Typography, like colour selection, when done properly is a whole science in itself.
Again, it’s not just choosing fonts that you like, but ones that reflect your brand personality.
Fonts like colours have personality and character. So, just as you would select the colour range that reflects your brand values, the typeface you select should also reflect those values.
What is a typeface?
Typeface is the term for a family of fonts. A good typeface usually includes a regular, bold and italic font. Selecting a typeface that already contains different fonts makes it easier to ensure a consistent look.
That way you don’t have to go searching for matching or complimentary typefaces when you want a bolder font for a header or italic type to highlight copy. Google fonts is an excellent place to start for a huge range of typefaces.
The basics of typography
For the non-graphic designers out there, here are 3 basics that will help you navigate the world of typography.
1. Serif vs Sans Serif
Typefaces are broadly classified into ones that have a “decorative” stroke at the end of the letter, aka Serif, and those without, Sans Serif (sans in Latin mean without). Because of the stroke, Serif characters generally carry more weight and have come to be associated with a more traditional and serious feel.
Sans serif fonts, without the strokes, have a lighter and more “modern” feel.
Although you should generally stick to one typeface for your brand, it is common to combine Serif and Sans Serif typefaces as complimentary types to highlight headers from the body of a text.
2. Kerning and Tracking
Kerning is the spacing between pairs of letters, while tracking is the overall space across letters in a word. Both play a significant role in the readability of text. You normally don’t need to touch the tracking or kerning of a font, especially for the body of a text.
The main instances where good designers adjust the kerning or tracking is in titles and headers. The larger size of the letters in headers make discrepancies in the spaces between letters more obvious and so may need some adjustment.
3. Leading and Rhythm in typography
Leading is the vertical space between adjacent lines of type. The words actually reference the pieces of lead that old-fashioned press printers used to use, to create the space between lines of copy.
Rhythm in typography refers to how copy on a page looks vertically and horizontally, making it easier or harder to read.
Vertical rhythm is determined by the leading, otherwise better known these days as line-height. A good rule of thumb to ensure the readability of a page: line-heights between body text and headers should be based on a multiple of the line-height of the body text.
How do you select the right typeface or font for your brand?
There are thousands of typefaces and fonts. Even if you narrow down that your brand is better represented by a Serif type how can you tell which is the right one?
Here are 2 practical rules that can help:
1. Choose a typeface that has a good selection of different fonts.
I usually try to find one that has 3 different weights (e.g. Regular, Bold or Medium, Thin or Light) and an italic. Even better if the italic comes in the 3 weights.
2. Understand what type of content your brand will mostly be sharing.
Is it long-form articles, or shorter text and smaller paragraphs? In general, Serif typefaces are easier to read, which is why most long-form copy like books and essays use a Serif font. However, online, where most content is in shorter paragraphs or sentences, sans serif for body text can work.
Example of choosing the right typeface
As a B2B marketing services agency we wanted to communicate a clean, professional and modern personality. Hence we chose a sans serif font, Poppins by Indian Type Foundry.
As the first open source font from Adobe and available free on Google Fonts, this font is easily accessible and readily downloadable. This mean the likelihood of our content rending in its original font on anyone’s device would be higher than either a custom or licensed font.
Source Sans Pro includes 12 styles from Extra Light to Black (aka Extra-Bold) and italic types, so we didn’t need to go searching for complimentary typefaces for bold headers to italicise text in a paragraph.