Whether you’re a business owner picking out brand fonts or a graphic designer choosing a font for a specific project, you know that choosing the right font can make or break a design.
Knowing how to choose a font that fits the aesthetic of your brand or project, while also being readable and visually appealing, is essential in creating cohesive and polished designs, establishing a consistent visual identity, and increasing brand recognition.
With so many types of fonts to choose from, it can be easy to spend hours browsing through fonts to find the perfect one. This article will take you through everything to consider when picking out the right font for your brand or design project so you can easily narrow down your search and decide on a font.
Although the terms “font” and “typeface” are typically used interchangeably (we’ll be the first to raise our hands here!), there’s actually a distinction between the two, as you can read in our article Typeface vs. Font. Technically, we’re talking about choosing a typeface in this article, but since “font” is the commonly used term, that’s how we’ll refer to it too.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Fonts
The Purpose or Goal of the Project
The first thing to consider when choosing the right font is the purpose of the project you’re working on. In other words, what’s the end goal you want to achieve?
For example, if the purpose of your design is to create a poster or book cover, you may choose an on-theme display font that looks best in short phrases or titles and pair it with a secondary font for subheadings and supplemental text.
On the other hand, if you’re designing business materials, like resumes, memos, or letterhead, a sans-serif or serif typeface is a more suitable choice since they’re easier to read and considered more professional.
The Brand’s Personality
Brand personality is another essential factor when choosing the right typeface for your project. Since fonts are an essential element in establishing a brand’s identity and keeping that brand identity consistent, it’s important to make sure the font you choose doesn’t stray too far from the core personality of the brand.
For example, an elegant formal script font is more appropriate for brands with sophisticated personalities than for brands with rugged personality types.
Typically, professional designers are given designated brand fonts to use if they’re working on a marketing or branding project. However, for designers who are given a bit of creative freedom to choose their own fonts, keeping the brand’s personality top of mind will ensure your typeface selection fits in with the brand’s overall aesthetic.
Along with making sure your font fits the purpose and brand personality of your design, it’s important to consider the psychology behind the fonts you plan to use in your project as well. We do a deep dive into the psychology of fonts in a previous article. In general, font psychology focuses on the thoughts and emotional responses that fonts evoke in a reader.
If you’re designing a business card for a law firm, for example, you’ll want to use fonts traditionally viewed as professional, like a serif or slab serif font. If you’re designing something more informal and laid-back, like an invitation for a birthday party, a more casual font like a handwritten or script typeface is more suitable.
This sounds obvious, but it’s worth pointing out that the font you choose should enhance the overall mood of your design. For example, if you’re designing an event poster for a Halloween haunted house, you’ll want to use a decorative font that looks eerie or spooky.
If you’re creating a design with a romantic mood, like a wedding invitation, you’ll want to use a font that feels romantic, like a brush script.
Measuring the mood of a project depends a lot on personal instinct. As a general rule of thumb, if a font feels suitable for the design you’re creating, chances are, it is right.
Legibility and Readability
One of the most important aspects of choosing a font is to make sure it’s readable. Readable fonts will allow your audience to take in the most critical pieces of information from your design.
Think about using a calligraphy font, for instance. A calligraphy font looks wonderful as a title or heading for an invitation to a fancy wedding or dinner party. However, if you were to write the entire body of the invitation (date, location, event details) in the same calligraphy font, it would be very difficult to read and understand the key details.
If we use the calligraphy font for the title and use a sans serif font for the details, the design overall would look more balanced. Most importantly, readers would be able to easily understand the information.
Along with using appropriate font pairings, font legibility is also determined by the medium in which the font is used. For example, sans serif fonts are considered more suitable for web or digital designs since they’re easiest to read on a digital screen. Meanwhile, serif fonts are considered most suitable for printed bodies of text, like in books and instruction manuals, because serifs are easiest to see visually on a printed page.
Want to Learn More?
We have an entire article that explains which font types are best suited for different uses. You can read more about different types of fonts and the best ways to use them.
Tips for Picking Fonts
1. Avoid Using Too Many Different Fonts
Less is more when it comes to the number of different fonts you use in a single design. Typically, designs have no more than two or three fonts. This includes a primary font (or a title font), a secondary font (or a subheading font), and a body font for the smallest text that will be on the design.
Designating a title font, subheading font, and body font will keep information visually organized, especially if your design uses long-form text (like blog articles or invitations). It will also keep your design from being too overwhelming or confusing to readers.
2. Consider Contrast in Font Pairings
Contrast is key to making sure your design looks cohesive and well-balanced. Remember the calligraphy wedding invitation example we discussed earlier? That exact principle can be applied here.
Instead of using a calligraphy font to design an entire invitation from top to bottom, we can create contrast by pairing the calligraphy font (used as a title font) with a sans-serif font (used for the body text).
The straight, simple lines of the sans-serif font would contrast nicely with the flourishing curves of the calligraphy font, creating a cohesive look that is easy to read and is still elegant and fits in nicely with the project’s overall mood.
3. Choose Your Primary Font First
Since primary fonts are considered the focal point of a design (think of it the primary font as a statement piece that initially grabs the attention of the reader), it’s best to choose the primary font first, then let the primary font inform the secondary and body text fonts you’ll use throughout your project. (The primary font is usually the most decorative font, and the secondary and body text fonts should be more minimal in style.)
So, to put it all together, first, you’ll choose a primary font, then consider which other fonts will contrast with the primary font you selected. It will help to place the font pairings you’re considering together in a word document or design program so you can actually see how they’ll look if you use them together.
When you find a pairing that looks visually appealing, is readable and fits in with your design’s overall purpose and personality, you’ve got a font combination you can use.
Final Thoughts on Choosing Fonts
Overall, knowing how to choose fonts for a project starts with understanding the purpose and mood of your project and considering how much text your design uses, which fonts contrast nicely, and how the fonts you use will make your readers feel.
By using the guidelines and tips above, you can confidently start each project off on the right foot by knowing you’ve selected the perfect fonts for the design.