Why is font important?
When you're faced with the minefield of choosing the right font when there are just so many to choose from, how do you choose? And why does it really matter anyway? A typeface can literally make or break a piece of design work, reflecting its own personality into the page. But what is typeface, and what are the different types of font you can use in your work? Our helpful guide on choosing a font can help you to understand how finding the right font can create a strong and powerful message.
Why is a typeface important?
When created in the right way, a typeface should deliver the right emotions to the reader and set the tone that will bring the words to life, whilst reflecting the industry it is intended for. Instead of an image, we use a font as the visual interpretation of the words on the page and this can enable them to be read with the feelings that they are intended. For example, can you think of the amount of times you have written an email or sent a text and the words have been misinterpreted? In person, we can use our tone of voice, hand gestures and a simple smile to reiterate the message we are saying - but with flat words on a page, we need a bit more than that. A simple script font can look great on fancy documents such as invitations - but use the same font on a children’s menu and it can not only look out of place, but also may not be readable if there is too much text.
We also need to think of the importance of the message we are trying to get across and therefore a typeface which is bold and in your face may be the most appropriate. When we design and need to pick a font to use, we should ask ourselves what message we are trying to portray. Is it a fun event? Therefore should the font be a bit childlike and silly? Visually does the character of the font reflect the message? To the other extreme if we take the slogan ‘tough as nails’, we instantly have an image in our head of what this message is saying and should also look like. To get across the tone of these words we need something bold and chunky, maybe a little rugged with sharp edges and in a solid block colour? This would reflect power and also masculinity, whereas if we use a nice script font that looks pretty in a soft pink, the opposite is illustrated with it appearing feminine and delicate.
We view a font on a piece of work and make a judgement of it, therefore if the font is just right then it makes the work seem more professional and help gain the trust of the reader. A good font can also help when the subject matter is uninteresting and might be just what is needed to help the reader want to read what is written.
Of course, there are also the ‘workhorse fonts’ - these are the fonts we all use as our fail-safe options when nothing else is working, or we just simply haven’t got time to find something a little bit different. These are the types of fonts which have a lot of weights or styles, such as Helvetica and Frutiger. Pretty basic Sans serif fonts, but they’ve been around for years and definitely aren’t going anywhere!
The Different Types of Fonts
So, what are the different types of fonts, and how can you use them in your work?
- Serif: These are fonts which project at the end, kind of looking like they have hands and feet. Fonts like these look more old-fashioned and are commonly used in books due to their readability when printed small. They came into fashion in the 15th century and were the top of their game for a good 300 years.
- Sans Serif: Fonts without the feet! Typefaces in this category typically look more modern and cleaner. They became popular in the 20’s and 30’s, where they were considered new and flashy – even though some people were not convinced and thought they were vulgar looking! This is why some fonts have the word ‘grotesque’ in their name! They work well in large headlines and also logos.
- Script: These are the fonts that resemble handwriting. They can either be very fancy with over the top swirls, commonly used on wedding invitations or those which are more casual and therefore more readable.
- Display/Decorative: These type of fonts grab your attention and have bags of character. Useful for headings but can be less effective if used too much. A little goes a long way!
When finding the right font, what else do I need to consider?
As well as these categories there are a lot of things to think about when choosing a font. Does it have everything you need? The first piece of work you do might be fine with using just the letters of the alphabet, but what if the next thing is to create a menu? Is there a pound symbol for instance or an exclamation mark, or different types of lettering?
We have all had the moment where we have come to add in a price and there isn’t the correct symbol to use. Frustratingly having to create our own or steal something similar from another font family! Of course, there are other things to think about too, for instance does the font offer a variety of styles and weights or is it just literally light, regular and bold? That may be ok when you don’t have much information to show but you need to think about the bigger picture and what you will be doing next.
Various different font weights can really help in getting your message out there. Even though it’s great to have different fonts, there is a written rule that you should only use a maximum of 3 typefaces in any one piece of work. Anymore can take away the emphasis of what the words are trying to say and could end up confusing the reader. These fonts should complement each other, but at the same time not be too similar as it could end up looking messy and confuse an otherwise successful brand identity.
Last but not least, we need to think about the print aspects when choosing a font to make sure it will be readable; this includes the colour, size and style. A script font which is very decorative may look pretty but it’s not always practicable.
The Use of Font for Brand Logo Design
The importance of choosing the right font can be made more apparent if you think of its use in logo design. A logo serves as a graphical representation of a company and is a key feature in its brand. The styling, types of fonts, types of lettering and colours used all reflect what the business sells and even the target market of who they are wanting to sell to.
Companies who use a brand logo design which is round and colourful reflects trustfulness, while those that are angular with sharp edges promote businesses which are more modern and cutting edge in their industry. In contrast, companies which use a solid block colour and a simple sans serif typeface, reflect a brand as being exclusive and stylish and maybe even market leaders in their field. Take Jaguar Cars for example. The font, created exclusively for the brand, makes the logo easily recognisable and not to be associated with anything but Jaguar Cars, and the result is elegant and not fussy. The silver gives a feeling of the quality associated with the product, whilst the font being in a stylised Sans Serif looks timeless and promotes luxury.
Of course, the Jaguar Cars logo also uses an image, but if we look at other brand identities which just use a simple typeface, they are just as instantly recognisable. Visa, in the traditional Myriad typeface, is simple using just italics and the extension of the top tip of the letter ‘V’. So simple but effective, with the italic used to reflect how quick using your Visa card can be!
A lot of brand logo designs use very simple and unfussy fonts such as brands like Panasonic and Facebook, which project simplicity and create a nice clean feel. The majority of the time, the most simple and uncomplicated logos work so well because of the use of typeface. This also normally depicts how successful a company is as when a customer has had a positive association with a company, the shape of its logo or even its typeface makes them instantly recognisable. This in time gives more value to the business.
A good font and how it is used is vital in all aspects of design, for both print or online. It has a very important job to do reflecting the tone and personality of what we are trying to say. It needs to be carefully considered why it is being used and also the implication of using that font further down the line. Every style and type of font has a purpose. It can take over the meaning of a word, especially when there are no other images alongside it so the font turns into a visual interpretation of the text. We don’t need to use lots of fonts all at once and neither should we use a typeface without an explanation of why we have used it and the understanding of how it can change our design for the better - or worse!