Typography affects everything from readability to trustability. And it can make or break even the most compelling piece of marketing. From a reader’s perspective, it says a lot about the nature and personality of the business they’re interacting with.

Luckily, understanding the basics of typography and how to use it well is relatively straightforward. In this post we’ll look at some of the best practises when it comes to all things typographical. Along with a few simple tips and tricks to help to make choosing your next font quick and easy!

The golden rule of typography: keep it at two

When it comes to mixing different fonts, try never to go beyond two. A good practise is to use one for headings and sub-headings, and another for body text. Feel free to use different weights and styles of the same font, ie light, medium, heavy. Just make sure that the number of independent fonts in use never exceeds two.

If you can get away with only using one, that’s even better. The single-font aesthetic tends to give off a more simplistic and sophisticated vibe, which always works.

Serif and Sans Serif

Knowing what differentiates the terms ‘Serif’ and ‘Sans Serif’ is typography 101. So what’s the difference? In short, you could say that Serif is ‘with bits’ and Sans Serif is ‘without bits’.

Take a look at the following letter variations to see the two styles side by side:

The letters on the right are in a Sans Serif font, evidenced by their lack of bits — in other words, the lines are rounded and straight-edged. The ones on the left, however, do have bits (the pointed protrusions on their end points), which is what defines a Serif font.

The difference in terms of their usage is that Serif tends to feature more in big blocks of printed copy (typically book publishing and editorial design). Whereas Sans Serif, which has more of a modern appeal and is easier to read, is used mostly online.

Helvetica

It would be morally wrong of me to write a post about typography and not give Helvetica its own section. This is without a doubt my favourite font. And one that I come back to time and time again.

There’s a substantial variety of fonts under the typographical umbrella that is Helvetica. What makes it so appealing and timeless is the level of nuance you can achieve through the members of its diverse family. It provides all the characteristics necessary for making a piece more masculine, feminine, subtle, or grand. And it looks great across the board — in print or online.

Helvetica also works as a fantastic “when in doubt” font. So if you ever find yourself dissatisfied with how a piece of written marketing is looking, try Helvetica and see how it looks!

Don’t be fashionable

It sounds contradictory. But as a general rule, try to avoid using any unusual fonts that are currently in vogue. It’s not that they’re bad fonts, necessarily, it’s just that with design (as with many other things) tastes change over time. What’s in fashion right now may seem obscure and outdated in just a few years. The best bet is to stick with the classics — any font that has been in constant use for more than a few years is probably safe.

Think of the project/business

The typography you settle on should be largely dependent on the nature of the project or business it’s representing. It all comes down to the difference between traditional and modern. It usually goes like this: traditional = Serif, modern = Sans Serif. 

Some examples of traditional projects/businesses, better suited to Serif fonts: books, up-market product brochures, solicitors, gentlemen’s outfitters.

Some examples of modern projects/businesses, better suited to Sans Serif fonts: cocktail bars, coffee shops, blogs, online advertisements.

Aligning the typography with the personality of the project or business is crucial. And it should be one of the first factors taken into consideration when choosing a font.

Quick Font Guide

To finish off, here’s a short list of fonts I’m never without, and fonts I avoid like the plague.

Fonts I’m never without:
– Helvetica
– Franklin Gothic
– Frutiger
– Garamond
– Bembo
– League
– Shelley

Fonts I avoid like the plague:
– Comic Sans
– OCR
– Any ornamental display fonts (in other words, anything eccentric — look at Bell Bottom Laser in the cover image for an example)

Need help choosing the right typography for your marketing? Contact us for a free consultation!