The Digital Glue Podcast

EP: 49 - What The Font?

December 21, 2021 Episode 49
The Digital Glue Podcast
EP: 49 - What The Font?
Show Notes Transcript

“Helvetica is the sweatpants of typefaces.” – John Boardley

Welcome to Episode 49: What The Font?

Today’s “untangling” episode is going to be short, sweet, and to the point – while also a bit more technical on the design-front -- regarding something very important ... we’re going to get down and dirty about rules in using fonts. So, in short if there is text within your design or document, follow these rules …
Here's what we will be untangling in this episode ...

  • How to steer clear of clichés and make smart font choices
  • Font personalities and how many to use per design
  • Size matters and so does writing in all CAPS
  • Improper use or orphans, and proper punctuation 

Are you ready?
Pop in your awesome earbuds and let's dive in!

Hi, all! 

Today’s “untangling” episode is going to be short, sweet, and to the point – while also a bit more technical on the design-front -- regarding something very important ... we’re going to get down and dirty about rules in using fonts. So, in short if there is text within your design or document, follow these rules …

Over the years, some fonts have become so popular that they are now considered cliché. This tends to happen because most computers nowadays come with the same preinstalled fonts. Booooring!!!

So, if you’re unable to find a font that meets your document’s personality, just install a new font. It’s super easy and can make all the difference to your users. A great site for free font downloads can be found on the resources page of Virtually Untangled. 
However, please keep in mind that when buying or downloading a free font, it is not necessarily yours to do whatever you want with. Always carefully check the license before using it. 

Every single font has its own personality, just like people. So how do you make this work? Know your target audience, your design or document’s purpose and find a good font choice that matches these expectations. A single font choice can either make or break you’re your creation. So, tread lightly and don’t afraid to be BOLD! 

This statement refers strongly back to items #1 and #2 … if you’re using a default font, you are showing the world that you don’t know about any other options. Go back and think about font personalities, your audience and what you’re trying to achieve with this creation. In most cases, there is always something better than the default choices -- Times New Roman, Calibri and Arial, just to name a few. 

No matter what type of document you are creating, try using at least two fonts -- one for headings and the other for the text body. The standard design rule is no more than three in case you want to add a highlight, accent, flourish, or signature.
Doing so will add a vast improvement to the look and feel of what you’re trying to achieve and keep the viewer interested. This rule applies to all documents, from resumes to business cards, logos, proposals and even blogs. Just keep in mind that few look good if you use more than three. So, don’t go crazy bending the “rules”, or your viewers will get distracted or perhaps even lost. Keep it simple and make good font choices. A good example would be to mix a serif (header) with a sans serif (body). Try not to use a serif font with something cursive. It’s super hard on the eyes and is honestly a terrible match.

For the longest time, a 12-point sized font was the default for absolutely everything. But honestly, it looks ugly and awkward for reading paragraphs. Our eyes can actually read much smaller. So, as a rule of thumb, a 10 or 11-point font is better suited for most documents. An exception to this rule would be enlarging your document font for headers as going bigger looks more important for items you want to stand out. And a smaller, but no less than a 7-point font, is okay for things such as disclaimers and business cards. 

When we type out words in all caps, the shapes tend to go away, and all the words turn into giant rectangles. The human brain reads words in shapes which is how we’re able to read so fast. We’re able to quickly glance at or scan the page and read fast because our brains automatically recognize the forms in which each letter represents. So, when using all caps, it slows things down and makes the person reading feel like you’re yelling at them. And we for sure don’t want our audience to feel this way! 

Reversing type means putting a light-colored font on top of a dark background, or vice versa. Doing this is good in some circumstances such as headings and titles. However, from a professional design perspective, we really don’t suggest this too many times as there are other more eye-pleasing options to get your point across. That being said, it doesn’t exactly break the rules either. 

What does break the rules? 

Using narrow fonts with fancy or cursive features, yellow on orange, or blue on red. Or red type on anything really. Try to use think and pair simple fonts with a good contrast between colours. 

This may sound strange to you, so for those of you who haven’t brushed up on your typography terms, an “orphan” is a single word left by itself on a line at the end of a paragraph. It is even worse to leave a little word such as “it”, “as”, “is”, “or”, “an” (and so on) all by itself. If you need to, reword your sentence to get everything to fit and flow nicely for your viewers. 

And last, but certainly not least …

Punctuation can have a powerful visual impact with your viewers. So make sure to use apostrophes correctly and know where to place quotation marks. Use a hyphen for compound adjectives and make sure you know the difference between a colon and a semi-colon. Use commas to indicate non-essential information and if ever in doubt, rewrite or use a dictionary.

For those of you Canadian folks, the best resources to use (which we do!) would be the Canadian Press Caps and Spelling (21st Edition) and the Canadian Press Stylebook. Both books can be purchased online or at your local bookstore for a very reasonable price and can build your confidence in your writing skills. And I’m sure those of you living and building your empires in the US of A … there’s something comparable. 

Now please keep in mind that when it comes to the rules I just shared with you, there is an even longer list available through most design sites online. I just wanted to provide you with a simple breakdown of the most common -- and the most important -- rules to making your documents professionally sound while also helping you gain confidence with some of those uncertainties that you may be afraid to ask about.

That being said, I truly hope that this mini breakdown “untangling” episode provides you with enough information (and motivation) as a starting point for all of your documents and makes your life simpler by learning how to make smart font choices to apply to all your amazing creations.

And don’t forget … If you happen to have any good resources for our fellow listeners or would like to share any of your favourite typefaces, please share them in the comments. We always love to hear your feedback and resources to add to “the bank”.