Who Knew Choosing the Right Font Could Be So Hard?

Deciding which fonts to use for your printed materials can seem like an impossible task. There are thousands of fonts available to download for free. But how do you choose a font that matches the vision and image of your company? You need to appear professional but not stuffy. Creative but not cutesy. Trendy but still timeless.

A Walt Disney font might be a great choice for your scrapbook, but it’s definitely not appropriate for your marketing materials. You may think your company deserves to shine like Steve Wynn’s Las Vegas lights, but you’re likely the only one who feels that way.

Let’s examine the world of fonts and how to choose which are best when it comes to your printed marketing materials.

Serif or sans serif

A serif font has small lines trailing from the edges of the letters. Common serif fonts are Times New Roman and Garamond.

A sans serif font (“sans” is the French word meaning “without”) doesn’t have the small lines on the letters. Common sans serif fonts are Arial and Helvetica.

Purpose and mood

Your company’s purpose should guide you to a certain group of fonts. For example, if you own a funeral home, you should stay with something professional and subdued like Times New Roman. If you run a pet-sitting service, then a more light-hearted font such as Lucida Handwriting would be appropriate.

Contrast

It’s perfectly okay to mix and match different fonts. In fact, it’s encouraged. Using a different font for section titles than for the section body keeps the printed piece interesting. Using the same font throughout an entire tri-fold brochure can look boring and drab.

Legibility

Choose a font that is easy to read. While suitable for titles and headings, avoid using script or handwriting fonts for the main body of your text.

Generous spacing

Some fonts, such as Impact and Arial Narrow, place the letters close together. These fonts are acceptable for titles and headings, but avoid using them for the main sections of your text, as they will be difficult to read.

Keep it simple

Don’t use too many fonts. The page will end up looking busy and confusing. Typically, it’s best to keep it to two fonts –- one serif and one sans serif. Use sans serif for titles and headings, and serif for the main body of text.

Err on the side of caution

For your first print order, it’s best to play it safe. Use common fonts, and be conservative. As you grow more comfortable with using different fonts, feel free to branch out and try new fonts.

Keep a list

After you’ve printed your materials, you’ll no doubt form a better opinion on the fonts you chose. Keep a running list of fonts that worked and those that didn’t. When it comes time to reprint your materials, replace fonts that didn’t do the job.

Common fonts

Here is a list of fonts that are commonly used.

  • Arial
  • Century Gothic
  • Garamond
  • Helvetica
  • Impact
  • Palatino
  • Times New Roman

Deciding which fonts to use can seem overwhelming at first. But once you’ve spent a little time working with them, you’ll get a feel for which ones fit the bill and which ones don’t.

Amy Kirkegaard is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of current topics.

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