sign pattern texture abstract
fonts

How To Choose Fonts

pile of Q cardboard cutout in organizer selective focus photo

This post contains affiliate links, meaning I obtain a commission from your purchase at no additional cost to you.

How to choose fonts for your projects

Choosing the right fonts can be a difficult task. There are literally thousands of typefaces to choose from. If you’re not careful, your projects can end up looking amateurish and unprofessional.

Handwritten fonts collection

What Is Typography?

Typography is the art and science of arranging type. It includes the selection of typefaces, font sizes, line lengths, leading (space between lines), and kerning (the space between letters).

Is it a font or a typeface?

Some people use the terms font and typeface interchangeably, but they are actually two different things. A font is the specific weight, style, and size of a typeface. For example, you might have the fonts Arial Bold, Arial Italic, and Arial Regular. Each of these would be a different font. While a typeface is a collection of fonts that have been designed to work together. For example, the typeface Arial includes the fonts Arial Bold, Arial Italic, and Arial Regular.

Why fonts matter

As we get into what font usage is, I want to examine the role fonts play in communication. Typography is one of the ways we communicate through written language. Ineffective typeface choice can lead to ambiguity, or worse, confusion. Good typography, on the other hand, leads to an efficient and easily readable document.

Fonts affect readability and legibility

What font usage says about you as a designer? Font choice is an integral part of any design project, and font selection can sometimes be just as important as the image selection itself. If your font selection is unappealing or inappropriate, the font could detract from your overall design.

Fonts evoke emotion and have personality

When it comes to font selection the reader has an emotional reaction (referred to as font psychosocial behaviour). If the font makes them feel sad or angry, all of a sudden your design is affecting your viewer beyond aesthetic reasons. The font becomes instrumental in establishing if your viewers like what they see.

Fonts can be used to create a sense of visual hierarchy on the page

Fonts can be used to help guide the reader’s eye around the page, constructing a visual hierarchy. When choosing font styles it is important to be aware of how certain font types communicate different messages, and how font styles support content structure. Different font forms should help emphasise the right information at the right time while minimising clutter and confusion.

Tips for choosing fonts

When starting to work with fonts, it can help to know that certain kinds of faces are better suited for headlines while others are more functional at smaller sizes.

Type families

The solution is found in using typefaces that come in many weights and styles (referred to as a type family). There are thousands of professional quality typefaces available (many come with multiple weights and styles) that include this range of variation, so you’re sure to find the perfect typeface for your project.

How to use typefaces from a type family

When selecting a typeface from a type family, you should always start by choosing the weight and style that are most appropriate for your text. You can then customise the font by changing specific characters, words, or even sentences.

Limit the total number of fonts

Avoid using too many different typefaces in one project or document.

For example, if you use two typefaces in your document or project, try using a serif and sans-serif.

Think about your content

Your font options should always influence your content. Make sure that your focus should be on readability or design. Make your text more visible, using fonts to help guide the style of the text.

Handwritten fonts collection

Choose a few header font pairs that add some style

Headers can be utilized to draw readers to the graphics and encourage further reading. Think of a header with the purpose of developing the style of the piece. It should be attractive for larger sizes.

Find the header font that pairs best with your body font

It’s important to use fonts that work together. If you’re using a serif font for your body text, try a sans-serif font for your headers.

Restrict Fallback Fonts To Two

If you’re working with web content, you should always use web-safe fonts as your fallback fonts. This will help ensure that your text displays correctly on all devices.

When selecting your fallback fonts, try to choose two different typefaces that are similar in weight and style. This will help ensure that the text looks consistent no matter which font is used.

Be careful when choosing the same font for headlines and body text. Headlines should be larger than body text with less detail. Body text should have finer features such as smaller counters and rounder corners on characters like “O” and “e”.

Choose a body font that is readable

Be careful using fonts for body text that are hard to read or may not be accessible. A good way to make sure the typeface you choose is accessible, is if it has several weights (light, regular, bold).

The last thing you want is for your audience to become distracted because they can’t read the information you are presenting.

Finally, consider how the font performs across different devices and screen resolutions. Make sure that whatever typeface you choose works well in low resolution as well as high definition displays.

When selecting fonts it is important to be aware of how certain font types communicate different messages, and how font styles support content structure. Different font forms should help emphasise the right information at the right time while minimising clutter and confusion.

Choose with your main font first, and then use the other fonts to support it.

It is important to design everything around this basic font, so it becomes the dominant visual force on the page.

Avoid trendy or popular typefaces

It might be popular now, but in 10 years time the design could look outdated.

When selecting two fonts, use decisive contrast

Ensure that every typeface you are creating has considerable contrasting differences between each font. If you are using two typefaces in your design, ensure one is serif and the other sans-serif so both have some noticeable difference.

Avoid using too similar fonts

The whole idea of using numerous font names helps create visual diversity. However, if you’re using similar fonts for your body and header text, the overall design will appear monotonous.

Common mistakes people make when choosing fonts .

Choosing all capital letters because it looks “tougher” or more “action packed”.  This is called all CAPS. Avoid using all caps whenever possible. It’s not easy on the eyes and too many words in all caps can make your project look like a ransom letter!

Using different and conflicting fonts.

Choosing a font that doesn’t support the weight of your content will not help reinforce your message.

Choosing an unreadable or inaccessible font for large blocks of text.

If you aren’t certain what constitutes an accessible font, try testing it with someone who is visually impaired.  

Choosing a beautiful yet impractical font for body text.

Choosing a beautiful yet impractical font for your document’s overall design. Try to find a font that is both decorative and functional.

When selecting fonts, it’s important to consider how they will be used. Different font types can be used for different parts of your document. Headlines, for example, should be larger and more stylized than body text. Body text should have finer features and be easy to read.

What are serif fonts?

how to choose fonts

Serif fonts are one of the two main categories of typefaces (the other is sans-serif). Serif typefaces include glyphs with small lines, often at an angle to the stroke. They are traditionally used for body text because they can be easily read in books and on computers.

What are sans-serif fonts?

Sans-serif fonts are the other main category of typefaces. Sans-serif typefaces do not include any glyphs with small lines. They are traditionally used for headlines and titles because they look modern and clean.

Serif vs Sans Serif fonts

how to choose fonts

As mentioned above, serif and sans-serif typefaces are two different categories of fonts. Serifs are the small lines attached to the letter stems. Sans-serifs do not have any such lines (hence their name).

Handwritten fonts collection

Serif vs. sans-serif: which is better?

The serif vs. sans-serif debate is one of the most heated discussions in typography. Studies have shown that serif fonts are more legible than sans-serifs at smaller point sizes, particularly for extended passages of text.

What are script fonts?

Script fonts are typefaces that resemble handwriting. They can be used for both headlines and body text but should be used sparingly because they can be difficult to read.

Decorative typefaces

Decorative fonts are fonts that are designed to be visually appealing but are not meant to be used for body text. It’s recommended that we use these types of fonts as a starting point for any title or headline.

They can include scripts, monotypes, and anything else from these. The above options are excellent tools for adding extra visual interest, but should not be used to produce lengthy body copies.

In summary:

Choosing the right font for your design can be difficult. A common mistake is to use all caps, which are hard on the eyes and make it look like a ransom letter.

Avoid using too similar fonts or scripts if you want legible body text that doesn’t feel cluttered with decorations. The best way to ensure you’re choosing typography that will work well together? Choose two different typefaces (serif/sans-serif) with considerable contrasting differences between each font.