.
Next, there’s the all-important distinction between serif and sans serif typefaces. If you’re not a designer, then you might be wondering what the heck a serif is. Serifs are the small decorative elements on the font that jut out from the tops or bottoms of the letter. The word “sans” translates to without, giving the typeface a cleaner line approach, rather than decorative.
To put it simply, serifs have ornamentation, and sans serifs do not.
Now that our typography lesson is complete, let’s dive into decisions making. Here are 3 steps to follow when making difficult typeface choices:
1. Choose a direction: serif or sans serif
Sans serifs tend to be the most popular choice for modern designs. They are great for legibility on digital designs, and you can choose from a variety of weights from light to extra bold.
Serif typeface however are classics and can be more fitting to formal companies like law firms and banks. Heavy serif typefaces are also becoming popular with new more playful brands like Chobani and Kate Spade.
The best way to choose a typeface is really to think about what would speak to the style of the brand. Creating a logo for a clothing boutique? Maybe consider a script typeface. Does the company present a luxury/high tech vibe? Try a thin striking sans serif. You can also use the two in conjunction.
A good rule of thumb is keep your choices down to three typefaces max and rotate the use of serif and sans serif. If you want a playful bold serif font headline, then be sure to use a simple sans serif for all your supporting text. Aiming for high contrast in type choices can also help you establish hierarchy in your design.
2. Consider legibility
It’s always key to keep legibility in mind. Your hand-written calligraphy might look pretty, but if your audience can’t read it, then your design isn’t going to be successful. Don’t forget scalability. I’m always drawn to using thin typefaces as secondary text in a logo, but as soon as your scale it down you lose all readability.
3. Think about trends
While you don’t want to base an entire design of what’s trendy, it’s also important to know who you’re targeting. If you choose typefaces that feel outdated, then your creative might not reach the audience you’re aiming for. When designing it’s always important to stay relevant, and your typeface choice has a big impact on that.
There are so many typefaces to choose from out there, so I hope these steps can help make the decision a little easier. Good luck out there and happy typeface searching!
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