Choosing the Right Font to Reinforce your Message

Whether you are building your website, designing a marketing campaign, or promoting a book or film; you want the message of your design to be clear and unambiguous. Choosing the right font to help communicate that message can be as important as the message itself.

Fonts can be broken down into 5 major categories; Serif, Sans Serif, Slab, Script and Decorative. Each typeface brings with it underpinning characteristics, which can support (or dilute) the meaning you are trying to create in your design.

Serif

A Serif font will by definition have a small decorative line at the end of the character stroke. A classic example of a Serif font is Times New Roman or Cambria used by default when typing in Microsoft Word, for example.

Serif letters set. Modern vector latin alphabet. Thin vintage font. Stylish elegant ABC template. Typography design.

Serif fonts are classic, and their use implies class, literacy and high-end messaging. They are also highly readable which makes them perfect for blocks of text in books, brochures and fine print.

Sans Serif

The Sans in Sans Serif means “not”, as in they do not have the small decorative line at the end of each character. A classic example many will be familiar with is Arial (which is what you are reading now).

National Read a Book Day on eReader

Sans Serif fonts are modern and clean. They communicate strength and clarity. They also are chosen for easy readability with added benefits of working well in low resolution environments like websites and eReaders. Thick Sans Serif fonts represent masculinity and hard work; while thin lines appear glamorous and regal.

Slab Serif

Slab Serif fonts use a block effect for the decorative line on the character. They have the appearance of a good old fashion typewriter. A good example of Slab Serif is the Rockwell typeface.

Keys of vintage typewriter

Slab Serif fonts bring an old-school, vintage, nerdy, retro feel to the text. While good for readability in logos and headers, this font can appear difficult in extended blocks of text.

Script

Script fonts have a handwritten cursive style. A good example is the Brush Script font.

Wedding day text on white background. Hand drawn vintage Calligraphy lettering Vector illustration EPS10

Script fonts can convey a wide range of underlining messages. High-end calligraphic styles represent formality and tradition and are therefore used a lot for wedding invitations; while the low end grunge scribble looks more like an artsy and modern scrawl. Overall, they have a more feminine feel. Script fonts can be very difficult to read, especially in small text, so use judiciously for effects but avoid for the fine print.

Decorative

Decorative fonts are those highly stylized, creative typeface which can be either powerful in communicating your message, or make you appear amateurish and comical. Decorative fonts are best when used by trained professionals who know how to walk that fine line – but when used correctly they can create a powerful way to reinforce your concept.

The dreamstime logo on the top of this page is a great example of decorative fonts done right!

While choosing a font may not seem like the most critical design decision you need to make, choosing the wrong one can certainly have a negative effect. So choose wisely and you will reinforce the message you are trying to convey instead of taking away from it.

Photo credits: Artyway, Karen Foley, Timonko.

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September 26, 2019

Paul25511

Thanks for this starter article. For more background I would research constructivism and the Bauhaus, typographers such as Jan Tschichold which in turn led to the Swiss style which is the contemporary approach widely accepted today. This will give you a logical grounding for your use of type and particular fonts, from which you can more confidently elaborate. Beyond being creative and articulating key points about the subject through your font choice, legibility, order of priority and accessibility (for the visually impaired) should be considered.  A blunt example: if you were producing a printed catalogue for +50 year olds concerning art of the 18th century, setting the body in 10pt script would not be a good idea... even if the script font emphasises the style of period. Most people over 40 wear glasses and require 12pt and above for comfortable reading.  In this case I would use script for the main heading at 20pt and a serif such as Caslon at 12.5 pt with reasonable leading (space between horizontal lines) for an open and legible piece that remains in character.  CAPS are difficult to read for the visually impaired and should be used sparingly. Fonts such as Open Sans with twisting descenders should be avoided for the same group as they can look like numerals 3, 8, 5 and 6. Font size and weight are used to order content and the priority of reading so again, consider this in your application. You should be leading your reader through the content generally left to right top to bottom towards a key message, conclusion or call to action, not having their eyes jumping all over the piece (a common mistake with posters).Increasingly you will be working on screen and the web. With over 50% of all online content now consumed on a mobile device, not all fonts are equal and your consideration must take this into account. The ever popular font Helvetica does not render well on screen for example which is why Apple have dropped it from their brand in favour of a custom designed,  proprietary font San Francisco which works equally well on an iPhone and a 24" iMac screen.  Screen reading tends to be easier with a sans serif body font (mainly due to poor screen rendering and resolutions - still in 2019) and fonts are not free to distribute to your website. The old trick of rendering your lovely, crafted and kerned titles to an image for a web page isn't acceptable because it will give a nil return to screen readers and is impractical to update. Luckily there is a free resource as a start point - the Google Fonts archive here: https://fonts.google.com  FOC providing you acknowledge the source. Note, I have no affiliation with Google and this is not an advert, rather a practical option for your web based projects. 

September 18, 2019

Photodynamx

I agree with this blog 100%....Using the correct font is essential in sending the correct 'message' across to your intended audience/potential buyer of your products. You could say using the wrong font is like attending an interview for a job wearing the wrong type (excuse the pun) of clothing...the 'message' you are sending out will either make or break the image you are trying to create! A well written and very informative blog!

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