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Decisions, Decisions: Which Font To Use?

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There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different fonts available, and for many people this means that they agonise over the choice of the “right” font for a particular job, forgetting for a moment that what one person considers “right” will be the opposite of what someone else does.

Here are a few of our guidelines.

The first tip is to choose the right font for the occasion. This is similar to deciding what to wear to a wedding. You probably wouldn’t go to a wedding in your working jeans, any more than you would a funeral. You would want something more formal. However, if it’s party night – a stag do – then you would choose something less formal, or even outrageous.

The next thing is to understand that fonts fall into “families” and that there are really only five groups that need our attention. These are two groups of serifs, two of sans serifs, and one which doesn’t really fall into either of those.

The ones with serifs – the little “feet” at the bottom of the letters – are classed as Venetian, or “old style” and are the oldest typefaces known. Then there are Transitional and Modern dating from the mid and late eighteenth century.

Sans serifs are grouped into Geometric which are essentially minimalist and clean lined, and Humanist which are similar but still contain some elements of handwriting.

Slab serifs are neither one nor the other, but have big, bold rectangular “shoes” on the end. They can come across as very strong, but also can seem more friendly as evidenced by some recent fonts.

Next comes the principle of “decisive contrast”. Many times, one font will do, but if we want to make a point we need to use a completely different one that makes a statement. Something that is “different” but at the same time close to the main font will hardly register in the mind of the reader.

The last point is that there are no rules. One of the best pieces of advice is to pick a type face you like and keep using it. Certainly, it might begin to bore, but if it does there are plenty more fish in the sea.

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