Saturday, 29 September 2018

Typography Basics Part One: Choosing your fonts

Typography can make or break a piece of copy.

As a copywriter who has been fortunate to work with a number of talented designers over the years, I've picked up some useful typography tips.

In this two-part guide I'll guide you through how to choose the right fonts for your project and how to lay them out in the best way.

How to choose the fonts for your project.

The font you choose says a lot about you, how well you understand the project and how much you value your readers.

Essentially, there are three font styles you should be aware of:
  1. Serif, which has a small line detail at the end of each stroke
    Times New Roman, Georgia, Courier
  2. Sans-serif, which is cleaner and doesn't have the lines
    Arial, Helvetica, Verdana
  3. Fancy, which includes quirky, novelty and artistic fonts
    e.g. Jazz, Curlz, Brush Script and Papyrus
Serif and sans-serif fonts are ideal for most projects and can be used for headings, sub headings and body copy (body copy means the bulk of your copy).

Fancy fonts should be reserved for titles and headings on graphics-led projects such as posters, flyers and party invites.

1. Choose fonts that complement each other and don't use too many different fonts together.

You don't need to demonstrate all the fonts on your computer — most projects only require one or two fonts at most.

If you're using two fonts, consider one serif and one sans serif, so they're noticeably different — but not too different. For example, you shouldn't pair a short, wide font with a tall, thin one.

Two fancy fonts will clash. If one of your fonts has a lot of personality, balance it with something plain.

Two bold fonts will be vying for attention. If one font is bold and heavy, balance it with something lighter and cleaner.

Getting the balance right can take a little practice. For inspiration, look at magazines and other publications.

If you need to put something together quickly, there are many articles online with suggestions of good font pairings to use. To find them, just type complementary fonts into Google.

2. Choose fonts that are appropriate for the brand and the project.

Choosing the right font adds credibility and builds trust — it shows your reader you're taking the project seriously and that you know and understand what you're doing.

This font is fun and cartoon-like, making it a good choice for a children's playgroup.
This font may look quirky, but it's called Kidnap and is designed to look like a ransom note. This makes it highly inappropriate for branding a playgroup.

If you're writing a serious report, don't use a quirky font — stick to something plain, classic and standard.

Many people take issue with Comic Sans, so this is often best avoided too.

This report cover uses Impact, which is bold, clean and serious. If you use this for the headings, you could pair it with a standard serif font, such as Times.

This cover uses Comic Sans, which you should always avoid if you want to be taken seriously.

Some fonts may be suited to your project in other ways. For example, if they were designed with a particular genre or purpose in mind or have a historical or cultural significance. 

A good resource for checking the history and culture behind your fonts is Microsoft's online font library.

3. Choose versatile fonts for your body copy.

When you're choosing the fonts for your body copy (the bulk of your copy) look for something with all the variants — regularitalicbold and bold italic. This will enable you to stress and highlight points so you can fully express yourself.

If you're writing in another language, or your copy is to be translated into another language, you may need special characters. Make sure your font has all the characters and letter variations you you need. 

Note that some fonts only have capital letters. WRITING ALL IN CAPS MAKES YOU SOUND SHOUTY AND ANGRY, so check your body copy font has both proper CAPS and lower case letters.

4. Make sure your copy is legible.

Choose a font that is easy to read — it doesn't have to be plain, but it should be clear. Most importantly, it should be clear at the size it will be displayed.

Pay attention to the background you're using. Make sure there is a good contrast and it doesn't camouflage or detract from your copy.

A simple stroke or drop shadow can help to make your copy stand out from the background, but avoid adding text effects for the sake of it.

I hope you have found this article helpful. In Part Two you can learn how to format and structure your copy.

About the author.

Jenny Lucas is a freelance copywriter, content writer and copy editor based in Leicestershire, UK.

To find out more about Jenny, her work and the services she offers, visit her website

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