What the Font … ?
Hi, all! Today I’m going to get a bit more technical with you regarding something very important. Just an important as last Thursday’s post about “deadly” sins of graphic design. This post ties into some of those sins. So today, we’re going to get down and dirty about rules in using fonts. So, in short, if there is text within your document, follow these rules …
- Steer Clear of Clichés:
Over the years, some fonts have become so popular that they are now considered cliché. This tends to happen because most computers nowadays come with the same preinstalled fonts. If you’re unable to find a font that meets your document’s personality, just install a new font. It’s super easy and can make all the difference to your users. A great site for free font downloads can be found on The Vault page of my site HERE. However, please keep in mind that when buying or downloading a free font, it is not necessarily yours to do whatever you want with. Always carefully check the license before using it.
- Even Fonts Have Personalities:
Every single font has its own personality, just like people. So how do you make this work? Know your target audience, your document’s purpose and find a good font choice that matches these expectations. A single font choice can either make or break your document.
- Smart Default Font Choices:
This section refers strongly back to items #1 and #2 … if you’re using a default font, you are showing the world that you don’t know about any other options. Go back and think about font personalities, your audience and what you’re trying to achieve with this document. In most cases, there is always something better than the default choices (e.g. Times New Roman, Calibri and Arial, just to name a few).
- Use More Than One Font:
No matter what type of document you are creating, try using two fonts – one for headings and the other for the text body. It will add a vast improvement to the look and feel of what you’re trying to achieve and keep the viewer interested. This rule applies to all documents, from resumes to business cards, logos, proposal and even blogs. But keep in mind that few look good if you use three or more. Don’t go crazy bending the rules or your viewers will get distracted or even lost. Keep it simple and make good font choices. A good example would be to mix a serif (header) with a sans serif (body). Try not to use a serif font with something cursive. It’s hard on the eyes and is honestly a terrible match.
- Size Does Matter:
For the longest time, a 12-point sized font was the default for absolutely everything. It looks ugly and awkward for reading paragraphs. Our eyes can read much smaller. A 10-point font is better suited for most documents. An exception to this rule would be enlarging your document font for headers as going bigger looks more important for items you want to stand out. And a smaller 7-point font is okay for things such as disclaimers and business cards.
- Caps is Like Yelling:
When type out words in all caps, the shapes tend to go away and all the words turn into giant rectangles. The human brain reads words in shapes which is how we’re able to read so fast. You’re able to scan the page and read fast because you’re brain automatically recognizes the form in which each letter represents. When using all caps, it slows down reading and makes the person reading feel like you’re yelling at them. And we for sure don’t want our audience to feel this way!
- Yellow on Orange is Bad:
Reversing type means you put a light-coloured font on top of a dark background, or vise versa. Doing this is good in some circumstances such as headings and titles. As a graphic designer, we don’t suggest this too many times as there are other more eye-pleasing options to get your point across but it doesn’t exactly break the rules either. What does break the rules? Using narrow fonts with fancy or cursive features, yellow on orange or blue on red. Try to use think, simple fonts with a good contrast between colours.
- Do Not Leave Orphans Behind:
This may sound strange to you, so for those of you who haven’t brushed up on your typography terms, an “orphan” is a single word left by itself on a line at the end of a paragraph. It is even worse to leave a little word (e.g. “it”, “as”, “is”, etc.) all by itself. If you need to, reword your sentence to get everything to fit and flow nicely for your viewers.
- Being Punctual with Your Punctuation:
Punctuation can have a powerful visual impact with your viewers. Make sure to use apostrophes correctly and know where to place quotation marks. Use a hyphen for compound adjectives and make sure you know the difference between a colon and a semi-colon. Use commas to indicate nonessential information and if ever in doubt, rewrite or use a dictionary. For those of you in Canada, the best resources to use would be the Canadian Press Caps and Spelling (21st Edition) and the Canadian Press Stylebook. Both books can be purchased online or at your local book store for a very reasonable price and can build your confidence in your writing skills
Now please keep in mind that when it comes to the rules I listed above, there is an even longer list available through most design website online. I just wanted to breakdown what I feel are the most important (see how I didn’t yell in all caps there) rules to making your document professionally sound and helping you gain confidence with some of those uncertainties that we are always afraid to ask about.
I truly hope that this mini breakdown provides you with enough information and motivation as a starting point for all of your documents and learning how to make smart font choices to apply to all your documents and designs. If you happen to have any good resources for our fellow readers or would like to share any of your favourite typefaces, please share them in the comments.
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