The key font formula you need for your brand to be taken seriously

So if you have ever spent time chatting to me about design, you know I am fairly obsessed with fonts - and even designed one of my own once! 

Most graphic designers I know are pretty hot about this topic too. That's because designers know the full power of typography to transform the look, feel and experience of your website and branding.

Someone else you've heard of also felt pretty strongly about it too. Steve Jobs. Here's what he said in the Commencement address he gave at Stanford in 2005: 

The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting...And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and sans serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.
— Steve Jobs

 

There's a lot in this quote that speaks to me (aside from the talk of serif and sans serif!) particularly what he said about the power of following your curiosity and intuition and how it can make all the difference in life. It's definitely something that resonates with my own life experience. (If you'd like to read the whole speech or watch the video, click here.)

But back to fonts. Fonts have an interesting role: function AND beauty.

On the one hand, they can be works of art in themselves, as you can see on this site. In fact, the best fonts have great stories behind them. Many fonts were designed by interesting people for a specific purpose and they intentionally evoke a mood or feeling and also a period of history. If you're having a hard time believing this, look up Gill, Futura, Garamond, Baskerville and Helvetica, and that's just for starters!

On the other hand, since fonts are functional, you don't want to attract attention to your fonts when you design something. You do want people to be busy reading your content rather than having their attention pulled away by your font choices.

Remember, your reader is actively looking for reasons to stop reading, so your branding, overall design, and typography needs to capture their finite attention to keep them interested. 

In web design, when fonts are used intentionally, they add to the user experience. Which is why when you work on your branding, you really need to develop a font palette

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What's a font palette?

Your font palette is made up of 3 or 4 fonts that you use consistently across all your materials and communications.

Don't be tempted to sneak another one in, and say "It's just for this brochure"! Whenever people come across anything you create, it should be distinctly, resognizably you.

If we spread out all your materials on a table, would they all have the same look and feel? The answer should be a definite yes. 

This is not about being rigid. Instant brand recognition separates you from your competitors and instantly makes you look like the real deal. For a brand to have a clear personality, and a ‘voice’, then it’s imperative to maintain visual and tonal consistency. That includes your fonts.

And when we're talking about your online presence, the right font palette is not just about your brand's look and feel. It actually increases your conversions by calling attention to the elements you want your visitors to focus on.

 

Here are the ONLY 3-4 fonts that should make up your font palette:

  1. First we have header fonts. These should be clean and easy to read when in capital letters. The right headline can double or triple conversions! This is especially the case when using a font that calls attention to your headlines.
  2. Title fonts, including subheadings, need to be easy to read and eye-catching. Your titles are the most important copy on your web pages, because some readers will ONLY read these. (This also means your copy has to be on point and well structured, but that's for another article!)
  3. Next we have your body text which must be extremely easy to read. Do not ever use a script font or embellished font in your body copy. I also recommend keeping it 100% consistent across all your materials - in other words, if you're using a sans serif font for your body text online, use that same font in your print materials too.
  4. Now for the fun font! This one is optional. Think of this font as a visual accent to highlight key content and to break up pages with lots of content to maintain the visual flow. This font can have a more personal, even playful feel such as a hand-written or script font. It is also effective when this is the font used in your logo and is then used sparingly throughout your content as an accent.

 

HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR FONTS

 

1  |  Think about the feeling you are trying to evoke

 

Font choices usually set the tone for the design and can influence your audiences’ feelings about your brand. If you want to be a high-end glamour brand, you're not going to show up a in t-shirt and yoga pants and you're not going to use Times New Roman or Arial.

Fonts have personalities and you want to choose fonts with personalities that match your brand and type of content. So what's your brand personality? High energy? Harmonious? Playful? 

When combining fonts, put together typefaces that work well together. To create a feeling of harmony you would use fonts with similar attributes. To create a feeling of energy and momentum, use contrast – for example, bold and light, traditional and modern, serif and sans serif, etc. Using contrasting typefaces also creates visual interest.

 

 

2  |  Find fonts with shared qualities

 

Fonts that look significantly different but share a common element are more likely to work well together. Unifying qualities might be letter height or width, or two fonts that share an underlying structure. Typefaces that exhibit at least one similar property will help give your font combination a more unified look.

If this sounds too difficult, here's a tip: find fonts by the same designer. Typeface designers often design with a recognizable aesthetic. Their fonts will share a look or structure that makes them pair more naturally.

➳  Want to know the best places to find fonts? Read my list of fonts resources here. 

 

3  |  Give each font a job

Your fonts will need to be different enough that they work to create a clear visual hierarchy — showing viewers where to look and what’s important. Visual hierarchy is defined by the designer through the sizing of elements and determines the order that text is read. The eye is naturally drawn to large or dominant elements, so the largest font sizes will be read first, which is why the sizing of titles matters.

The page title should always be the largest font on the page and no other element should use the same size. Heading sizes should correspond with importance. Subheadings should always be smaller than the title. The body copy should be smaller than any heading, so size your fonts accordingly.

To read more on font pairing, and to download 10 solid font pairings for your brand, read my post Great font pairs for successful branding.

 
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➳ DOWNLOAD THE FONT PAIRS CHEAT SHEET! 

 

When you’re ready to get serious about your brand, I highly recommend choosing a designer who can help you develop a branded color palette, a custom logo, guide you in selecting the right fonts and even the style of imagery you want to use. 

Now it's your turn to tell me, do you have a favorite font?