5 Tips for Working with Fonts

March 16, 2009 | Design Basics

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Most small business owners find themselves creating their own proposals, presentations, reports and memos. They don’t have the time or the money to have a designer available to create everything. Here are few tips to use fonts wisely so your materials still look professional.

  1. Limit the number of fonts. That long list of typefaces that comes up when you go to choose a font can be mesmerizing. However, stick to one or two only. You can still use the bold and italics within each typeface. A few combinations that are tried & true are: a serif face for long running type and a sans serif for headlines; a sans serif for body copy and a fun, decorative font for headlines; serif type for the main copy and serif type for sidebars. Even better, just choose one typeface for the entire piece and only change the size and weight.
  2. Don’t underline anything other than a link. Underlined text is now universally used to show that text is a hyperlink, and it is confusing to use it for anything else. There was a time (way back when there were typewriters with no italics) that people underlined items that were supposed to be italic. Now, I still occasionally see the underline for emphasis. People read underlines as links, and if they don’t link, then they think something is broken.
  3. Pay attention to the type size. Many people use the defaults when working in programs like Word or Powerpoint. However, keep in mind the final application. If the Word document is going to be printed, you may be able to use a smaller typeface than the default. Also, when possible, tailor your powerpoint slides to their final application–are they going to projected in a large room, or are they going to be printed out. Again, if they are primarily going to printed and handed out you can decrease the size of the fonts throughout.
  4. Be consistent with your typestyling. Don’t switch around a lot between centered and flush left and justified. Always use the same font, size, weight, and color for all your subheads. Use stylesheets, but don’t necessarily use the default settings. Set up a sample page and then override & save your settings.
  5. Use high quality fonts. I know, you’ve got hundreds of free fonts installed on your machine. But on some computers 100% of them are poor quality. You probably only own a handful of higher quality fonts. Since you’re limiting yourself to just a few fonts anyway (see point #1), just turn off the rest. You’ll  want to keep the web-safe fonts installed (Geneva, Verdana, Arial, Times, Georgia, etc.), and then just a few others. If you work with a designer who has picked out some typefaces for your other materials find out the names of those fonts and purchase them. Yes, actually spend $50 – 200 to buy professionally designed fonts. If you’re looking through your list some better ones to consider: Caslon, Garamond, Bembo, Minion, Myriad, Futura and Univers.

Wondering about some of the fonts on your computer? Let me know, and I’ll give you an opinion on whether they are worth using.

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