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Fonts can seem like an inconsequential piece of your brand.
Yet they are another element that either works to create a cohesive message - or takes away from that.
People process visual data at lightning speeds. And then they come away with an opinion - conscious or subconscious.
That’s why choosing fonts is important to building a strategic brand that attracts your dream clients.
The other interesting thing about fonts is that they tend to be a dead giveaway of an amateur brand if they aren’t selected wisely.
You don’t want that flag on your brand.
But there are thousands of fonts on the Internet. How do you know which ones are right for you?
In this post, I am going to share some mistakes to avoid when it comes to font selection, as well as a process you can take to make sure you are selecting ones that are the right fit for the message you want to send.
Here are some common pitfalls I see service providers fall into when it comes to typography.
1. You use too many fonts.
This generally plays out in one of two ways.
First, you use a bunch of fonts in one setting, such as within a graphic or on a website. The result is a chaotic, confusing look. It often looks too busy and not streamlined.
Second is changing fonts all the time.
Maybe you use just one font in a social media graphic, but you change it up to a different style in the next one. This creates a feed that looks like a ransom letter.
2. You choose fonts that are too close in style.
Have you ever tried to decorate your home with two pieces of furniture that are almost the same color, but not quite? I have.
Although they are similar, they don’t match. That’s how fonts that are too similar look together.
3. On the flip side, you choose fonts that are too different in style.
Maybe you choose a classic serif font for your headline, but then go for a playful handwriting font in your subheading. Those conflict with each other and send different messages.
4. You choose fonts that don’t have enough variety in their weights.
(Here’s a geeky fact: font weights are actually called “fonts” and the broader term is called typefaces. But for the sake of using words that you know, I’m sticking with fonts as the broad term.)
Fonts often have different treatments or weights such as bold, italic, thin, light, or medium. Others don’t at all. They simply have a regular version and nothing else.
Just so you have some variety available, I recommend choosing a font that has a minimum of bold, bold italic and italic. This gives you some options when you are formatting. Maybe you want to have a subheading stand out so you make it bold. Or maybe you want to emphasize some phrases in a paragraph, so you make them italic.
5. You choose fonts that aren’t legible.
Clarity is king when it comes to font selection. If people can’t read what you are writing, what is the point?
I often see this with script fonts. Someone writes a paragraph or quote in a script and it is painful to decipher. Most people won’t bother trying. They will move on.
6. You choose fonts that are too common, cliche or generic.
Whatever you do, don’t use fonts that come standard on your computer.
Free fonts are also subject to this. There are many fonts that have been circulating for so long they become generic because everyone uses them.
That’s the exact opposite goal of your brand. We want your brand to make you stand out from the crowd, not blend in.
Avoid Comic Sans, Scriptina, Papyrus, Arial, Helvetica, Bradley Hand and others like them. Make sure if you choose a free font that you do a little research to make sure it’s not overused.
7. You choose a poor quality font.
This is a risk if you choose a free font. Anyone can make a font and put it online.
Look for things like funky kerning (space between the letters), missing characters like & and $, or numbers that have strange formatting.
8. You choose fonts that don’t match your brand personality.
Every element of your brand should support your ideal brand style and message, fonts included.
If you have made any of these mistakes, it’s ok! You are not alone. In fact, most business owners fall into one or more of the above categories when it comes to font usage.
So given those common mistakes, how do you choose the right fonts?
Here is a process to work through as you make this selection:
1. Consider your brand personality adjectives.
I recently did a moodboard challenge in my Facebook group where we worked through how to elect your brand personality adjectives. These are words that describe your ideal brand such as “vintage,” “rustic,” “elegant,” or “spunky.”
If you haven’t gone through a process like this, come join us in the next challenge. You can join the waitlist here.
One you have your adjectives, look for fonts that fit that description.
2. Choose only two to three fonts.
All you need is one headline font, one paragraph font and possibly an accent font. The latter is optional.
Pairing it down to no more than two or three keeps your brand clean and consistent. It helps people recognize it.
3. Start with font categories.
Font categories are those such as serif, san serif, script, slab serif, display and many others. Each category has certain characteristics. Serif, for example, has little “feet” on the ends of the letters’ stems, while sans serif letters have blunt ends.
Using those categories can help you narrow down your search.
For example, if your brand personality is classic, minimal and sophisticated, a serif font might be a good choice to start with.
Generally, brands use a headline in one category and a paragraph font in another, however, this is not always the case.
4. Do some research.
There are a huge variety of font banks online where you can do some searches.
Here are some that I use:
This is a huge bank of fonts. The downside is that it is full of free fonts so some are not the highest quality. However, many font creators offer fonts free for personal use. This means you can download the font to try it out. If you select it, then you can go back and purchase the license.
I love Creative Market because it is full of high quality, unique fonts from designers. They do cost something, but generally the cost is between $15-$30 for a font license. It’s well worth it to get something distinctive.
This is a website that also has a large variety of fonts you can search for. It also has a font generator tool.
The great thing about Google Fonts is not only are they open source (meaning free), but they all come preinstalled on browsers, so they load on websites faster than custom fonts.
What I generally recommend is that clients use Google Fonts for their paragraph font, which is usually pretty straight forward. Then use a custom font for a headline and accent font.
The other option is to use a custom font for your brand paragraph font, but find a similar Google font for your paragraph font to use on your website.
5. Pair your fonts.
In general, you want fonts that are different enough to have contrast, but similar enough to fit under the same style.
6. Try them out.
I can’t tell you how often I’ve chosen fonts for a client, only to realize they weren’t what I expected when I started experimenting with them.
So make sure you take time to test. Try different sentences. Make sure you are seeing what all of the letters and numbers look like when they are put to use.
This can be a little trickier for paid fonts, but most font banks have a field you can type in to try out a font.
Choosing fonts is an art, and it can feel a little abstract. It takes some practice and patience.
If you’re in doubt, go simple. Try not to get too fancy or trendy.
If this process is still overwhelming and you want some help, reach out to me.
Font selection is part of my branding packages (among a long list of other things).
If you’d like to explore what it would look like to have me do this for you, book a free call and we can talk about your options.