The typeface that you choose for your print project is an important piece of the overall design process. With over 20,000 typefaces available and more being created every day, where do you begin?
First, narrow down your choices by selecting the tone you want to present. Typefaces can convey personality. For instance if you are in the banking industry you might choose a classic serif font such as Garamond to convey dependability. Serif fonts are generally used to achieve an elegant or classical look. For a more contemporary look a sans serif such as Bank Gothic would be appropriate. Sans serif fonts can impart an appearance of confidence.
Be careful about choosing a script typeface. Although they can add elegance to an invitation or announcement, scripts are more difficult to read. Never use all caps when using a script typeface and never use it for lengthy copy.
Readability is crucial. Be sure that the font you choose is legible. With all of the new and interesting typefaces available today it is tempting to pick one that you think looks “cool”. This can work if you are going for an edgy look that will appeal to a young audience, but your copy still needs to be easily understood.
An important rule of thumb to remember: Never select more than three typefaces for a design piece. You can choose one font for the heading, one for the body text and one for accent if desired. More will look chaotic and cluttered.
The combination of these fonts is also important. (The typographic wheel below is a helpful guide).
If you select a serif for your heading, choose a sans serif for the body text (or vise versa). Avoid selecting a similar serif for the body, as this may end up looking like a mistake. Using an opposite typeface will achieve a contrast that will add eye appeal to your piece. Also avoid close relatives of your main typeface. For example if your heading is script do not choose an italic serif for your body text.
Word settings and spacing are another consideration to achieve a professional look for your design. The optimal setting for your body text is flush left, rag right. This setting allows comfortable readability. The flush left makes it easier for the reader to find the next line. Also pay attention to the ragged edge. Take time to create a pleasing silhouette by avoiding lines set to exactly the same length or one long line followed by a short one. The exception here is the end of a paragraph, however never leave a single word on the last line of a paragraph. Try to avoid justifying your text (Flush left, flush right) as this can create irregular word spacing unless carefully typeset. This uneven spacing can create “rivers” of open space that will distract the reader. Justified text works best for lengthy materials such as books or magazine articles.
Centered text will create left and right ragged edges. This can create a dignified look if treated carefully. Vary the lines to give the ragged edges an interesting look and try increasing the space between lines to add readability. Since a ragged left edge makes it more difficult for a reader to find the next line, try to keep phrases or related content on one line. Centered text works best for small amounts of text.
With all of this to consider in choosing your typeface(s), don’t hesitate to contact a professional designer. There are books written on the subject and this article does not begin to address many aspects of typography. The correct use of type can make or break your design, so take some time and look at the different options available.
by Patrice Roarke, Creative Director and owner of Artisan Design Studio. This article may be re-printed on your website, newsletter or ezine with a credit and link back to: http://www.artisan-ds.com