“What Font Should I Use?”: Five Principles for Choosing and Using Typefaces
“BEAUTIFULLY CRAFTED FONTS”
Ahhhh music to our ears, because we are obssessed with finding a good font family. There are tons of fonts being used here and there but rarely do you find one that’s perfect for a certain work. And we must admit, deciding for the “one” isn’t as easy as it sounds. It’s not like we spend close to just 10 minutes to pick the right font. We actually take longer. Much, much longer. It’s like, going to a candy store. So much sweet sweet candy. They all look appealing. But we don’t eat everything. We choose one that best satisfies our cravings.
So here’s a little help from Dan Mayer that can save our butts from the harsh world of picking fonts.
Shall we begin?
1. Dress for the Occasion
Lots of times, when choosing a font, we assess the personality of each face and look for something unique and distinctive that expresses our particular aesthetic taste, perspective and personal history. Just as with clothing, there’s a distinction between typefaces that are expressive and stylish versus those that are useful and appropriate to many situations, and our job is to try to find the right balance for the occasion.
While appropriateness isn’t a sexy concept, it’s the acid test that should guide our choice of font. Every designer has a few favorite fonts More often, it’s like find yourself putting on the same old pair of Levis morning after morning. You have few workhorse typefaces that are like comfortable jeans ;) They go with everything, they seem to adapt to their surroundings and become more relaxed or more formal as the occasion calls for, and they just seem to come out of the closet day after day.
Usually, these are faces that have a number of weights (Light, Regular, Bold, etc) and/or cuts (Italic, Condensed, etc). Some particular safety blankets are: Myriad, Gotham, DIN, Akzidenz Grotesk and Interstate among the sans; Mercury, Electra and Perpetua among the serif faces.
2. Know your Families: Grouping Fonts
The clothing analogy gives us a good idea of what kind of closet we need to put together. The next challenge is to develop some kind of structure by which we can mentally categorize the different typefaces we run across.
Geometric Sans | have strokes that are all the same width and frequently evidence a kind of “less is more” minimalism in their design. A classic Geometric Sans is like a beautifully designed airport: it’s impressive, modern and useful, but we have to think twice about whether or not we’d like to live there.
Humanist Sans | derived from handwriting — they still retain something inescapably human at their root. Modern yet human, clear yet empathetic. Yet at their worst, they seem wishy-washy and fake, the hand servants of corporate insincerity.
Old Style | referred to as ‘Venetian’, these are our oldest typefaces, the result of centuries of incremental development of our calligraphic forms. Old Style faces are marked by little contrast between thick and thin, and the curved letter form tend to tilt to the left (just as calligraphy tilts). Old Style faces at their best are classic, traditional, readable.
Transitional and Modern | more geometric, sharp and virtuosic than the unassuming faces of the Old Style period. At their best, transitional and modern faces seem strong, stylish, dynamic. At their worst, they seem neither here nor there — too conspicuous and baroque to be classic, too stodgy to be truly modern.
Slab Serifs | very specific — and yet often quite contradictory. They can convey a sense of authority, but they can also be quite friendly, they add a distinctive wrinkle to anything, but can easily become overly conspicuous in the wrong surroundings.
3. Don’t Be a Wimp: The Principle of Decisive Contrast
When we combine multiple typefaces on a design, we want them to coexist comfortably.
Now that we know our families and some classic examples of each, we need to decide how to mix and match and — most importantly — whether to mix and match at all. Most of the time, one typeface will do, If we reach a point where we want to add a second face to the mix, it’s always good to observe this simple rule: keep it exactly the same, or change it a lot — avoid wimpy, incremental variations.
This is a general principle of design, and its official name is correspondence and contrast. If you put two identical coins next to each other, they look good together because they match (correspondence). On the other hand, if we put a dime next to one of those big copper coins we picked up somewhere, this also looks interesting because of the contrast between the two.
4. A Little Can Go a Long Way
There’s a need for a font that oozes with personality, whether that personality is warehouse party, Pad Thai or Santa Claus. ‘Display’ is just another way of saying ‘do not exceed recommended dosage‘: applied sparingly to headlines, a display font can add a well-needed dash of flavor to a design, but it can quickly wear out its welcome if used too widely.
Display faces with lots of personality are best used in small doses. If we apply our cool display type to every bit of text in our design, the aesthetic appeal of the type is quickly spent and — worse yet — our design becomes very hard to read.
5. Rule Number Five Is ‘There Are No Rules’
Really. Look hard enough and you will find a dazzling-looking menu set entirely in a hard-to-read display font. There are only conventions, no ironclad rules about how to use type, just as there are no rules about how we should dress in the morning. It’s worth trying everything just to see what happens — even wearing your Halloween flares to your court date.
(For the complete article: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/12/14/what-font-should-i-use-five-principles-for-choosing-and-using-typefaces/)
There are so many fonts to choose from that your head starts spinning because you don’t even know where to begin to start looking for your fonts, but after getting a little help from our friend Dan, you probably now know your do’s and dont’s. That should help narrow down your choices.