HOW TO CHOOSE FONTS

design club 1:1

1:1 Choosing fonts

Choosing fonts is one of the most fun parts of any design project, although often it can quickly turn into a nightmare. Unless you have a varied knowledge of font families and a large collection of classic fonts, it can be easy to end up with too many fonts on the page.

Before I start any big design project I put together a brand-guide, detailing fonts, colours and all of the branding elements that are to be used in the project. A brand guide is kind of like a sketch to refer back to and keep your project on track. It’s something that is well worth investing some time in putting together. When I’m branding a business, esentially it’s a brand guide that they’re paying me for. If I’m working for a business that already has a brand, I’ll ask for thier brand guide or I’ll create one using the elements they already havein place, as a point of reference. At any point during the project I can go back and check things are on-track and if I’m keeping things “on brand”. 

Opening up a page and simply “playing around with fonts” whether its for a logo or for printed material is never a very good idea. Creating a brand guide that you can use as a starting point will save time and keep things consistent. I use Adobe Illustrator but Photoshop or Canva will do just as good a job. I’ll included a Photoshop Brand-guide template, we’ll come back to that after looking at fonts, but here’s what we’re working towards.

We’ll work on creating a brand guide later  (you may already have one) but first, we need to look at the elements that go towards making up the brand guide. First up fonts – lets talk about some of the ways you can pair up fonts that will work within your branding.

OK, lets look at the basic font families.

SERIF

The workhorses off the font world – almost two-thirds of printed books and magazines are printed in a serif, mostly Times New Roman or Georgia, commonly found on all computer operation systems. A serif font has a decorative line, or extension at the end of the letter form.

Serifs are perfect for classic type logos, headings or quotes and in an italic form, to give a nice contrast. In fact you could use only one serif font on its own, utilising different weights and sizes to give a varied and stylish feel. The below example uses only one font (Georgia) and proves the point that where fonts are concerned, less is more.

Some go-to serif fonts include Times New Roman, Georgia, Garamond and Didot.

DEMI SERIFS

If a serif font is a little too full-on for your project, then a demi-serif may just be up your street! They can give a much more modern, down-to-earth feel. They can also be paired with full serif and more modern sans serif fonts (we’ll come back to these).

Some great (free) demi serifs include Cinzel, Cimiez and Rosarivo.

SLAB SERIFS

Slab serifs are just serifs with small blocks (slabs) instead of curving serifs. They can give a nice rustic or informal feel to a project or brand. They give a classic typewriter feel and work fine for medium size chunks of text, just be careful with long paragraphs.

Great slabs include Rokkit, Nixie One, and American Typewriter.

SANS SERIFS

Sans serifs are like chameleons – they fit effortlessly into both modern and classic design projects. I tend to use them for sub headings or menus. If you’re looking to design a quick, stylish logo pair a sans serif font with a classic serif, add a geometric shape and you’ve just raised your game some. Have a look at the example logo designs below.

Great sans serifs include Lato, Colaborate, Raleway and Oswald. Have you figured out why they’re called sans-serifs yet?

SCRIPT FONTS

Script fonts have grown in popularity recently. Be sure to use them sparingly, keep it to one line max as any more than that people will struggle to read. They are perfect for use in logos, as headers for blog posts and call to actions. Never use more than one script font for a design project though.

Some script font examples are: Bakery, Signerica, Bold & Stylish Calligraphy & Guld Script

These examples are all free, but free usually means more common, if you’re going to invest in a font thats going to be used in your logo for example then investing in a script font and paying a little more money for one thats not used by many people is well worth it.

DISPLAY FONTS

These are the fun fonts, the disco-ball-Christmas-patterned-global-hyper-colour fonts. They are great fun and work well for impact, but beware – use them sparingly, like REALLY sparingly. Use them as part of a logo, or for a one off project like a brochure or a postcard where you want maximum impact. I have a ton of display fonts, most of which I’ve never used, some I’ve used once and some that I’ll use for a single letter in a logo project. One or two words is more than enough. Examples include: Aroly, Bauhaus 93, Bold Brush & Lovelo

PULLING IT ALL TOGETHER

As I mentioned before, simply opening up a page and scrolling through fonts isn’t the best way to get going. I always start with the logo and then base the font selections around that. Usually I’ll be looking at 2-3 fonts to work together in a design project.

Usually, I’ll look for a serif, a sans serif and a script/display or something interesting to complete the set.

Below is an example of top-down font selection. If I’m working with a logo that uses a script, handwritten or display font, I know that I wont use it (or any other of that type ) anywhere else. I’ll look to compliment it with a serif either in caps for headings, or as body text. Then, a sans serif will complete the set.

If the logo is typographic (sans or serif) Then I’ll look for something thats script or display to use for highlights or calls to action. Below are some examples of how 3 font families can work in almost any scenario. Each example uses a serif, sans serif and script in different combinations.

Using the above 3 font rule, or the one font rule (using different weights) won’t let you down. A great resource to get started is Google Fonts – it will show you great fonts and suggest others to air with it, give you code to add to your web page and even give you stats and info about how often its used. Font Squirrel is another great website for downloading free fonts – it even has a font identifier so you can upload an image of a font you’ve seen and it will try and tell you its name.

Have fun choosing fonts, keep it simple and don’t let too many extra typefaces creep into your design projects. Happy font pairing!