Today we’re going to dive into what could be considered one of the world’s most boring topics: typography and fonts. Like streetlamps or trees, we see typography and fonts all day, every day, but never really notice them unless something is wrong.

WTF Is Typography, Anyway?

The overarching phrase “typography” is much larger than simply a “font,” and comprises many factors, from font size and type to the color and spacing of the letters in the text. It can also encompass the margins on the page, the alignment (left, center, right, justified), oh my god am I boring you yet? Well, stay with me. If you’re here to learn about marketing (or hire us, why don’t you!), then this is important.

Typography exists in both print and digital, though, naturally, it takes different forms. Nevertheless, when you’re looking at anything with text: posters, books, comic books, magazines, e-books, websites, product packages, banners, business cards, textbooks, power point presentations, paper documents, and digital documents — you’re looking at some form of typography.

The reason this is important is because when you’re creating your marketing materials, you will, at some point, need to make decisions on typography, and we at Mandel Marketing strongly recommend against leaving everything at default. This is a missed opportunity to have your work and your brand stand out from the competition. So, for example, when you’re doing your social media — whether posting or sending text messages — you’ll have typography choices and variations, even if it’s as simple as choosing bold text, underlined text, highlighted text, and/or italicized text. When it comes to font, as well, you’ll also have to decide if you want serif or sans serif fonts to represent your brand.

Typography As Representation

And this is the salient point: when you’re deciding on typography and fonts, you’re not simply choosing something that “looks pretty.” Rather, you are picking out representation–just like your logo, color palette, and other branding. And whether the typography in question deals with your company as a whole, a specific product or service, or your individuality and personhood, it’s still part of a brand.

People sometimes mistakenly think that only the text itself matters when trying to communicate a message to people. This is easily and demonstrably untrue:

The text on the left is humorous and interesting (if I don’t say so myself), while the text on the right is asinine. Yet the text on the right wins, because you can actually read it. It’s like listening to Beethoven on a walkman with headphones that are in someone else’s ears. (And for all your young marketing folks out there, a walkman was this thing where, like Spotify, or an iPod, well an iPod was this thing that was like… oh, never mind.)

A Brief History of Typography

Now then. If I’ve convinced you of the importance of typography, and you’re still reading, let’s dive in. For as long as the written word, typography in some form has existed. Even cave drawings and hieroglyphics can be considered early examples of typography. Typography had to be done by hand before printing presses existed. During this time, decorative choices like illuminated initials, calligraphy, and script were more common. But after the first printing presses were invented, typography could be more consistently established. Newspapers and typewriters demonstrate early typography developments, prior to the printers that we know today.

As computers became more developed and more popular, it became possible to do more and more with typography on them. Now, graphic designers can make nearly infinite typography choices at the click of a button. Even everyday consumers have access to hundreds of thousands of different typography combinations during their day to day online lives, . We particularly love Canva for this, though there are probably dozens of other great options as well.

Ornamental initial letter N – copper and wood vintage letterpress printing block

All About Fonts

Fonts have their origins in metal typesetting, where each font was a particular size, weight and style of a typeface. Now this applies digitally to the size, weight, style, color, and other attributes of any piece of text. Different popular fonts include times new roman, futura, comic sans, and franklin gothic. There are five major types of fonts to consider when making typography choices.

Five Basic Classifications of Typefaces

  • Serif. Serif fonts are generally considered the most common type of font used in typography. Each serif is a short stroke that extends outward away from the main strokes of any given character. These fonts are generally considered to be classic and elegant. Serif fonts are commonly used for titles and brand names.
  • Sans Serif.Sans serif fonts do not have any decorative or additional elements besides the main strokes of any given character. These types of fonts are simple and easy to read. For this reason they are growing in popularity.
  • Script.Script fonts are meant to replicate the look and feel of cursive lettering. Script fonts feature connected letters, curly elements, loops, and varying degrees of flourishes. Script fonts can be difficult to read but when used sparingly and carefully, they can also be beautiful. Script fonts should only be used in certain situations and on certain types of branding. Script font choices are not generally considered to be the most professional font choices in the field of typography.
  • Decorative.Decorative fonts can feature a wide range of different elements. These elements may be borrowed from other fonts or they may be completely unique and individualized. Decorative fonts are frequently used for product logos in order to make products stand out as more unique. Decorative fonts, like script fonts, should be used sparingly.
  • Slab Serif.Slab serif fonts are more blockish and squared off in nature than traditional serif fonts. These fonts are a bit more modern than traditional serif fonts. They pack a bold punch when used right, but are still clear and readable.

Choosing Fonts in Different Business Settings

It is important to pay careful attention to the situation when choosing a font and making other typography choices. Some situations will require more subdued typography choices. You do not want to risk being seen as unprofessional or unprepared because of typography mistakes. Typography choices that may be eye catching and appropriate in some situations will be completely ineffective and inappropriate in other situations. For example, script fonts in bold colors are completely ineffective typography choices for resumes or business communications. These choices are in poor taste and will create a negative impression on the reader.

In other situations, more subdued typography choices may come across as dull, ineffective, or even uncaring. This is why it is especially important to note the situation when choosing your font styles, font colors, font sizing, and other typography choices. By looking at a few example situations, it can best be understood how to make appropriate typography choices in various situations. Keep in mind that these are just a few theoretical examples. Real life situations will require personalized attention, thought, and care.

For example, an article in a magazine might have an attention-grabbing font for the title, with a bold slab serif font for the subtitle and traditional serif for the article. A business letter, however, should have a simple serif font that is easy to read.

Deciding on Fonts for A Website

When choosing the best fonts for your website, it is important to keep several different factors in mind. First, you will want to ask yourself two vital questions about your website. The first question is: what is your website about? If your website is about a serious topic, you will want to make more serious typography choices. For example, the website of a cancer physician is likely to have more professional and subdued typography choices. The second question is: Who is the audience of your website? For example, if the audience of your website is children, like with a gaming or educational website, you may want to make specific typography choices in order to cater to that audience. Children need large, legible fonts, but they also like eye catching color choices.

Advertising & Promotional Fonts

The goal of advertising is to make a strong impact on the mind of potential customers. This strong mental impact is what drives them to buy. When advertising a product, it is important to highlight the effectiveness of the product, the necessity of the product, and the problem solved by the product. When advertising, you will want to make unique and bold typography choices that stand out in a sea of brands competing for consumer attention. It is also vital to make sure that the brand name, product name, and important product info are clear to read from a distance. If there is any doubt about the readability of a piece of product advertising, it is a good idea to consult with a graphic designer.

Product Packaging

Packaging should reflect your brand’s identity in the most unique and memorable way possible. In the case of product packaging, typography choices can help to make a product feel more upscale or expensive. Memorable typography choices will stick in the customer’s mind. When it is time to purchase again, they are more likely to remember a specific product when there is a distinct visual reminder associated with it. Packaging should still be legible and easy to read. With packaging, it is also important to keep the audience in mind. Sometimes products targeted towards women will feature pink typography. Products for older people might utilize larger font sizes on packaging.

What About Typography for General Branding?

Branding should be consistent across the products or services offered by any business or brand, and that includes the font and typography. Note: this doesn’t mean you need to use the same font on your website as you do in your ads or your packaging, but the voice, theme, purpose, and goal should be aligned. For example, if your website is wacky and fun, your print ads should probably not be boring and sober (though, of course, there are exceptions where necessary).

This means that there are some important considerations that business owners and graphic designers need to take when making typography choices for branding scenarios. It is important to make typography choices that will work for all products and services offered by a brand, not just some of them. This will help to create brand unity. Brand unity makes products easier to recognize on shelves or websites and it also makes products more memorable to consumers.

Not sure where to start? Reach out to Mandel Marketing for a free consultation.