To Serif, or Not to Serif? And that’s just the beginning…

How To Choose The Right Typeface - Social Stylate

How to choose the right typeface for your project

Hello! Julia here, Social Stylate’s graphic designer, and I’m here to talk (type?) typefaces. I have been an artist since I could grip a pen, and a graphic designer since I “artfully arranged” my first tri-fold science board in grade school. Back in the day (aka the glory days of Windows 95), all I had to work with were the 20 or so preloaded Windows fonts, back when Comic Sans was fun and Papyrus was exotic. With the explosion of font availability in the form of type kits and open-source sites, the selection can be both thrilling and overwhelming. With that in mind, I wanted to share my concept/thought process when it comes to choosing a typeface for a project.

When approaching a graphic design project, one of the first questions is almost always which typeface should I use. Then the questions begin… I find that after a few basic questions I generally can find my direction:

How much type are we working with? The first question is always “how much?”. A large body of text in paragraph form has different readability considerations than an event invitation. One design principle that’s constantly scrolling through my mind as I’m designing a layout with type is “hierarchy of information.” This simply means the scale of each element (i.e. type) will dictate its importance. Scale is one of the most basic ways to control your viewer’s eye (and ensure that they see the important stuff first!). Once I know how much I’m working with, I can begin to prioritize the visual information.

Which fonts/typefaces are (possibly) required? Is there branding is being associated with this type? If it is not a standalone piece of work, then there is some creative leeway. If this is for a brand, the “rules” have already been established, and it’s the responsibility of the designer to maintain the visual continuity by using the same font family.

Who is the target audience, and what is the message? The font choice must be congruent to the messaging of the artwork. A PSA shouldn’t be cartoonish, a child’s party shouldn’t be a study in the Bauhaus School of Design. You get the picture.

Where will this be displayed? Will the work be in print, or on the web? Or both? Is the typeface setting the mood with a dramatic headline, or is it supporting beautiful artwork? It may sound a little obvious to say that readability is paramount, but it can easily be lost in translation when artwork stretches across formats and sizes.

I adore an on-trend typeface, and nowadays they are more accessible than ever. However, when it comes to typefaces, the most important thing to me is restraint. Typefaces are beautiful, and some have been around for centuries (see: Garamond, Bodoni, Grotesk), and they shine gorgeously on their own with a little breathing room. Remember, good design is invisible. Happy typing!

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