What the font?!
People can be a bit funny about fonts. Most graphic designers (the good ones, anyway) are amusingly easy to wind up about them; and many non-designers who have never had to work up an advert or headline might think they’re overreacting.
Using the right font in your communications is fundamental. Anyone who has been near social media in the last few days will probably have seen the example doing the rounds – a greetings card for a certain Special Aunt, who, thanks to the font used, might not be entirely flattered to receive it. (If you don’t mind the language, take a look here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=532083600209466&set=a.103620089722488.7550.100002234924820&type=1&theater )
Fonts are a serious business though. Here are a few areas to consider when deciding which to use – or for checking designs you have been sent.
- Clarity. Can you read it? Easily? It doesn’t take much to stop a customer reading your message – make it clear. Customers often make up their minds within a split second – and if your font is flouncy and ornate and plastered all over a road-side 48 sheet billboard, they just won’t be able to read it.
- Tone. Don’t use Comic Sans if you are a funeral director. Or trying to give orders. Or be taken at all seriously. Consider carefully the personality of the font you use and make sure it is appropriate, both to your brand and your content.
- Familiarity. We may not all be font experts, but we are all consumers, and we all see a LOT of advertising. Consider who else uses certain fonts, and how often you see them – Arial is lazy, Impact is lazy, Trajan is the “movie font”, and so on. Be careful not to pigeon-hole your image by association, or appear lazy or thoughtless by using a hackneyed font.
- Form. By this we mean giving a little thought to where your advert or copy will appear. We’ve mentioned billboards already – but how about small ads? If you are using a beautifully fine, elegant font which looks amazing on high-quality paper or business cards, think about whether it will be legible on a tiny newspaper advert, for example. Logos especially will appear in all sorts of different media, so make sure yours doesn’t get lost.
- Finish. If you want your wording embossed, foiled, stamped or in any other finish to straightforward printing, be very careful about fonts. Fine details are very hard to replicate, particularly in small formats. You have been warned.
There are many, many blogs about fonts – this one in particular illustrates many of the points above beautifully – or just Google “bad fonts” if you fancy a giggle. http://bonfx.com/23-really-bad-font-choices/
Fonts are, of course, just one step in the wider challenge of creating clear communications. You will always need to consider many more factors – your colour scheme, images, letter spacing and size, the actual wording itself – there are hundreds of things to consider.
Just remember to put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Think carefully about how much time they have to read your message. Think about how it might look to them at first glance. Because first glance is usually the only chance most advertisers get to make an impression. Font choice is not just a specialised area only graphic designers and print-geeks get over-excited about – it is an integral, vital part of any communication’s effectiveness, and can make or break your entire campaign.
But it’s still funny winding up the designers about it…