A few weeks ago I published the first of two posts on choosing color and type for your brand where I talked a little about the ways in which colors and typefaces are similar. it may sound silly, but each color and typeface has their own personality and without having a little knowledge on the subject you could end up with pairings that clash and give the wrong impression about your brand to your audience.
If you missed the first post that focused first on the topic of color psychology and palettes, you can catch up here. Then when you're ready you can come back and continue with this post on the subject of type.
Let’s Dive into Type
Your type palette is just as important to your brand as the colors you use and even your logo. Oh, yes. Even your logo. Your brand is the whole package. All of these things and more represent your business, its qualities and values. How you speak and represent your business comes through in all of these things not just the language you use. That being said, there is not a strict formula or exact science to choosing type, but learning a bit about it and its background can be a huge help to getting you going in the right direction.
These days the words font and typeface are used pretty interchangeably, but, if you must know, technically a typeface is the actual design of the type itself and many typefaces comes in different fonts, which is speaking of a particular size and weight within that typeface. So for example Helvetica, a typeface that many of us are probably familiar with, used at a 12pt size in bold weight is a font and 12pt light is a different font within the Helvetica family.
Now that we know the difference there below is a beginners guide graphic to give you an overview of the most common categories, a little about their background, and the qualities they are known to represent. Feel free to use this graphic for your own reference. This is just the basics so if you're interested in going more in depth I've included some resources at the end of the post.
So now that we've gone over some of the common categories and have a sense of how each category is commonly seen in terms of the feeling or vibe they give to the viewer. Think about how you want your brand to be seen. If you already have your logo and brand colors you should know your brand qualities and core values by heart. Knowing how you want your ideal customer to feel when they interact with your brand helps to guide your decision.
Just remember as I mentioned in the last post the choice shouldn’t be guided by personal preference. It should be a business decision made with your audience in mind. I’m not gonna pretend that much of choosing type is not at all subjective, of course, but try to let your choice at least be heavily influenced by your brand qualities and your audience’s personality.
If you’re still unsure, do a little research about type in design history. Look at how and where each typeface was used and what was the subject matter. Then be brave and start somewhere. Don’t worry. Your first choice doesn’t have to be a final decision. Maybe you know you want to begin with a serif style font because it fits the qualities that represent your brand. Just as with color, you can collect samples of ones you think will work and narrow it down from there.
Now let’s go on and look at some tips on how to pair one font with another. There are many ways to pair type and many pairing recommendations out there, although they might not be just right for your brand so it's good to explore on your own instead of just using someone's example of fonts that pair well. Even with these tips it does take practice to get a beautifully balance pairing. I'll give you a few examples myself to give you a place to start. Below are a few examples of different ways to pair fonts.
Just like colors, fonts can clash if not properly paired and the more you add to the mix the harder it becomes for them to compliment each other. They have to have enough similarities or complementary characteristics to be “good friends,” but if they are competing for the spotlight it can get chaotic.
The general rule is to stick to two maybe three typefaces in you palette at most. There are rare exceptions to this rule that you may see out there, but it doesn't fit every project and it takes some serious skill to make it work. You really have to know the rules well before you can bend or even break them. Again, it takes practice to get there.
While you're exploring and choosing typefaces you like, try to think of it this way. Each font you choose should have a role assigned to it. This helps keep consistency and avoid confusing your audience. These roles are much like movie roles. You have a leading role and supporting roles in most cases. These are the roles you'll most often see:
This is a lead role. In some situations there could be two roles. One for headers and one for subheaders. The subheader is still a kind of supporting role though. Sometimes the subheader can be the same typeface as the header in a different weight and size or it could be same as the body copy typeface in a different weight and size, but it’s generally not necessary or even a good idea to add in something completely different.
This is the supporting role. Make sure that whatever typeface you chose for this is made for easy readability. Don’t worry so much about san serif for web or serif for print. These days that’s not as much of an issue. Do keep in mind though that just because it’s a serif or san serif doesn’t mean it is quality made and good for body copy. Test it out to make sure before committing.
This is kind of a wild card supporting role or maybe like a cameo role of sorts. This is most often used for special headlines on things like banners or ads to emphasize, add a little of the unexpected or draw attention to a special promotion, but in small doses. This font can add a little something extra to your brand’s personality or just reinforce what’s there in a different way, but use it too much and it loses its power.
Keep Contrast in Mind
With all of your choices something to keep in mind is contrast. If you’re using a San Serif as your header and as your body copy you still need contrast between the two. That often shows itself in font weight and size and other times its could also be the contrast between the typefaces as well. Look back at the pairing tips to check out how contrast makes a difference.
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I hope this was helpful. It’s important to know why type and color are important and why we need to choose wisely when it comes to our brand. The visual identity of your brand is one way to attract your ideal customers, project professionalism and keep consistency showing your customer you care about what you do and in that building a relationship of trust.
Look around at what’s out there. Find pairings that are appealing and study why they might work together. The trick is to find the commonalities in different typefaces that make them work well together yet still maintain interesting contrast.
If you would like to learn more about type and how to use it here are some great resources: