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Fonts 101: How to choose the right fonts

What types of fonts can you choose from? 

Serif typefaces – Serif typefaces are those with small lines attached to the ends of the characters. For example, perhaps the most well-known serif typeface, Times New Roman. Serif typefaces usually have a more traditional feel that others. Traditionally serif typefaces were used in body text because they are considered more easily readable that sans-serif fonts in print applications. However, it has more recently been suggested that there are positives and negatives to the readability of both serif and sans-serif typefaces, and there are now commonly considered to be equal in readability.  

Sans serif typefaces – Sans-serif typefaces are the opposite to serif typefaces. The name comes from the French word 'sans' meaning 'without' – without serifs. Sans-serif typefaces have a more modern feel than their traditional serif counterparts. They're commonly used for web and digital applications as they're considered easier to read on screen than serif fonts.

Script/handwritten typefaces – Script and handwritten typefaces are less readable than serif and sans-serif fonts and therefore should be avoided for use as body text. Script and handwritten fonts can add specific style to a document when used as a feature typeface. Using a handwritten typeface for a heading can give your design a more relaxed or youthful feel, while using a script typeface for a pull-out quote can give your design a sense of sophistication and elegance.

Display/novelty typefaces – Display or novelty typefaces are sometimes quite difficult to read, though can add great impact the style of your design. They can turn a simple design into a head turner with ease. They should never be used as body text and should be reserved for headings and short pull-out quotes or phrases. Display or novelty typefaces should be used in moderation. Using a simple sans-serif typeface interchangeably with a display or novelty typeface can achieve your desired look without overdoing it. 

How do you choose complimentary fonts?

A great rule of thumb to ensure your fonts don't clash is to mix a serif and a sans serif. Contrary to what you might think, sans-serif and serif fonts work great together. Try using a serif typeface for the body text and a sans-serif typeface for the headings. 

You can also mix sans-serif fonts with other sans-serif typefaces. Try choosing a traditional, simple sans-serif font such as Arial or Helvetica as the body text and opt for something with a bit more style such as Bebas Neue or Montserrat for headings and pull-out quotes.

Another great tip for mixing typefaces is to choose a simple one and a more detailed or styled one. Stick with this rule and you can't go wrong.

Are your font choices versatile?

It's a great idea to ensure you choose versatile typefaces, particular for your headings and feature typefaces. A typeface like Raleway that has a number of weight options is amazingly versatile. You could create your whole design with Raleway, and yet have headings, pull-out quotes and body text that all look unique. Try creating your headings in bold, your pull-out quotes in light and your body text in a regular font weight. This develops great contrast but retains uniformity in terms of the feel of your document.

Last but definitely not least, always ensure your typeface choices are readable. A great tip for ensuring your type is readable in print is to never go smaller than 8pt in size and always increase the leading slightly (stick with 4 - 6 pts larger than the font size). Try a leading of 12pt with 8pt font size. The added space between the lines of text will make the font much easier to read. Headings and pull-out quotes can have smaller leading as they're usually much shorter than body text paragraphs.

Keep this in mind next time you're designing a document and you'll have a much more styling design in no time.

Emily Papettas
Lead Designer

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