You know not to choose the infamous Comic Sans. But that’s as far as your knowledge of typography goes. And you’re not alone. When building their brand or conducting a design refresh, business owners and even graphic designers tend to go for what ‘looks nice’.
Looking nice is not good enough.
Fonts have a deep effect on people, even affecting mood quality. And that’s not us just saying that; MIT research has shown that quality typography can have the same effect as a gift or watching a funny video, for example.
Font sends a message. It exudes the identity of your business. Playful or professional. Personal and warm, or cold and distant. Yes, typography is that important. In this guide, we’ll show you how to choose a font the right way.
What’s Your Identity?
You know your company better than anyone else. You want to partner your brand’s identity with the right font, one that truly embodies what you’re all about. If you run a law firm or bank, the more ‘serious’ Bembo may be the right choice. If you run a daycare center, on the other hand, you want something that’s a little more fun and playful.
Part of your identity is dictated by your audience. Who buys your products? Do they expect a classy, understated font, or would an urban typographic choice be more appropriate? There is no objectively correct choice; it all depends on your audience.
The Technical Questions
The practical purpose of your font will also drive the selection process. For example, if your business works with a lot of numbers, your chosen font will need to cater to that. Some typefaces only run numbers in lowercase, which may not be suitable for your business.
You also want a typeface that has conventional letterforms (rather than unorthodox shapes or curves), as the human brain will otherwise need to ‘process’ the font as they read text. Spacing should also be roomy; people tend to struggle reading text with tight spacing. Finally, pick a font that has a suitable x-height. If you choose one that’s too short, some letters will be almost impossible to read in certain contexts.
The best choice is one that gives you flexibility. Look for a ‘complete’ font, one that gives you the ability to adapt your font based on your specific situational needs. Free fonts often come up short in this sense, or the no-cost licence limits you in some important way.
Copy the Big Boys
Okay, maybe ‘copy’ isn’t quite what we mean. At least not in a literal sense. But it’s definitely worth checking out what other companies in your industry have done in the past, especially if they’re big multinationals with significant design budgets (it means they have the $ to do the research into their font choices).
It’s also worth checking out other smaller outfits. It may give you the right inspiration, or you’ll come across examples you definitely want to avoid.
Fonts in Use is a good resource for this, as it features over 15,000 examples of fonts being used for business. Be careful: it’s addictive! You may end up spending several hours scrolling!
This is a simple bit of advice, but you’d be surprised just how many people don’t run this simple test. Once you think you’ve found the font for your business, get your designer to put a few designs together. For example, an article on your website, a sales spiel on an ad, a title, you name it.
Once you get the designs back, read carefully. Is the font the right size? Is it legible? Will people with visual impairments be able to make it out? If you make reading your copy an arduous task, consumers will go elsewhere.
While we can give you a range of pointers on how to pick a specific font, you won’t find the single right answer the first time. It’s a partially formulaic approach, yes, but ultimately you want to find the typeface that just feels right. Use Web Font Specimen to put your font in ‘real’ situations, giving you the best possible test case.
Trust us, you’ll have that ‘aha’ moment. All you need to do is experiment. Try different fonts. See whether they work. Do you like the result? Ask friends and family what they think. Keep trying until you find what works. Experiment, trust the process, and you’ll choose the right font for your business.