How to Pick the Right Font: 3 Tips
WEBNIK, LLC | CANTON, OH
“What font should I use?” This is a genuinely difficult question for anyone with a computer at this point. As of this writing, there’s at least 360,653 to choose from on www.whatfontis.com alone. In reality, the figure is incalculable when you include custom typography. With so many options at your fingertips, how do you choose? Here’s three tips to help get you started.
1) Less is More
The Bauhaus school pioneered the idea of simplicity way back in the early 20th century, and we’re still seeing the effects today. Such is relevant in the current trend of flat/material design. The unifying thread throughout the years has been a simple one. Don’t overdo it. Just because there’s a font made of candy canes, and it’s coincidentally snowing outside, doesn’t mean you have to use it.
Massimo Vignelli, one of the worlds most accomplished graphic designers, famously stated in his classic book The Vignelli Canon (PDF), “I don’t believe that when you write dog the type should bark!” He later went on to say, “Personally, I can get along well with a half a dozen.” Keep in mind, this is the man who created the New York City Subway map, a landmark in Modernist Information design. As such, avoid decorative fonts for anything other than a title or heading.
There’s also the issue of how many. Ideally, your project should contain no more than three different typefaces. Two is even better. One is best. If you’re having trouble adding emphasis or differentiating elements of your projects, use a bolder or lighter style of the same font. Anything beyond the magic number of three means your piece will become disjointed, and therefore difficult to discern.
3) Dress for Success
We’ve all heard to dress appropriately for the occasion at hand. Picking a typeface is no different. Donning a nicely polished set of oxfords is a smarter choice than a beat-up pair of chucks when attending an interview. The same can’t be said for your afternoon jog, though. Snag your running shoes out of the closet!
When choosing a font, you must know your audience and the purpose of your piece. Keep in mind, grabbing attention doesn’t always require a crazy style of typeface. A Larger, heavier version of your body font will likely do just as well, if not better. With that, you get unity among your elements, and a clearly defined style to boot.
Above all else, remember the purpose of the typed written word. To be read. If your project appears difficult to discern, or worse, illegible, then you’d better have some fantastic pictures to compensate! That last part was a joke, don’t make your project illegible…
A good suggestion is to find a handful of fonts you like, and see how far they can take you. Honestly! Try it out for a month or two and you may be surprised with what you find. Doing so will remove a large amount of guesswork, thereby speeding completion, and ultimately help you focus more on form, composition and color. Happy designing!
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