Although most don’t realize it, typography is a crucial element of your overall design. This is why choosing a font type that is “right” for your design is imperative. Beyond readability, your font choice has the ability to enhance your design and provide impact for the message, look and feel you want to convey.
When looking to find the best font for your message, do some research. Font types are being created all the time and are evolving with changing design trends, so it’s good to keep a handle on what’s out there. Google Fonts has a free directory of web fonts, and is extensively used by users looking to find new fonts. For a list of the best free fonts, click here.
Serif vs. Sans-serif Font Types
To help determine which typefaces will be useful for your design, the first thing you should decide is whether to use a serif or a sans-serif font. A serif is small line tailing to the end of a stroke in a letter. Serif fonts are usually considered to be more decorative, and are known to be easier to read, since the tails assist the eye in traveling across a line of text. The serifs also help increase contrast and the space between different letters, improving identification. As such, these types of fonts work well in print, body copy and signage. Popular serif fonts include Bookman Old Style, Cambria, Droid Serif, and Times New Roman.
Sans-serif fonts don’t have the lines attached to a stroke in a letter (sans meaning “without”), making for a cleaner look. Sans-serif fonts work well in small sizes because their simple form makes words easily recognizable, and they also translate well during reproduction. These types of fonts work best online. Popular styles include Arial, Calibri, Helvetica and Myriad Pro.
Sometimes, a combination of both serif and sans-serif fonts can work nicely. For example, using a sans-serif font as a title (since this font works well for emphasis) and a serif font in the body copy (to add clarity and assist in readability for the most important part of the text) could make for a more dynamic look than using just one font type alone.
When to Use which Font Types
Now that you’ve chosen either a serif or sans-serif font, it’s time to look into which font best integrates into your message and is most appropriate for the look you’re going for.
Here are some examples:
- Professional: Use a font that is easy to read. Arial and Times New Roman are the most popular professional fonts, and provide a clean look.
- Modern: Look for a geometric sans font, which are sans-serif and based on strict geometric forms. They offer a clear minimalist look. Some examples include Helvetica, Futura, Gotham, and Franklin Gothic. Times New Roman and Baskerville also work well, and are considered as “modern” and “transitional” font types.
- Simple: A humanist sans font is also clean and modern. These fonts are derived from handwriting, which is why they’re perceived as being more “human” than geometric sans fonts. Examples include Gill Sans, Myriad, Slate, Optima, and Verdana.
- Classic: Venetian or old style typefaces are classic and traditional serif fonts. Garamond is a great example, as well as Jenson, Bembo, and Palatino.
- Bold: Block font types work well when trying to make an impact. These work well for headlines and industrial applications, since they stand out. Freshman and Richardson are good choices. You can also use your favorite font type in bold face for the same effect.
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