Typography is defined as the style, arrangement or appearance of printed letters. A rich history of font origin and development dates back to about 1439, when Johannes Gutenberg created moveable type and the printing press.
Through the years, we have been introduced to the Old Style, Transitional and Modern movements, to name a few. Italics eventually arrived on scene, sprinkled with Sans Serif fonts (like our beloved Helvetica). And here we are—in the midst of the digital revolution.
While we can save the specifics and characteristics of each major player in the world of fonts for another day, the point is that over six centuries of type design have rendered our font choices virtually limitless. So which fonts should you be using in your branding materials?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer. As a designer, I have my own favorites. But they may not be the same as others within my field. Regardless of personal affinities, there are some essential guidelines to consider for using fonts in branding efforts and achieving typographical success:
1. Legibility. Seems evident, but you must be able to clearly read what’s been written. Sure, that script font is beautiful, and its whimsical swashes complement the design. But if viewers stumble when reading, it just won’t work.
2. Contrast. All copy elements should display enough contrast to visually push them off the page. To overlay images, bolder fonts are a better choice than more delicate serifs. Keep your color palette in mind as well. Fonts in complementary or contrasting, powerful colors deliver a quicker message.
3. Audience. Choose your fonts based on your audience. A more traditional and refined modern serif font that’s befitting of a luxury brand probably won’t be the best choice for a product aimed at children—and vice versa.
4. Limits. With an endless supply of fonts at your fingertips, the temptation to use several at once could be hard to resist. But less is more. Too many varying font designs can muddy your message and confuse your brand. Keep it simple, and stick with just a few staples.
5. Space. Copy is a supporting graphic element in your design. Combined, these elements should guide the consumer through varying levels of reading. Don’t be afraid to separate copy pieces to ensure that information is delivered in the proper order.
6. Medium. Adobe and Microsoft joined forces years ago and created the OpenType® format so that all fonts would be universal on both Macs and PCs, but that doesn’t mean all personal computers carry the same fonts within their libraries. Keep that in mind when designing a website or email with that funky new handwriting font you found.
If you follow these simple guidelines (and beware the dreaded Comic Sans and Papyrus!), typography can serve as an integral part of your brand.