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Choosing a Font — RULE 1

There are literally thousands and thousands of typefaces available for use on computers these days. Choosing a font to use for a particular project can be downright daunting. Of course, the truth is, most people don’t give this a lot of thought. Most of us work with only a small number of fonts, those that come along with our software packages. Unless needed for a very particular task, we rarely, if ever, go out and purchase fonts or even download fonts available for free.

Nonetheless, even when selecting fonts from a more limited list–hundreds instead of thousands–some general rules of good graphical design are useful. What follows is the first of four general rules for the selection of typeface. We’ll post one rule each day. If you’re interested in a deeper look at the topic, we’ve provided a list of links at the bottom of this post to an amazing array of fascinating web sites. These sites, mostly designed by and for graphic designers, go into deep contemplation of such things as, for example, choosing a font whose x-height and serif shape suite the subject matter of the text. Really.

RULE 1
Consider the content. If you’re designing a wedding invitation, the fonts you’ll be drawn to are not likely to be the same ones you’d be drawn to while making an advertisement for a garage sale. Seems obvious but matching the font to the content is rule number one.

Fonts convey a mood in themselves and can be used quite effectively to reinforce the intended theme, mood or tone of the message. Typefaces are, after all, just part of getting a message across, communicating. A simple example of the idea that fonts have personalities can be seen in comparing the fictional company names in this graphic, each name is presented in two different fonts.

Does the font fit the name?

The fonts used in the blue, left hand column seem to produce dissidence, the style of the typeface conflicts with the sort of business the name suggests. Would you agree?  We ask because this idea of font personalities is somewhat subjective. There are web site which offer personality tests  (in jest, we think) and match you with the font which bests suites your personality. Here’s a link to one such site.

So, to the extent possible, look at the font and see if the personality it is projecting–playful, bold, romantic, traditional, cutting edge, trustworthy, etc.–fits with the topic of the mateiral being typeset. That’s rule number one.

Tomorrow, RULE 2 — Do not go crazy with fonts!

Links to more on typefaces:

We must start with a link to our friend John Boardley’s blog entry on choosing type: http://ilovetypography.com/2008/04/04/on-choosing-type/

Another designer blog with a nice article on choosing fonts:
http://www.allgraphicdesign.com/graphicsblog/2008/04/how-to-choose-the-right-fonts-for-your-graphic-design-projects/

A very sophisticated site that allows one to compare text blocks produced in different typefaces on the screen:
http://www.typetester.org/

Fun site that lists Book Cover Design winners by font used on the cover:
http://fontfeed.com/archives/top-ten-typefaces-used-by-book-design-winners/

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