Lots of brands and businesses like to start things off with a quote, so we figured we’d jump on that bandwagon for this blog!
“Optimizing typography is optimizing readability, accessibility, usability, and overall graphic balance.”
- Oliver Reichenstein
The importance of choosing the right typeface is something that is oftentimes overlooked. Don’t be fooled! It may seem like a very small and simple design element, but it can make a huge impact on the overall appeal and effectiveness of your print project. You must be strategic in your typeface choice, font choice, leading, kerning, and color. Do yourself a favor and don’t rush into a decision. Make sure you’ve done your research and properly explored your options before fully committing to a typeface and font. But before you can choose the right typeface, you need to know that it is different from a font.
Typefaces and Fonts Are Not One In The Same
In simple terms, a typeface is a set of letters, numbers and symbols (like glyphs) that have a common design ethos. A typeface refers to the whole family. Times New Roman, Helvetica and Arial are all mainstream typefaces.
Whereas a font is a more specific way of defining the kind of text you’re using; the way you display and print each letter in a particular way. The font is identified based on details like the weight, style (bold/italic) and point size. Helvetica Light, Helvetica Inserat, Helvetica Rounded and Helvetica Narrow are all examples of fonts within the Helvetica typeface family.
For those who are a fan of analogies, we’ve got you covered. Think of it this way: If the font is the song, the typeface is the artist. Now that we have established the foundation for our typeface and font knowledge, we can move on to the decision-making part of the process.
Going Beyond Love At First Typeface
Selecting an appropriate typeface for text usage is an important step in every design project. Depending on a project, finding the right typeface can take a few minutes or a few days. After refining our design skills for decades, the Harmonic team has honed in on these important points to consider when identifying the right font for your next custom print project.
Branding: Balancing versatility with consistency is key in your marketing efforts. The typeface you select should embody the character and spirit you’ve already established for the brand. These choices can help build recognition and familiarity of your business among consumers.
Legibility: This is non-negotiable. The typeface you choose MUST be legible. If people can’t read your message or have to spend extra time trying to decipher what it says, you’re kinda screwed. In the world of print, never underestimate the power of simplicity. Between crazy multi-tasking and ridiculously short attention spans, your best bet is to keep things clear and concise.
Harmonic Insider Tip: Avoid overly fancy typefaces, ALL CAPS in large sections of body copy, and typefaces that are not readable in a variety of sizes.
Hierarchy: You never want your target audience to ask — Where am I supposed to look first? The most important part of your marketing message should be obvious in every print piece you create. Establishing hierarchy in your design can be achieved in a few different ways - one of which includes adjusting the size. By using a larger size typeface for a headline or CTA (Call To Action) paired with a smaller complementary typeface for the secondary message. Some decorative typefaces can also work well as headlines, but just make sure they’re not too “frilly” or distracting. In addition to font and size, you can experiment with incorporating typeface weights, italic or color to your copy in order to signify what is most important.
Serif Versus Sans Serif Typefaces
To serif or not to serif? That is the question. Before we can determine which option makes the most sense for a project, it’s important to understand the differences between the two. Let’s start with serif typefaces.
Serifs are small lines or strokes attached to the end of a particular symbol or letter in a family of fonts, which can be bracketed or unbracketed. There are various categories including old style, traditional, Didone and slab serif. The old-type serif font dates all the way back to 1465 when Gutenberg adopted it for the movable type printing press. This style of typeface works best for lengthy copy and is well-received among a more mature audience. Serif fonts are associated with a formal, traditional, and somewhat elegant feel.
On the contrary, sans serif typefaces lack the extra serif at the ends of letters or symbols. This makes perfect sense since the word sans is a French word that means without. Grotesque, neo-grotesque, geometric, and humanist are all categories used to classify the different types of sans serif typefaces. This typeface style works great for headlines and other forms of short, punchy copy. Sans serif is also preferable when the target audience is younger. With an innate clean, minimalist feel, sans serif fonts are typically described as being innovative, modern and bold.
This Is All Just Super!
It’s important to be aware that certain typefaces are not standalones. They are beloved members of what we call superfamilies, which come with a built-in selection of different styles and weights that give designers more secure creative freedom. For many projects, having two variations of a font will get the job done. However, there are exceptions where three or four styles within a typeface family may be necessary to achieve that good visual hierarchy we mentioned earlier. Even in the world of fonts, family is important — and super!
After completing a countless amount of custom print projects, the following typefaces have made the cut for Harmonic’s go-to typeface list. So when you’re having trouble identifying which font will best serve its purpose for a piece of print collateral, this collection of reputable typefaces will help alleviate that decision-making stress.
- Garamond Pro
- Minion Pro
Sans Serif Typefaces
- Helvetica Neue
It Pays To Work With The Experts
Even though you probably have a decent grasp on the basics of typefaces and how they can work together, there’s nothing like having a pro to give you that extra boost of confidence. When bringing your custom printing projects to life, you don’t just want them to look okay. You want them to be professional, eye-catching, effective and just overall freakin’ fantastic!
When you put the right amount of time and money into the right places, you’ll experience the ROI your business deserves. Harmonic Media loves geeking out on typefaces and everything else print-related. That passion is what sets us apart in the print industry and we are ready to partner with you on your next project. Let’s get started!