You’ve been sitting at your computer for two hours now, trying to finish up a flyer for your business. If you could just find the right font, you could wrap this up and call it a night.
But you’ve been scrolling through all the options on your computer over and over and none of them seem right. You’ve looked online and even checked Pinterest for inspiration. The tens of thousands of options feel so overwhelming.
Exhausted and frustrated, you finally just pick whatever half-decent font you happen to land on next. It’s not perfect, but it’ll get the job done.
Like color, fonts can be pretty powerful. When they’re used right, they can help communicate your brand values and establish your tone. Fonts can convey different moods and have a subconscious effect on what you’re trying to communicate.
Thankfully, there’s a better way of choosing fonts than hopelessly scrolling through the limited selection on your computer over and over. And once you find the fonts that perfectly communicate your brand, the hard part is over. You can stick with those for years and avoid the pain of hunting for the perfect font every time you have a new promotional to make.
So what’s the secret to picking fonts that will work for your brand? Let’s start with some basic font categories.
With the crazy amount of fonts out there, it’s hard to make an exhaustive list of all the different styles out there. But here are some basic categories along with the impression they each make so you can make a decision about which is right for your brand.
While the very first fonts were based on handwriting, serif fonts came along and took over really early on. Most of our history since the Renaissance has been dominated by serif fonts, so it makes sense that they feel classic and sophisticated.
Serif fonts are really good at looking serious, so they’re a good match for no-nonsense brands who want to establish a more corporate feel. Don’t let that scare you away, though. They can also look chic and upscale. Think Vogue, Louis Vuitton, and Tiffany’s.
A serif font can also help you create a more traditional feel that connects your brand back to the history of your trade or industry. If you have a product or service that’s all about going back to the old way of doing things, a serif typeface is a great choice.
Sans serif fonts didn’t come along until the late 1800’s and didn’t gain popularity until the early 20th century. They were bold, new, exciting, and even a little controversial. Today, they still have a modern and progressive feel.
The strong lines in sans serif fonts create a feeling of stability that helps keep things balanced. Their clean lines come across as fresh and minimalistic.
Sans serif fonts are a good choice if you want to be perceived as dependable but modern. Google, Target, and Ikea all have sans serif logos.
Script fonts were invented in the 1950’s and are meant to look like calligraphy. They stand in sharp contrast to serif and sans serif fonts which have no room for the swashes and flair of script fonts.
Fonts in this category tend to evoke femininity, elegance, and romance. Because they are highly decorative and hard to read at small sizes, they should only be used for logos, headlines, and other small pieces of text.
Script fonts contrast really well with serif and sans serif fonts and you may want to use one for your logo or as an accent if your brand is feminine or high-end.
Hand lettered fonts have blown up in recent years, and I love it! They’re meant to look imperfect and handmade and create a very friendly and approachable feel because they look so casual and fun.
Go with a handlettering font if your brand is modern, personal, laid back, and a maybe even a little quirky. Like script fonts, handlettering fonts should be used sparingly because they can be difficult to read.
Overusing them can end up creating an impression of unprofessionalism and inexperience. Make sure you’re using them in the right context and balance them with a more traditional font.
Your Brand Fonts
Now that you know a little more about what different kinds of fonts communicate, you can make a better decision about what fits your brand and ideal client. What are your brand values and your brand tone? What is most likely going to resonate with your ideal client?
You don’t have to find a single font to do all the work of reflecting your brand. In addition to your logo font, it’s good to have two or three fonts to play with.
Your body font is what you’ll use in all your large blocks of text. It should be an unobtrusive serif or sans serif that’s easy to read and doesn’t call too much attention to itself. Make sure you choose something that comes in different weights, too. Having an italic and bold version of your body font is crucial since you’ll be using it so much.
Next, you should pick a headline font. This should be something that somehow contrasts your body font. You can go with the bold version of your body font or pick an entirely different one. This is a good opportunity to either balance or strengthen whatever mood your body font is creating.
The last step is to choose an accent font, and it’s totally optional. An accent font gives you more variety and an additional element to play with. Your accent font is something you use sparingly for extra emphasis. I went with the italic version of my body font, but this could be the perfect place to use a script or handlettered font if that’s what fits your brand.
The key to mixing fonts is contrast. Make sure the fonts you’re choosing are different enough from one another. They should be easy to distinguish at first sight. Also try playing with size, weight, italics, capitalization, and color. Three fonts is plenty when you have so many ways to make them look different!
Write down your brand fonts on a post-it for easy reference until you memorize them. Stay consistent and don’t give into the temptation to use other fonts. Just like you wouldn’t change your logo or your color scheme for every single thing you put out, you shouldn’t change your fonts without a really really good reason. Consistency builds trust and brand recognition.
There are tons of places you can download free fonts, but you have to be careful. Not all fonts are created equal and a lot of the free ones aren’t high quality. The only places I ever go for free or pay-what-you-want fonts are:
- Google Fonts is awesome because no matter what font you choose, it’ll be relatively easy to add it to your website.
- Lost Type Co-Op has a good mix of basic and trendy decorative fonts. Some have a set price for commercial use, so make sure you’re watching out for that.
- League of Moveable Type: has great fonts, but some have been a little overused. Be careful.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for there, the next place to look is a type foundry. Fonts can get quite pricey, but they’re totally worth it when you find the perfect one. These are my favorite sites for paid fonts:
- My Fonts probably has the biggest collection of fonts out there. You can find almost anything here. They update theirs special offers regularly.
- Creative Market is a great place for cheap, trendy, and hand lettered fonts.
Need some inspiration or more guidance on fonts? Check out this Pinterest board I created just for fonts and typography: