Fonts make up nearly every type of graphics people see in daily life. If you drive down the road and view a billboard, the font used makes the sign easy to read and has an emotional impact. If you visit a website, the font used can convert you into a subscriber or entice you to buy an item. Different fonts appear on greeting cards, in magazines and online. We see fonts hundreds of times every day. Consider that a designer spent time choosing the right one to create exactly the right impact.
Whether you’ve worked as a designer for many years or you’re an amateur, choosing the right font is never an easy task. The way letters look and the kerning might be readable on a computer screen but not so much in real life.
Some fonts have an emotional impact you might not want. For example, if a lot of funeral homes use a particular font and you use it on your party invitation, it could evoke feelings of sadness rather than joy. On the other hand, if you’re trying to evoke a certain emotion or tap into a memory, you can use fonts to accomplish the task.
You may be familiar with some of the typographers of the past, having studied them in design school. But, do you know today’s up and rising stars? If they are behind one of the featured fonts, we’ll share information on their work and what you might expect to see in the future.
The goal with this font series is to get up close and personal with some of today’s most popular options. Once you know a font, the ways it’s used and the emotions it evokes, it’s much easier to narrow your choice down to just one or two fonts for your project.
History of Fonts
The word font itself comes from the Middle French word “fonte” and means something melted, which refers back to a time when metal workers cast metal type at foundries. When printing presses came into being, a font referred to a complete set of type, including both upper and lower case letters.
Today, we have digital typefaces, and the word encompasses more than just a single metal plate. Serif and sans-serif fonts have been around for hundreds of years. While there are many more available today thanks to the advance of digital graphics, they still tend to fall within specific categories of design.
Many of the more modern fonts were inspired by old typefaces and adapted for viewing on a screen instead of in print. In the last few years, mobile devices have become even better at presenting high resolution images.
What do technology changes mean for designers? The fonts that worked when computers first entered the scene may appear fuzzy today. You want a crisp font that’s easy to read and doesn’t distract from the message.
Whenever possible, we look for examples of where fonts are used. If they convert well to mobile devices and smaller screens, we’ll share that information. If they work best as a headline, then you’ll know to only use the typeface in certain types of projects.
The joy of writing a complete font series is the ability to dig down into each one and really get to know it, how to use it and what the pros and cons of each look are.
Typography and Fonts
Many people use the terms “font” and “typeface” interchangeably. However, typography is more of an artistic skill where you design letters to have a certain impact and leave an impression on the reader. Typography involves the hierarchy of a design and can include more than one type of font. Each font has a very specific personality and details that no other font matches exactly. There are numerous types of fonts, but most fall into one of the following categories:
Have feet at the end of letters or a little swirl detail. Some examples of popular serif fonts include Georgia, Garamond, Didot and Baskerville.
Serifs are frequently used in books, newspapers and anything with a lot of body text. They can work well for headlines for a traditional, easy-to-read look.
No feet at ends of letters. Letters are plain and blocky-looking. Some examples of popular serif fonts include Georgia, Garamond, Didot and Baskerville. You’ve likely encountered sans serif fonts when seeing Helvetica, Futura, Raleway and Monserrat. Arial is another highly popular sans serif typeface that Microsoft made popular as its default font.
Sans works well for a more modern, informal look, such as on a preschool flyer or a fun event.
Scripts look like handwriting or fancy calligraphy. These fonts resemble written cursive. They have a traditional, old world feel.
Script fonts work well for invitations and formal events. Some of the more beautiful script fonts you should consider include Edwardian Script, Euphoria, Dancing Script and Great Vibes.
If you’re looking for a fun novelty font used to make an impact, decorative fonts add a lot of personality. A decorative font might include a letter with flames coming out of the top or polka dots inside a three-dimensional letter.
Because they can be harder to read, reserve the specialty fonts for a single letter, logos or places where the swirls and embellishments won’t be hard on a reader’s eyes. Some examples of decorative fonts include Abril Fatface, Papayrus, Cracked and Playbill.
Thousands of different fonts are available to designers. More are added all the time, and you also have the option to hand-letter a font and come up with something truly unique. A simple search reveals thousands from which to choose. But we want to help you narrow down the choices to the best fonts out there.
Fonts in Design Work
You could argue that the number of fonts is limitless. Some are used more frequently than others, such as Times New Roman. Times New Roman was the default font for many years in word processing programs. Many professors and editors over the years required submissions in TNR font. It was easy to measure the word count based on the size of the font in 12-point.
There are a number of uses today for this popular font. The font you choose says a lot about the project you’re working on. A more traditional font lends itself to a feeling of reliability and steadiness. A decorative font can send the message that your brand is young and innovative. Even though the right font evokes a specific emotion, readability should always win over design. If the text isn’t readable on a small device as well as on a large one, it isn’t the right font.
There may be times when you know the emotion you want to evoke with a font and you choose accordingly but the result isn’t what you expected. Try to find a list of similar fonts, which most of the articles in this series already have in place for you, or choose one of the “Pairs Well With” options instead.
Font Series Focus
The focus of this font series is on a variety of different styles. That way you can find something compatible with nearly any type of project. Century Gothic is one example font exploration, researching the history and the uses for this interesting font family. The font was released in 1991 based on a 20th-century drawing created sometime between 1936 and 1947.
It’s best used for headlines and larger blocks of text. We delve into the various characteristics of this font that make it stand out, such as the thick, round dots over the letter “i” and the letter “j.” The font has a tall x-height, which is important if you need to fill a specific space with a taller font than normal. On the other hand, Comic Sans may have gotten a bad rap over the years, but it does have potential for school flyers and education-related websites.
We also look at lesser known fonts, such as Gotham, Brody and Athene. Whether you want a humanistic font or a modern one, you’re sure to find some options for your next project. You’ll gain much insight from these chapters if you love font history and their purposes.
We add to the font series regularly, so if the font you love isn’t here now, check back. We cover the wide variety of traditional and new creations to help our readers find fresh inspiration for their designs.
The Font Series:
Each chapter features a specific font and includes an in-depth look at each one. We’ll look at its origins, where it’s commonly found and discuss which types of work the font best works with. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to create your own font! Have a favorite font you want to see in the guide? We’re always open to adding to the guide. Leave it in the comments below!
The Font Series Guide: Introduction
Chapter 1: 15 Google Fonts You Should Be Using
Chapter 2: Times New Roman
Chapter 3: Roboto
Chapter 4: Georgia
Chapter 5: Verdana
Chapter 6: Helvetica
Chapter 7: Comic Sans
Chapter 8: Didot
Chapter 9: Arial
Chapter 10: Tahoma
Chapter 11: Garamond
Chapter 12: Century Gothic
Chapter 13: Brody
Chapter 14: Bromello
Chapter 15: Savoy
Chapter 16: Athene
Chapter 17: Calibri
Chapter 18: Proxima Nova
Chapter 19: Anders
Chapter 20: Monthoers
Chapter 21: Gotham
About The Author
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.