Font Usage: You’re Doing It Wrong!

EAG, March 24, 2014

font usage as explained by this image of Gutenberg in black and whitePsst…we have a secret to tell you…your fonts are wrong!

That’s right. When it comes to fonts, you’re doing it wrong. Well, not you specifically perhaps. But enough examples exist in the public eye that we feel it’s our civic duty as a respected small business advertising agency to lay down the law, so to speak. No, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to fonts. There are, however, best practices that we all should follow to get the message across while supporting the brand.

Recognize this man? He’s Johannes Gutenberg and he introduced printing to Europe and invented mechanical movable type around 1439. Some regard the event as the most important of the modern period.

We wonder what his opinion would be on the age-old question: sans serif or serif?

Regardless of what the father-of-fonts would choose for web or print, you’ll be best served to let the impression and mood you want to create guide you. Are you trying to sell wedding planning services or tickets to a monster truck show? Do you want people to trust you with financial investments or just to dry clean their slacks? You’ll want to make sure your font usage reflects the product, service or event that you sell. In other words, don’t use a cursive script to advertise your uncle’s heavy metal garage band.

Fonts are meant to be read – so keep them readable!

If you want your font to be read, start by keeping legibility and readability in mind. High legibility improves a viewers ability to decipher between letters and characters. High readability lets them read text with ease. They go hand it hand. Sometimes fine tuning your copy and letters will achieve the level of legibility and readability you want. You can adjust the tracking, kerning and leading to help accomplish this. These are fancy design words for tweaking overall space between letters in the body of text (tracking), space between individual letters or characters (kerning) and space between lines of copy (leading).

Simple sells (seriously).

Nothing you sell or offer benefits from using 900 fonts in your advertising. Okay, that’s overly dramatic, but even nine gives us a headache. Choosing more than one font to coexist in one ad takes skill and practice. Fonts need a core similarity to work together, but also the right amount of contrast to share the same space. If you insist on that extra font to add some personality and pizzazz to your piece, use it in headlines and avoid it in any body copy or smaller text. That way it won’t overwhelm and lose its impact.

Build a font hierarchy for your content. Try selecting a font family to use, which includes variations in weight and style, such as condensed bold, medium and light italic. This usually eliminates the need for another font style. Does the font family have enough variations to allow for content hierarchy? Headlines, subheads and call outs? The font should break out and break up content, guiding the reader along from the most to least important information. Map out your hierarchy of font usage before – or at least simultaneously. This will create content flow, keeping it nice, tidy and organized.

Oh! My eyes, my EYES!!!

There are three fonts that we cannot advocate usage in way, shape or form. Ever. They are Papyrus (even if you are writing a book on ancient Egypt), Comic Sans (even if you are an elementary school teacher) and Curlz (even if you work for the circus). The world and our collective sense of good taste will be the better for it.

Still need help?

If you still need help nailing your font usage, brand message (including the look and feel), give us a call. We spend all day finding solutions for small businesses, helping them take the next step as they grow and evolve.  Graphic design, media buying and planning, digital marketing… if it plays a role in helping your business grow, you’ll find experts to help you harness it at EAG Advertising & Marketing.


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