A beginner's guide to typography

If there's one thing that people don't spend enough time on in their flyers or websites (or whatever they are designing), it's the typography. People like choosing fonts – I've heard many people say that it's the "fun" part of making their flyer. As a designer, I can confirm that, yes, fonts ARE fun – but what you don't know is that your fonts have a HUGE impact on your design. 

eople like choosing fonts – I've heard many people say that it's the "fun" part of making their flyer. As a designer, I can confirm that, yes, fonts ARE fun – but what you don't know is that your fonts have a HUGE impact on your design.

Look at these examples below:

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Am I a kindergarten teacher or a street artist? Maybe a pottery studio? Any other guesses?

This is NOT to say that you have to stick to the plain-jane fonts that already come loaded onto your computer. But, it's important to know which fonts to use and when! There are three main categories of fonts:

Serif fonts

Serif fonts are generally used for smaller font sizes and for long bodies of text (newspapers and books). Those fonts have characters that are more easily distinguishable, thanks to the small strokes that come off the letters. The most common serif fonts you probably recognize are Times New Roman, Georgia or Baskerville. Slab-serif fonts, like Museo and Josefin Slab, are becoming more popular, too!

Sans-serif fonts

Sans-serif fonts were created for headlines or small bits of text (photo captions or pull-quotes). There are several sans-serif fonts that you see everyday, like Helvetica, Gotham or Calibri.  

Display fonts

Display fonts are more styled – fonts commonly used for logos and such. Display fonts are not meant to be used for bodies of text, though that doesn't stop people from doing so. There are so many sub-categories of fonts that fall under this category – Comic, Handwritten, Script, etc. 

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Fonts in Canva

Fonts Convey a Message?

It's true. The fonts you choose convey a certain message to your audience!

According to OneXtraPixel, "readers were more likely to connect the words “funny” and “angry” with articles that were printed in Times New Roman, than with those that were printed in Arial."

Ever noticed how furniture assembly instructions are mostly written in sans-serif fonts?Another study showed that people given instructions in Arial were willing to perform the routines and assumed that they could do so with ease.

There have even been studies done that show different demographics prefer different fonts. Men are more drawn to rectilinear fonts, while women prefer a curvier font. Traditional fonts like Times New Roman are more conservative and considered to be a more professional choice.

And how many times have you seen a public sign in Comic Sans? Businesses trying to appear friendly tend to choose fonts that mimic handwriting, though this sometimes leaves the company looking childish.

Related: A beginner's guide to the psychology of color

Paying for Fonts

"With all the font options out there for free, why do we have to pay for one?"

Good question.

There is a lot of work and detail that goes into creating fonts. When you're looking for a resource for a project, it should be the highest quality you can find. The issue with dealing with free fonts is that you have to do a lot of searching to find one that is good quality. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of nice fonts out there for public use. However, there are more that are NOT of high quality. If you look closely, many free fonts have obvious flaws that should have been fixed before being released. A good font is consistent in style with all letters, isn't missing any letters or characters, and is crisp and clean throughout!

Another big problem with free fonts is the usage rights. When using a free font, people assume by them being able to download them for free means they can use them however they want without any problems, right? Wrong. However, premium fonts can be used for commercial use like in client work, web use, etc. 

Finding Fonts

Here are a few of my favorite places to buy fonts: