Monday, August 8, 2011

FAMP: Choosing a font

Designer, Joe LaRue
Today I am honored to share the marketing perspective of designer Joe LaRue. Joe has many years in the visual business and has created everything from print to websites to film to stage direction. If you are needing any type of design work including blogs, websites, book covers or book trailers, Joe is the go-to guy. I encourage you to check out his stuff, just cuz it's great! 

And here he is...

Greetings everyone! Laura has asked me to share a few thoughts about how to use fonts - so I’ll share with you a few basic principles that I apply to every project I do, whether it’s designing a blog template, a brochure, logo, or book layout. 

1. Understand the feeling a font evokes. Though it’s one of the most overused fonts, Trajan has been used on countless book covers and movie posters because the letterforms suggest instant credibility. Due to its overuse, the font is often ridiculed, but still pops up everywhere - most recently it can bee seen starring in the opening credits of ‘Cowboys and Aliens.” It’s important to choose fonts that flow with the message being conveyed. Serif fonts generally feel more formal, while sans serif are cleaner, though perhaps plainer on the page. The nice thing about messing with blog templates is that you can test different fonts and see how it affects the overall feel of the page before committing to it. It’s also very easy to change the different type categories in a blog. I will often test 5 or 6 different looks before one pops out as “the one.” 

2. Don’t use too many different fonts. Most graphic designers have it beaten into their heads that they should never use more than three fonts on a project. There are of course exceptions, but this is a pretty good rule to stick with. Generally, you will want to choose a display font (for headlines and main titles), a body text font, and a ‘highlight’ font (for sub-headers). Picking three fonts is easy, but choosing three fonts that look good together is much trickier. 

3. Have fun with the display font. The display font should be the most distinctive - in the Harry Potter books, this is the signature font used for every chapter heading. On Laura’s blog, it’s the curlicued font ‘rodeo’ used for her title at the top. But imagine if an entire Harry Potter book was set in the display font - the reader would quit after chapter 1. 

3. Choose contrasting fonts. Picking the subheader and the body text fonts and having them look good together can be challenging. Here is a really detailed guide (29 considerations!) for matching fonts, but the easiest way to go is to contrast a serif with a sans serif font. Fonts with similar weight, but from two different categories often look good together. Sometimes the easiest and safest bet is to use two versions of the same font, but in contrasting weights (bold, thin, book, ultra bold) and widths (narrow, condensed, wide).

4. Set your rules for usage, and never waver. Design consistency is important! Don’t suddenly start using your subheader font as a headline, or your body text font as a subheader - fortunately blogger and wordpress make it easy to be consistent with these rules.

5. Break the rules! These are just basic guidelines - and there are always exceptions. The key factors in designing your look should be readability and appropriateness to your message. Test many options and seek feedback on what works. 

Thank you so much, Joe, for teaching us a thing or two. All fonts look the same to me, so I am much in need of this lesson myself. 
How's your font? How much time did you put into the font you used on your blog/website/book cover? How did you decide in the end?

5 comments:

Michelle Fayard said...

I must confess that I love looking at different typefaces as much as I get lost going from one word to another in the dictionary.

Laura Barnes said...

So you are another to turn to for font advice, then Michelle. Definitely not me!

Lynda R Young said...

I use arial for my main font on my blog. I like the simplicity.

Laura Barnes said...

I like arial too. And it looks good on your blog:)

Peggy Eddleman said...

Oh, my gosh. I LOVE a good discussion on fonts! I can look through fonts FOREVER.

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