So you’ve picked a stellar name for your company, crafted a catchy tagline, and chosen the perfect colors for your brand. But you’re not quite done. Don’t forget about an oft-overlooked component of visual communication: fonts.
Just as colors elicit an emotional response, so too do fonts. For better or for worse, they evoke certain associations, feelings, and moods. Some fonts — Comic Sans, Papyrus, Curlz MT —are universally reviled, while fonts like HTF Didot and Akzidenz Grotesk are hailed for their elegance, beauty, and craft.
Fonts communicate more than just words. Your choice of typography instantly says a lot about you and your business, and it influences how people perceive your messaging. The right font will drive your message home, and the wrong font will distract your audience and detract from your credibility.
Read on for three essential tips to help you choose the right font for your brand.
1. Decide Which Characteristics You Want Your Brand to Convey
First, consider these questions: What are the most salient qualities of your brand? What’s your brand personality — is it serious and trustworthy, or jovial and fun? What do you stand for, and what do you want to communicate to your users?
Also think about your target market. What are their interests and aspirations? How do they communicate? This knowledge will help shape your brand identity.
2. Make Sure Your Font Style Aligns with Your Brand’s Character
The next step, to pick a font that matches the mood and feel of your brand, is key. Every font has a distinct personality and character, so you need to be thoughtful when you select one. Some fonts are elegant and refined, some are whimsical and playful, and some are traditional and formal.
Generally, fonts can be broken down into several broad categories:
Serif fonts have little “feet” and carry a traditional, classic feeling. They are considered to convey authority, reliability, confidence, and respectability. Some corporations that use serif fonts in their logos include HSBC Bank, CBS television network, and Tiffany & Co. Font examples include Baskerville, Garamond, Caslon, and Palatino.
A subset of this group is slab serif fonts, which have thick, blocky serifs. They’re often used in headlines, and their geometric serifs give them an air of confidence and strength. Font examples include Rockwell, Archer, Egyptian Slate, and Memphis.
Sans serif fonts lack the “feet” and generally have a clean, simple, modern, and sensible feel to them. Companies such as Facebook, Hulu, and YouTube all use sans serif fonts in their logos. Some typography experts recommend using sans serif fonts for the web because they’re easier to read on screens, but as our screen resolutions continue to improve, many say that serif fonts work just as well on the web. Font examples include Helvetica, Avenir, Arial, and Futura.
Cursive fonts (which includes most handwritten fonts) generally embody femininity, elegance, creativity, and friendliness. Corporate logos using script fonts include Cartier, Instagram, and Coca-Cola. Use these sparingly; they’re not ideal for body copy because they have low legibility in paragraph form.
Novelty fonts are bold, quirky, fun, and eye-catching. They are designed to be loud and flashy, which creates visual interest and makes them great for headlines, but also makes them difficult to use. It’s a good idea to use them sparingly — one novelty font is enough — and pair them with a more minimalist font for the body text.
3. Make Sure Your Fonts Are Readable
Readability is a major priority when you’re designing. You could have a brilliant message, but it’s all for naught if it’s not legible. Designer Jessica Hische has a “Il1 rule”: if you’re working with a sans-serif font, try typing a capital I, a lowercase l, and a number 1 next to each other, and see if you can tell the difference between them. If you can’t, then you might encounter some trouble. (Verdana, the font used in the example to the right, passes the test.)
Good typography is crucial to building a strong brand identity and creating a favorable first impression. But with so many fonts out there, it can feel overwhelming to pick the right one. Feel free to experiment with different ones and refine as you go. As long as you match the font with the mood and purpose of your messaging, and it embodies your brand identity, you’ll deliver a strong message to your readers.
Top image by Jakub Krechowicz