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Graphic Design: How to Pick the Perfect Font

July 11, 2013 IADT General, IADT Chicago, Graphic Design 0 Comments

How To Pick The Perfect FontThere are thousands of different font designs. How could you possibly pick the right one?

As a Graphic Design student, you may enjoy experimenting with different typefaces. But you may be realizing that conveying the right message can be challenging – especially when you have so many choices. We’ve made the process a little simpler: below are five quick questions you can ask yourself as you work through your design:

1. Is it legible?

Douglas Bonneville, professional graphic designer and developer, argues that a good design has a specific, overall legibility.

The reader should be able to distinguish one letterform from another, if the typeface is legible. Decorative fonts have a lower readability and should only be used for headers, which readers can glance over quickly. Typefaces with more conventional letterforms, such as Times New Roman, are used for publishing because they allow a reader to easily digest lengthy material because it is highly legible.

2. Is it readable?

Readability is the interaction of the font style, size, tracking, leading, color and its other properties to form the general impression given to the reader.

The level of readability should work with the content; for example, if the content is difficult to understand, the readability should be high so that readers can thoroughly take in the message. In most cases, communication is more important than style – which makes readability inherently important.

Many designers choose fonts that are pretty – but too ornate and hard to read. Web Designer and Developer Max Luzuriaga argues that simply by making your type readable, you jump ahead of the competition.

3. What are your intentions?

Choose a typeface that correlates with your intentions.

Your typeface acts as aesthetic bridge between your message and your audience. There should be a level of harmony between what you intend to convey and how you choose to visually convey it.

It may be helpful to brainstorm a list of what the typeface conveys – some fonts are comical, fun, serious or boring. Knowing the characteristics of different typefaces allows you to see which ones align with what you’re trying to convey.

4. What is your tone?

Similarly, the typeface should match your tone. Some fonts are bolder than others, making the typeface feel loud, demanding or even authoritative. Is that the tone you want?

Play with bolds, italics, colors and letter spacing to tweak the tone of your typeface. Also try pairing the typeface with other fonts that convey different tones. Luzuriaga advises you to think about what the typefaces, when paired together, convey.

5. Does it fit into your hierarchy?

In typography, hierarchy refers to the structure of headings, sub-headings and call-outs on a page. Your hierarchy determines how many different fonts you may need – depending on how distinct you want your hierarchy to be.

Knowing which fonts you intend to use where may impact how your design is perceived by your reader. You may want your headers to have a different tone than your sub-headings. Keep in mind where you hope to use a certain font and how it may work in conjunction with the other fonts you’ve selected for your hierarchy.

Bonneville also suggests avoiding:

  • Anachronisms
  • Trite correlations
  • Overcomplicating your palette

When in doubt, use a style sheet to experiment. Draw on classic hierarchies for inspiration – add your twists depending on your intention or your tone. Talk with your advisor at IADT to learn more about typography and how to use it in Graphic Design.


What do you think?