Typography isn’t simply a “font choice.” It involves much more than that. It entails leading, kearning, tracking, color palette, layout and design integration. All of these elements combined can make or break the effectiveness of what the design is trying to communicate to viewers and can change their overall perception or level of engagement. A successful typography design will bridge the gap between your graphics, your text and your objective.
Here are some things to consider when choosing a typeface.
Readability and Legibility
Special attention needs to be given to readability and legibility. Readability is how groups of words are arranged on a page and how easy it is for the reader to scan and make sense of the content and layout.
Legibility is the ability to read the typeface and how one character can be distinguished from another. Some typefaces are easier to read. This is typically based on a few things including contrast, line height spacing and whether or not it is serif or sans-serif.
Serif vs. Sans-Serif
The most widely used typography categorization is serif and sans-serif. Serif fonts have “feet” at the ends of the letterform, while sans-serif fonts do not. Generally serif fonts are more traditional, while sans-serif typefaces are seen as modern and futuristic. There is much debate as to which style is easier to read. Some claim that serif fonts provide continuity and engagement that improve readability, while others think the opposite. Whichever you choose, there are many great choices within both categories. Ultimately the best font choice is the one where reader doesn’t notice the font, but the message.
Contrast is important to understand when it comes to combining typefaces. Without proper contrast, typefaces tend to clash, creating a random, scattered look to your design. Developing a proper contrast relies on the weight of a typeface, the size, the hierarchy, the color, the texture and the mood of the typeface. These elements combined can have a huge impact on how easily content is read.
Typefaces have a personality. It is important to choose the one that best suits the style you are going for, keeping your target audience in mind. Are you designing for a serious professional group or a whimsical children’s company? Determining this will affect the style you use.
The key is to strike a balance between the trusted classic typefaces and the snazzy and stylish personal favorites. Hierarchy-wise, for body text it is advisable to use a non-gimmicky, legible and formal typeface. Using highly characteristic display fonts as body text can make it difficult to read. Those are better used for headers.
Experiment or Play It Safe?
Over time you will develop a library of trustworthy typefaces that will become your “safety blanket.” But that doesn’t mean you should always rely on these and play it safe. Encourage yourself to try new typefaces that are versatile and add something refreshing and individualistic to your list of favorites.
After all, the biggest risk it not taking one.
Follow the Rules or Break Them?
In design school, we all learn the “rules” of typography and what we should and should not do when it comes to laying out text on a page. However, when you are knowledgeable about typography and are familiar with its conventions and rules, why not break those rules to potentially produce something that is new and compelling.
At the end of the day, there are no definitive rules, just guidelines. It is up to the discretion of the designer as to what they want to do. However, it is best to know your basics before getting innovative.