30 Jan You’re just my type
Today’s FIT Tip is on a favourite topic of mine, typography. In this article, I’ll cover a little about what typography is, but mainly I’ll be looking at why typeface selection is important and how to choose typefaces for your brand.
WHAT IS TYPOGRAPHY?
Firstly, a quick explanation so you understand the difference between a typeface and a font.
A typeface is the collective name for a family of related fonts, such as, Helvetica. And a font refers to the individual weights within that collective, such as Helvetica Light, Regular, Bold.
People tend to use these interchangeably so don’t worry too much about using the exact terminology, I just thought it would help for reading this article.
In its simplest form, typography is essentially the art of arranging letters and words. Choosing fonts, deciding on the size, the spacing, and line height is all part of typography.
Perhaps this is something you’ve never really thought about before and right now you may naturally gravitate to a particular typeface, because visually, you just kinda like it. Or maybe you’ve always had a ‘go to’ typeface, and let’s be honest it’s usually whatever is free on Google or Canva.
You may even do this with colours too. We all have our favourites or ones we pick because we feel those represent us in a certain way. However, understanding why you are gravitating towards those particular typefaces is really important.
When choosing type, you should be conscious of two things, what it’s being used for and the audience it’s being shown to. You would never show up to a black tie event wearing your Lulus—or maybe you would—because people would stare at you, for all the wrong reasons.
It’s the exact same for typography, you have to select the right typeface, in order to communicate a message in the most efficient way possible. Different typefaces serve different purposes. Think about the last time you were in an airport. You may not even remember looking at the signs directing you where to go. That’s because they are designed with type that allows you to take-in information at a quick glance, to get you where you need to be.
Having a good understanding of your audience helps when it comes to typography. Certain audiences will have particular expectations, they’ll want to see things laid out a certain way, similar to how they are used to seeing it. Otherwise they may struggle to engage with it. This is also why we often perceive fonts as looking premium, or cheap. You can design something in Helvetica extra-bold if you want to stand out and be noticed, like a shop’s point of sale. Or you could write it in Helvetica Light, open the spacing up a little, and it’ll look more elegant and premium. It’s the same typeface, just a different use of the weights.
You should also consider the appropriateness of using certain fonts. Let’s take, the ever-loveable, Comic Sans for example, people often use it for important workplace notices, and they’re choosing it because it “feels” friendly and inoffensive, but it takes away from the importance or urgency of the actual message.
Choosing the wrong font can completely change the personality of your brand thus giving people the wrong impression about your company. So you can see how certain fonts may be inappropriate for certain scenarios.
FONTS IN USE
When choosing a typeface think about how it’s being used. Are you using it for paragraphs of body copy, a large headline on a poster or maybe a web font on a digital platform?
There are particular typefaces that have been designed for reading in books, newspapers, magazines and web pages—these are called text typefaces.
The opposite of these—ones that have been designed for mainly headlines, or larger text—these are called display typefaces.
I won’t go into too much technical detail about why this is, but it’s worth knowing the difference for when you are choosing a typeface for reading large amounts of copy, and to make sure you don’t end up with a display typeface which hasn’t been designed for that use—yup, that happens!
CATEGORISING FONTS FURTHER
Within those two categories there are a few classifications of typefaces: serif, sans serif and graphic. From there it gets a bit mental and people in the past have tried to further categorise type, such as, slab serif, geometric sans, humanist serif, humanist sans serif, but that’s going a bit too far, so I’ll leave it at it.
The easiest way to look at it is this—serif typefaces will have a small mark or ‘foot’ at the end of a stroke and sans serif typefaces don’t have these marks.
Let’s use Times New Roman as an example. This typeface falls into the serif category. It has those identifiable marks at the end of each letter stroke. Now let’s look at Helvetica again, this falls into the sans serif category. It’s letters end straight, with no foot.
You may already have developed a personal preference when it comes to sans serif or serif for your brand. Many people see sans serif fonts as modern, friendly, and approachable, whereas serif fonts tend to embrace more traditional or historical nuances. Serif typefaces can also add an air of sophistication to a brand.
CHOOSING YOUR BRAND FONTS
And that brings me along nicely to how you choose a typeface for your brand. This should be based on how you want your brand to be perceived by your audience and what you want them to feel when they see it. Remember, not everyone is going to like the same ones as you and your audience is what matters here.
You may love your bespoke, hand drawn, script font, that makes your brand look personal and approachable, but your target audience of 25-35 year old male bodybuilders may have a different opinion.
Our top tips for choosing a typeface for your brand would be:
— Choose one that has a larger font family—one with different weights and widths, such as bold, regular, italic, condensed, extended, and so on—this will allow you to easily bring a clear hierarchy into whatever you are creating.
— Consider what the font is being used for and what classification it falls under. For websites it’s generally better to use sans serif for body copy. The clean and sharp lines help increase legibility, as they render out better on screens. If you are putting together something that will get printed, such as a novel, a brochure, or a recipe book, a serif typeface would work better. Serif fonts are said to help the readability of larger pieces of text because the serifs lead the eye from one character to the next. Although this is still up for debate with some people.
— Again, consider your target audience, how do they usually like to view things—always on their mobile phones?—and keep them in mind when making your choice.
— Typefaces can be free, and there are lots of good resources out there, Google fonts being one of them. We’ll try and use free fonts for clients where possible, but for something a bit more special and bespoke, we’d always suggest buying a typeface from a foundry. This doesn’t cost as much as some people think. Although a typeface can be expensive, sometimes you only need two or three fonts from that family.
BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER
Once you are happy with the typeface you’ve chosen here’s a few things to keep in mind when putting something together:
Make good use of headlines or titles, subheadings, and body copy. Decide on sizes that you think look good and stick with it. Hierarchy is like the wayfinding system for reading something – it tells the viewer’s eye where to go next.
A general rule of thumb is 8-12 words per line. Too short or too long a line length can make it extremely unpleasant to read.
Consider how you justify your text, the first thing a lot of people do is centre it, especially on Instagram stories….This can be okay for small amounts of text, but left aligned text reads much better….Centred text makes the eye move about more because it always starts and ends in different areas.
Make sure you view it at the size it’s going to be viewed at. Zooming into 200% might make it look great, but when you post it up, everything is too small and your audience just ignores it.
If you are printing something, test print different sizes, and see what works. Ink bleeding sometimes occurs with certain paper stocks, so your 6pt Times New Roman looks great on-screen, then you print it on uncoated stock, the ink bleeds and before you know it, your letters r and n look like an m.
BUT WHY THAT ONE?
We often get asked why we choose certain typefaces for our clients, and to be honest, it just comes from experience and having worked with different brands, in different industries, for different outcomes.
Much like a personal trainer will know what exercise is going to best suit their client who wants to build strength in their back. You wouldn’t have them do shoulder press—or maybe you would I don’t know, because that’s not my expertise.
Being an experienced personal trainer means you are able to understand their requirements and you just know what is right.
It’s the same for design, and choosing typefaces. We can quickly eliminate certain classifications, individual typefaces, or font weights because we just know what’s right and wrong depending on the project requirements.
If you work with us, we’ll always have justification for why we’ve chosen a certain typeface for your brand, it’s never a case of, well we like it, so now you do too.
And that’s us, another FIT Tips done, we’ve got a few more coming out that breaks down certain elements of a brand identity, such as colour theory and imagery style. As always, drop us a message if you’d like to know more about anything you’ve just read.
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