The Font of Knowledge

To font or not to font. That is the question.

In our visual society, typeface, or font, has become more prevalent than ever. There are many fonts available to designers to choose from—some good and many just down right horrible. Personally, I could go on and on about how bad one font is over another and bore you to death. But I won’t.

I remember starting my career with rustmedia and the Southeast Missourian some 19 years ago. I think I tried to put, as they say, the whole nine yards (fonts) in each ad/project. Trust me, the phrase “keep it simple” is a very true statement and I am a firm believer in it. I’ve learned over the years on what font(s) to use and how many to use in one project. If you choose the right font for a project, that could very easily be the only one you need to use.

A lot goes into determining what typeface to use for your next project. Size of my project is the first thing I try to determine. If you’re limited on space, choose a font that has some condensed variations. The purpose of the ad, messaging, or even the client in some cases, are other important factors. The most important thing to remember is just make sure you’re not using fonts that will distract the reader by being too big, too awkward or an inappropriate choice. For example, you wouldn’t use the same typeface to advertise a haunted house and a Christmas sale—the two are very different and so should your typeface be, also.

I try to use no more than three different typefaces on one single advertisement, and usually two is all you need. If you’re trying to match a font up to a specific type of business, it’s okay to use a “fun” font as long as it’s readable and not overused. Fonts like scripts or wild serifs have their place—just make sure they shine where they are supposed to and don’t get overused on the project.

In my design day, I have three or four serif and san serif fonts that I like to use on a regular basis, depending upon the project or job. My go-to san serif fonts are Myriad Pro, Gotham, Helvetica Neue and Futura; my go-to serifs are Georgia, Baskerville and Minion Pro. These are my workhorse fonts; the ones that I use on a consistent basis because they’re easy to read and versatile. With the exception of Georgia, these fonts all have a large variety of thinner and thicker stroke weights to choose from.

Picking typefaces for a project can be tedious process, but it can be exciting, too. The best advice: keep a set of workhorse fonts on hand for those times when things pile up—that way, you’ll be one step ahead. Happy font hunting and remember . . . keep it simple.