Out of the thousands of fonts available, how do you know which to use when creating materials for your business? Believe it or not, the font you use affects the message you’re sending. The visual appearance of words can set a tone, create a mood and add emphasis depending on the font you use – just like body language does when having a conversation with someone in-person. So, make sure you’re sending the right message with the body language of your text!
When it comes to graphic design and fonts, there is a lot of information out there. Lucky for you, I’ve boiled it down to the most essential things to help you utilize the best font to effectively communicate with your customers. Here it is:
This isn’t a complete list of categories, as fonts can get a little crazy and sometimes they don’t even fit into a category. However, when creating materials for your business, you probably shouldn’t be going all out with a funky font anyway.
A serif is a short line at the end of a stroke on a letter. An example of a serif typeface is Times New Roman. It’s been shown that serif fonts tend to be easier to read on print material and should be used cautiously online or for material meant for a screen. (Headlines are okay, and in paragraphs, ensure there is enough spacing between lines and letters for visual clarity.) Serif fonts tend to communicate professionalism and authority, create a more formal or serious mood and can be seen as more old-school.
“Sans” means “without.” So, sans serif fonts don’t have the little lines on the letters. An example of sans serif is Arial or Helvetica. Sans serif fonts are easier to read on screens and are great for both headlines and body text. These fonts provide an informal, casual and modern feel. This creates an approachable atmosphere that most people can relate with.
Display (also known as decorative or novelty) fonts don’t quite fit into the other categories. Abril Fatface is one you might recognize. They often are custom-made and can range in styles. But they’re definitely meant to get your attention. These are great for headlines but not for body copy. If used too much, it can be overwhelming, confusing and uncomfortable for the viewer. There is a lot of variety in display font styles, so they can convey a wide range of emotions. Be thoughtful when choosing a display font for your design. Some bolder fonts can feel more masculine while more bubbly and round fonts are more childlike and casual.
Script fonts are cursive-like or resemble handwriting. You may be familiar with Brush Script or Handwriting-Dakota. Script fonts are best used for headlines and sparingly in a document. These fonts can range in style, so depending on the font, they can be very formal (for a wedding invite) or very informal (for a kids birthday party invite). People tend to characterize some of these fonts as feminine, warm and soft.
How to Choose the Right Font for Your Message
When choosing the font for your project, whether it’s a website, ad, postcard or social media graphic, take a little time to decide exactly what you want to communicate. Consider these questions:
- What is your message and purpose? To inform, persuade, sell, connect?
- What is the tone or feel of your brand/company? Formal, fun, elegant, masculine?
- What’s the context and medium? An ad in the newspaper, the header graphic on your website, a Facebook post?
- Who’s your audience? Millennials, Baby Boomers, men, women?
Then, browse for fonts that communicate and align with what the answers you provided to the questions above. When you find ones you like, test them out to make sure that the font works well with the actual words you’re using. Ask yourself what the characteristics of the font are communicating. It takes a little practice to get your brain thinking this way, but eventually it becomes second nature (like describing a fine wine!). If the visual characteristics of your design don’t match the message, your brand, the context and your audience you’re aiming for, there will be a visual clash in your communication. This could easily result in losing the attention of that lead.
So next time you’re deciding which font to use, take a moment to evaluate the body language of that font. Don’t risk confusing (and probably losing) your audience because you chose the wrong font!
If you’re not sure exactly what tone you want your company to visually portray, maybe you need a Visual Style Guide. Check out how to create a Visual Style Guide for your brand.