I look at things differently than most people. When I see a billboard, I see fonts and colors and spacing (and kerning, if you want to get really specific). When I see a brochure I see imagery, headings, gradients that work (and some that don’t) and logo placement. [Confession: the really nice brochures, direct mail pieces and magazines – I take them home!]
It took me a long time to realize that I see things differently. I was reading an article recently about people who are font snobs and I’m afraid I truly fit in that category.
When I see different fonts, they automatically give me an impression about the brand using them. Sometimes, it might be that the font is too fancy for financial analysis, or too dull and boring for a brand in the entertainment industry.
Then there are some fonts are just used in the wrong way. For example, only certain fonts to be used on a website. Some fonts should be used in headers in print materials (including business cards) and some should not. Some are perfect for long paragraphs, and some are better for bulleted lists.
There are actually all kinds of books written on the subject, but I’m not going to get into all the psychology of it all. I am, however going to cover some of my favorites and some that I loathe.
Scriptina – Another client often uses this one for her wedding invitation business. It is just beautiful, flowy, and very classy. Be aware that you may have some letter spacing issues with this one, but it’s a really classy script.
Garamond – We use this one often. It’s a classic, perfect for long paragraphs because it’s still a fairly standard, serif-ed font. Somehow, it’s a little more interesting than your standard Times New Roman. The script version is really nice, too.
Century Gothic – this one is my favorite and can usually be used for websites as well as print. It is rounded and sans-serif, very modern and professional looking. It should generally be used for headings in print material but can be used for text on websites, though sometimes it can be a little hard to read.
Those I loathe
Comic Sans – In the early 90’s I used to think this one was quite cute but apparently so did millions of other companies. It became incredibly overused and now, with all the options out there, it is just plain outdated. You may even have seen the semi-popular image that says, “Comic Sans is never an acceptable font. Unless you’re an 8-year-old girl writing a poem about unicorns.” This is true.
Arial – Arial is beyond typical; somehow it’s become the default font for just about everything, and it shows. If you don’t have a choice (ie. If you’re typing an email), Arial isn’t half-bad. But in a world where your website, newsletter, and business cards can display just about any font known to man, Arial is far to plain to help your business stand out the way it deserves.
Most fonts are free to download from sites like fonts.com. You can even purchase custom fonts if you wish. The most important thing to do is to be consistent with your fonts and to use them sparingly.
A nice header font (typically sans serif) and then a nice, easy-to-read font for the main content (typically serif). Fun fact: serif-ed fonts are easier to read because the dangling edges lead your eyes across the page. Sans-serif fonts cause your eyes to slow down, which is why you want headers and logos and brand names to typically be in sans-serif fonts.
You can use funky or fun fonts for your logo or as an accent, but don’t use a very script-y font for a long paragraph (computerized cursive is likely to be more difficult to read and you don’t want your audience to lose interest). Be conscious of the fonts you are using offline and try to be consistent with your online look.