The first thing to consider is the readability of your font; its most basic requirement is to be read. There are two main families of fonts, and that is Serifs (which have the detail of a short line at the tops and bottoms of the lines) and Sans Serifs (those without the added line detail). There’s a general rule of thumb that guides designers on the first step to a font choice, and that’s medium.
- For Web, it’s usually recommended that designers use a Sans Serif font. This is because the simple shapes show up more clearly on a screen. With the potential for low-resolution screens and small logos, it’s best to avoid the extra clutter that a Serif font can bring.
- For Print, the added detail of a Serif font can actually make printed media more readable. It adds an individual characteristic to each letter which makes them easier to distinguish, preventing eye fatigue.
There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. There are some Serif fonts that are perfectly readable on screens, and some Sans Serifs work beautifully in print.It’s then the job of the designer to choose one that works in situ.
There’s also the added consideration of script and decorative fonts. These are great for some added flair in a headline, but aren’t suited to body copy as they’re easily misread.
The next thing to consider is the impression your font is giving off to readers. Imagine your bank website written in Comic Sans – there’s a loss of credibility, professionalism and trustworthiness even though the rest of the design and content remains the same.
- Serif fonts usually give the impression of history, formality and tradition. They’re the fonts you’ll see on newspapers and government sites to display an established history.
- Sans serif fonts are conversely seen as more modern and informal. For this reason, a brand modernisation will almost always incorporate the adoption of a sans serif font.
- Script fonts are those that resemble handwriting. They’re sometimes used to add an authentic, personalised touch to sites.
- Decorative fonts are a large category with lots of diversity – they’re essentially anything that isn’t in the above. They are the big, bold fonts that evoke certain time periods or styles. These fonts are illustrative rather than informative.
The choice is usually self-evident to start with. A script font would never be appropriate for a hospital website, but might be perfect for a restaurant. Just as you would apply an audience analysis to your marketing, your font choices should be designed to speak to your audience and fit with the identity you’ve chosen.