Think of the font as a means to accomplish several requirements for a successful design. Through your font, you influence the reader/user and make him feel what you want him to feel.
A picture is worth more than a thousand words, but the right font on your design, can source more than a thousand images and emotions.
All designers agree that choosing the right font for a design is not always effortless. We all have in mind one or more fonts that could potentially be perfect for a project, but when it comes to choosing, it becomes harder than we thought it would be. Why is that? Why is choosing the right typeface so important for our outcome?
This article will help you understand that choosing the right font is actually a process, where you follow easy steps. We have included the basic theory around typewriting, the families of fonts, and tips for the selection of fonts or combinations for your designs.
Anatomy of type, visual and tonal direction
Understanding the concept of these three factors is crucial for a better designer and helps to choose the right font for every project.
Anatomy of type is actually what it sounds like. It is the teardown of all letters in smaller characteristics. Every letter has unique sections that make it stand out from the rest characters, and those sections are not altered by the typefaces.
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However, what the fonts do change is the letters’ weight, height, or shape and this is how the families or types of fonts were created. Based on that, Visual direction is very much the font itself and how it looks to every user, while tonal is how the different words you designed formed a message. Both of these elements need to be harmonized and supportive of each other, for your design to be well-balanced.
Because of the unlimited number of fonts out there, when it comes to design, there are certain types of fonts, categorized by their different characteristics. Let’s have a look at the five fundamental styles:
Serif and Slab-Serif
Serifs are the most popular, simple fonts, and for a good reason. They are easily read and characterized by the little ‘feet’ at the bottom of each letter that creates a visual connection between them.
image source: creative market
There are hundreds of serif fonts, and the most popular example is the Times New Roman we write on, right now. Slab-serif fonts are created with the same philosophy, but the difference is that Slab-serif fonts utilize larger, blockier ‘feet’ than the Serif fonts.
Sans-serif literally means without ‘serif’, without ‘feet’. That lack of the visual connection between letters makes them more clean and geometric, and thus ideal for a vast number of modern, minimalist designs.
image source: fonts.com
Sans-serif fonts, like Helvetica and Futura, are among the most popular fonts globally.
Script fonts are the ideal solution when you are looking for a fancy typeface. The script fonts have an unimaginable variety, from elegant to playful and funny, but can be mainly separated into formal and casual.
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By mimicking handwriting, they are designed to look handmade with the addition of swoops and curls.
Handwritten fonts lack structure on purpose, to look like natural handwriting and they are suitable for designs like logos and stationary, and branding as they offer a special, personal feel.
image source: creative market
Take a look at Bayshore vintage 90s font that mimics elegant handwriting. You can combine this type of font with any sans-serif type.
Last but not least, Display typefaces are suitable for designs that require you to add a special sparkle. The Display fonts are characterized by a particular personality, as their letters are specially decorated to match your design. If you have a look at the favored Ragnarok Scandinavian font, you will understand exactly what we mean.
How to Choose the Right Font for Each Project
Now that we have explored the main font categories, is time to answer the most important question. How do you choose the right font for each project? We have created a list of the four most important things to have in mind, so as for this choice to feel like a ‘piece of cake’.
First of all, you always have to remember your design’s context. Think of what emotions you want to source from your readers, but most importantly the personality and function of your design.
Readability is another important factor you have to take into account. It is important for the reader to easily read the words you have written. You can easily increase your font’s readability by altering its size, spacing, and height.
Maybe the most important rule we have to share, is that there are no rules. Don’t let anyone limit your imagination as it concerns both your font and your design in general. As long as you don’t forget the context of the project to achieve your or your client’s desires, there are no limits in the creative world!
Finally, it is very important that after you finish working on the font, you take a deep breath and check if it actually works well in your design. If not, consider making some changes in spacing, size, etc. before you decide to change it.
How to choose the right combination of fonts
There are occasions where one font is all you have to use in your designs. Yet, there are certain designs that will stand out if you use two different typefaces. Serif and Sans-serif fonts, for example, create great combinations, to reach the decisive contrast you need from some projects.
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It is very important to understand that although the usage of multiple typefaces makes your designs unique, using more than two at the same design could clutter and thus become catastrophic for your project’s aim. Also, pairing similar fonts is not recommended, as it can be confusing for your audience, which is why most designers use more than one font, only for contrast.
To achieve this contrasting combination, you can experiment in pairing fonts from different families, for example, a minimalist Sans-serif and a playful script, brush font. On the other hand, for more harmonic combinations, you can use fonts from the same family.
As an example of subtle contrast, Chronicle Hairline and Landmark fonts, which are manifestly different typefaces, work extremely well when combined. On the other hand, Futura and Baskerville fonts are from the same font family but do have the differences needed to create an elegant, appealing combination.