How to chose a good font

There are tons and tons of information all around us.
You stumble over posters at the bus stop, the neon sign at the barber shop is pointing out the service, the internet is full of it.
All information is transported with signs, letters, fonts.

You might not think that the way a sign is design is of any importance.
But it is!
And you have to chose the font to transport your information carefully.

Now you might hesitated and think: “How do I know that the font is appropriate?”
Certainly a matter for the expert – the graphic- and media designer or typographer.

There are two reasons – maybe some more – why you should have a little knowledge about this subject  too.
First as the customer you are the one who has to make the final decision.
Second – when creating something like an invitation, writing a letter or an application – you have to make the decision all on your own.

Even if your text program offers you a font, you don’t have to feel obligated to use this.

1. A good font has to be legible.

Did you ever wonder why newspapers and novel books usually use fonts with serifs?
The serifs (the little ticks at the bottom of the letters) help the eye to establish a kind of line, and therefore a text in a serif font is much easier to read.

Serif fonts in my picture are: Times, Baskerville, Quorum, Cheltenham, Jenson, Optima.
Other good serif fonts are: Garamond or FrizQuadrata.

2. The font has to serve the purpose.

When my text is a romantic novel, I should chose among the serif fonts a font which underlines the romantic aspect.
Or do I type a technical text?
Than my choice is a kind of sober, austere font.
Helvetica, Kabel, GillSans, TheSans, VAG Rounded will be a very good choice.

A wedding invitation needs a different font than the invitation for the 6th birthday of your daughter.
For a wedding you can use e.g. Agnicort or Certificate.
Your daughter might be happy with Crayon.

I even had to learn that American or British people prefer different fonts than German people.

3. Do I need distinctions in my text?

This is also a very important criterion when choosing a font.
If you need to set parts of the text italic or bold, the font has to be able to do this.
E.g. Kabel is not available in real italic, but Helvetica would serve this purpose.
Certainly the technology of your computer sometimes allows you to cheat with the font, like slanting the word. But really, that’s a no go.

4. Do I need a font for the headlines and one for the body text?

A good font can serve both aspects.

But it might be much more interesting to mix fonts.

  • never mix more than 2 fonts in a text:
    more fonts won’t make it more interesting, it just gets kind of noisy. You don’t have to show in one text how many wonderful fonts you own.
  • when mixing, than make the difference very clear:
    E.g. when you use “Ravie” as a headline font and “Jenson” as a body text font, the differences are very clear. I doubt that “Ravie” will be very easy to read if your headlines are long headlines.
  • you can easily mix serif fonts with non-serif fonts
    in this case you usually use the serif font for the text and the non-serif for the headlines
    or the non-serif for the text if it is a technical one, and than the serif font for the headlines

5. Does my font make a good poster headline?

Information on a poster has to be readable from a good distance.
So you need a very clear font, a font which is available in a huge size.

There are many more criterion why choosing a certain font.
The basic of all is: your taste, your intuition.
So don’t hesitate to experiment.

There are more fonts in your life than Times New Roman and Arial!

Links you might want to check:

Fonts on Wikipedia

Dafonts  – you can download over 13,000 fonts for free

Myfonts  – they have fonts categorised and tagged, so you can easily find a modern font which is also feminine, and – my favorite part of their website: WhatTheFont  – upload a picture of your text when you don’t know what font is used, and the software analyzes it for you.

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