Monday, May 11, 2009

What the font?

In the past couple of weeks I have seen font choices for print that were less than desirable and even harder to read. Here are my thoughts:

1. Be careful using serif fonts in reverse. A serif font is a typeface used either bolded in a headline or within the body of text, such as a textbook. The typeface has little marks on the baseline of the letter called serifs. Some popular serif fonts are Times New Roman, Georgia, and New Baskerville. These fonts have a thick-thin style to the lettering, which is why using these typefaces in reverse is not always a good idea. If you have to use a serif in reverse, make sure it has a bold member of the family and use that in reverse; if you don't, the surrounding color will "dissolve" what's left of the letters, making them more difficult to read.

2. If a font is cute, should I use it? This is not an easy question to answer because it depends on what the cute font is and its application. For example, if you are using Curlz as part of a headline in an ad for a salon, then by all means go for it! However, if you are using Edwardian Script ITC in reverse on a business card for a realtor, then it's a bad idea. Why? Script fonts are very cute and pretty (yes, they are) but their uses should be limited. In this case I saw a business card with this particular font on a realtor's business card. The problem came in when the realtor decided her contact information should be put in her cute font. Take out your own business card for a moment, and think about the size of your contact information. Got it? Good. Now, take that same size and apply it to this cute font. See the picture? It's too small to be effective, too small to read. Bad move.

3. Why can't I use my script font in reverse? Answer: Most script fonts do not have a bold member of the family, and because of this a designer may decide to add an outline or stroke to this particular font. The catch becomes when the text moves into a lighter area on the card and suddenly may disappear, simply putting an outline around it won't make it suddenly re-appear. Indeed, in the example above, it not only made the text appear rather muddy (her print shop overprinted the black), but because the outline was rather thick in proportion to the actual size of stroke of the lettering of her cute font, it was very difficult to read her contact information. Remember, she's a realtor, selling real estate. If you can't read her contact information, chances are you're not going to call her home office and ask for her. That blows a potential sale, making her business card ineffective as a marketing tool.

4. Using all caps on serif or san-serif text is a no-no! Well, let me back up just a sec. If you need to use it for emphasis in the headline of an ad, great! I use Impact for such effects on my flyers and ads, especially in reverse! Gloucester MT Extra is also great for this effect and in reverse. What I'm talking about is using all caps all throughout the ad, business card, etc. Bo-ring, very hard to read, and thanks to our IM lingo, you may come across as yelling your services rather than introducing them.

Keeping these simple rules in mind when using type will make the difference between a nice-looking piece of marketing material versus an amateurish piece. If you have any questions about font usage, or if you would rather not stress over your marketing material, please e-mail us at and we'll put it together for you.