Have you ever looked at a web site or piece of print collateral and thought, wow, isn’t that beautiful, but not really known why. That is the beauty of good design, you find it instantly appealing, your eye is drawn to “it” and not necessarily one component just the entire design, just “it”.
I had the pleasure of working with a very talented design group over the last five years and every time I see one of their sites, I immediately know it is one of their designs and that for some reason I just love it.
We once worked on a site for a product that claimed to help with addiction and there was just the right amount of sadness, despair and hope. We worked on another project for an immune booster and the site made you feel healthy; imagine just feeling better after looking at a site. The greens, the images, the fonts …. the fonts! This crew had a way with fonts, they combined serifs and sans serifs with script and non script. Their combination of capitalization and font weight told a story and made you want to learn more.
Now I don’t pretend to have the eye or the talent of this team, and they never shared their “secrets”, but I would like to start a series called “What the Font” that is simple and educational and might give some tips on how to use fonts for print and online media in a more effective way.
So, can you say … “What the Font!”
What is a Font?
Technically a font is a complete character set of a size and style of a typeface. So technically 10 point helvetica is a font. But nowadays (and for this article) we refer to a typeface as a font; Helvetica, Georgia, Verdana, Helvetica Nue, Times New Roman, Rooney, Courier.
What are Serif, Non Serif and Monospace Fonts?
Serif refers to a style of font (typeface) that has “feet” or short , light lines or curves called serifs projecting from the top or bottom of a main stroke of a letter.
A Non Serif (latin for without) has no feet and is often seen as a cleaner style of typeface.
Monospace fonts are where the width of every character is the same regardless of whether the character is wide or thin. Monospace characters have made a bit of a come back lately, but I still am not a huge fan of these fonts for marketing.
What are Font Weights?
Fonts come in a variety of “weights”; a font weight is the thickness of the character outlines relative to the height. While many fonts are available in up to twelve different font weights, most fonts have six; from ultra thin to black or extra bold. Font weights help tell a story or deliver a message, but caution should be taken on using font weights from either side of the spectrum. Ultra thin can be difficult to read and extra bold can create a blurred image making it difficult to discern characters.
Serif versus Sans Serif
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (as they say), but there are some general rules, which are often broken that Serifs are more readable and as a result used more often in print and that Sans Serifs are used more often on line because they are seen to be more legible and work best with the resolution of a broader range of computers and other devices. But these are generalities and when designing your marketing collateral you should consider your audience and messaging.
You should combine fonts, weights and there are literally thousands of fonts to choose from, some designed specifically for the web or an industry. Your web fonts don’t need to be the same (and most often are not) as your print fonts, but be careful that they are not so far off from each other that they don’t tell your company’s story.
When choosing fonts, be certain to always use the same characters in your prototypes, be certain to use a combination of weights, capitalization, and spacing. View and select your fonts using black and a few colors from your company’s color palette and view the font on a variety of devices and in a variety of browsers. If you have a top of the line monitor or mac and your font looks great that is all good, but what does it look like on a lesser quality, lower resolution monitor … Make sure that the font you choose will be available on most printers or devices or include optional fonts in your style sheets.
In closing, be playful, patient and creative, but once you have chosen a font or a font combination, you should stick with it, it becomes part of your branding and identity.
There are a number of tools available, some free, that can help you select fonts and font combinations. ….
This article is the first of simple, practical thoughts on fonts by Lupo Solutions, called “What the Font” … Lupo Solutions, nor any of its representatives claim any affiliation with other companies or sites that use the same acronym, we just think it is a clever title to this series of articles – Enjoy!
The graphic for this article was taken from www.designcontest.com, thanks!
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