What’s in a font?

We’ve come a long way since comic sans dominated newsletters and party invites, but why do we have 300,000+ different fonts, who uses them all and how do you choose what font to use?

Fonts have the ability to draw attention, engage the eye and convey emotion and meaning. When used well, we take them for granted, used badly and they positively scream at us.

Name your own

You know you’ve hit the big time when you have your own company font. It’s a relatively new thing and started in the 2000s with the usual suspects from the tech world – Nokia, Apple, HP, etc. Having your own font sounds cool, but imagine being able to name it too! Amazon Kindle = bookerly, Google Play Books = Literata and Uber = Move are pretty clever names.

How do we choose?

An important part of developing a new brand is assigning fonts that will best work with the new look and feel of the brand as well as work practically across all the proposed applications of the brand. What looks good in print can be a big fail online. Or that pretty font can cost you a fortune in licensing fees by the time everyone in the office has it on their PC.

Lucky for us we’ve got a couple of font gurus in the tgm office; Andrea, who originally trained in typography (the art of font design) and Rachael who is said to be the ‘google of fonts’ and can ID a font just by the flick of a serif.

Naturally our designers make choosing a font look easy. They consider the application, a font for a business card has to be particularly versatile to cater for letters and numbers, different names, etc versus a font for a new logo which is important to reflect the feel of the brand and what it represents. Designing for web is limited by the number of fonts available. Then there’s just trial and error, but having an eye for design means our talented designers already have a look in mind and it’s just a matter of tracking down that particular font.

Tips for you

Obviously we’d always recommend calling on experts for all things design, but if you are putting together a quick party invite or an urgent powerpoint, consider these font tips:

  • Check your corporate style guide (if you have one). These guidelines will outline what fonts you can and can’t use and help make sure your design is in keeping with the organisation’s brand.
  • Before looking at fonts, think about the overall style you are after – fun, formal, elegant, corporate – to help narrow down what you are looking for.
  • Try and use two to three different fonts max, and then use them in a hierarchy consistently throughout your design.
  • Lastly, try and combine fonts to enhance the recipient’s experience rather than confuse or cause a headache (think too much comic sans!).

So next time you visit a website, pick up a new product in the supermarket or get a fancy invite in the post take a moment to check out the fonts that have been used and give it a thumbs up for creating a visual symphony or a thumbs down for starting a headache!