Before we get too far, let’s make sure you have the correct understanding of these keywords.
Typeface: a family of fonts.
Font: An individual size, weight and style of a typeface i.e; Helvetica Bold
The process of selecting typefaces can seem completely overwhelming.
Because typeface have a variety of styles and specific purposes this can confuse those who are new to typography.
There are literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions of options available today – with designers consistently designing new ones many.
With all of your choices, how do you go about choosing not only a typeface that is of high quality and which aligns to your brand strategy?
Typography: the study of typefaces and now a general term for using typefaces.
1. Don’t overthink it
The truth is many, not all, professional designers only use just a handful of typefaces which will meet the criteria of 90% of the work they do.
The remaining 10% of typefaces they choose are meant to add style, make a statement, support the main typography and visually align to business with a unique flare.
So, you really only need to focus on selecting one great option for your brand.
And this is simply narrowing down your choices as they fail to meet brand criteria.
Three things your brand typeface MUST do well:
- Be very legible, clear, and easy to read.
- Be adaptable with many variations of weight and style.
- Reflect characteristics which pair with your brand personality.
If a typeface fails any of these three criteria – move on to the next option.
2. Understand Type Styles
First, lets look at the difference between the 3 core styles:
Serifs are small architectural details of a font which lend to its character and legibility. Serifs are typically associated with traditional typefaces and are quite handy when used in long lengths of text as they were designed to move a reader’s eye across the page or screen.
Sans Serifs simply means “without serifs” in Latin. These typefaces are generally more modern in appearance and better suited for headlines and large sizes.
Within the serif family are slab serifs or slabs. Slab serifs are thicker, blockier versions of serifs. Hey make for great bold headlines. They appear heavier or bolder than other styles.
Secondly, you should know how to identify display, ornamental and handwritten typefaces as you will most likely be staying away from these styles in the early stages of design. These styles of type, generally, have only one weight or style available.
Display type is highly decorative and meant to be just that. Display type can be used for large ornate headlines, packaging, and decorative element. It is not considered an appropriate style of typeface to use for any length of readable text or information design.
Handwritten type is just that. Made to look like handwriting or actual handwriting that has been digitized. This style typeface can be used to add a bit of character and personality into design work.
However handwritten type should not be a core choice for a brand as it can be difficult to read for some people and does not work well in lengthy amounts of copy. Handwritten fonts are designed to add spice to design and definately not meant to be used as your primary typeface.
3. Recognize Type Construction
The construction of type can help you determine if a typeface aligns to your brand or not.
Designers will typically look at the construction of a typeface’s edges, corners, and other parts to determine if their shapes and characteristics align with the brand they are developing.
Because some typefaces have rounded or smooth edges they lend themselves nicely to youthful, friendly, childlike, and softer brands.
Other typefaces have sharp, symmetrical elements or perfect 90-degree angles on their edges. We would typically align typefaces with these characteristics for brands who want to portray precision, technology, expertise or modernity.
Compare the words and ideas you’ve generated in your research of brand values and archetype (part of our full course) and hold them against each typeface you look at. Do they sync or not? If not move on. If they do search out a few more viable options and then compare again.
Does the typeface reflect those values? Is it reflective of the archetype?
4. Check for Versatility
Typefaces are families of fonts.
And every typeface has either a small family or a large family.
A family consists of weights and styles of that typeface; Futura Bold Condensed for example, or Helvetica Thin.
You should try to choose typefaces with large families of weights and styles. This is one of the most important factors in choosing a typeface which will support your brand development because a larger family means you have more options while still using just one typeface.
Most typefaces have: Regular, Bold, and Italic
ideally, you want to find a typeface that has many more options.
A large type family might look like this:
Condensed, Condensed Italic, Bold Condensed, Bold Condensed Italic, Regular, Italic, Semibold, Semibold Italic, Bold, and Bold Italic. Some may even have: ultra bold, heavy, thin, ultrathin etc.
Typefaces with large families allow you more flexibility when laying out content. With multiple options for weights and styles you can easily differentiate one type of content from another, just be careful not to overdo it and cause yourself confusion.
Using just one or two typefaces for your brand is ideal.
Using only one or two typefaces keeps things looking consistent. It is easier to manage styles and specific roles the typeface plays when only dealing with one or two.
When it comes to using type weights and styles, keep it simple always, and keep it consistent always.
5. Look for Unique Characteristics
At first glance, typefaces look pretty similar, but once you start to inspect the details of an entire typeface compared to others, you will notice many differences. Some of these differences will make a font more suitable for the brand over other.
In this example, above, you can see that the first font has some unique characters such as the way the ‘a’ and ‘b’ have rounded edges, the construction of the ‘g’ or the way the ‘x’ comes together at the center.
In the second example, you see the construction of the ‘g’ with an open tail and the tip of the ‘y’ has been designed with a teardrop-like shape.
Subtle characteristics like these might make a typeface more or less attractive to use depending on the personality your brand.