Fonts and Text in Design

    Text will be the primary means by which you convey your message. The fonts you use, the sizes of those fonts, and your word choice are significant elements in creating good design. Although we cannot help you with your word choice, we can help you with the other two aspects.

    Font Sizes

    In general, you will only need three different sizes of fonts. This is not universal. There will be exceptions. However, most of the time, you will only need three different sizes. The sizes pertain to specific aspect of your text:

    1. Titles – The largest size and least used
    2. Headings and subheadings – Mid-size text and only used infrequently
    3. Body Text – Smallest sized text and used most frequently
    4. An exception may be a newsletter where the newsletter title text is larger than the article title text. In this case, there may be 4 specific text sizes. But you get the idea. Still, even in a newsletter this can look odd. Look at the newsletters below. Notice how consistent text sizes give the newsletter a cleaner more symmetrical look as compared to the other one.

      Using many different text sizes may be kinda cool, but it violates basic design principles. There may be times when breaking this rule is necessary, but it should be the rare exception.

      Keep the same font sizes for similar elements. In other words, all your body text in your textboxes should be the same size. If you use different sizes to cram all the words in, then you create a design that is visually off balance and not as pleasing to the eye.

      Font Types

      There are four basic font types used: “serif,” “sans serif,” “script,” and “decorative.”

      Serif Fonts have little feet and embellishments at the top and bottom of the letter:

      • Times is a serif font
      • Courier is a serif font
      • Georgia is a serif font
      • Palatino Linotype is a serif font

      Sans Serif (no-serif) Fonts do not have those little embellishments:

      • Arial font is a sans serif font
      • Calibri font is a sans serif font
      • Impact font is a sans serif font
      • Century Gothic font is a sans serif font

      It has traditionally held that serif fonts are easier to read in print while sans serif fonts are better on a screen. The basic reason why sans serif fonts are better for phone, tablet, or computer screens is because of the resolution of the screen. It takes more resolution to make those little feet and embellishments stand out enough to be seen clearly by the eye without distraction.

      In short, for print, you want to stick with serif fonts for the body text. However, for your larger fonts, you can use sans serif fonts since they are more legible at the larger sizes. The contrast can even draw the eye better as well while not being distracting.

      Script Fonts are the flowery, cursive fonts that often used in printed material such as wedding invitations or anniversary cards. Script fonts are not as easy to read. They are pretty, beautiful even, but the eye has a harder time distinguishing the letters. So if your goal is readability, then don’t use a script font.

      • Brush Script MT is a script font
      • Herr Von Muellerhoff is a script font
      • Pacifico is a script font
      • Yellowtail is a script font

      If you intend to use script fonts, then do so at larger font sizes. Use them as titles and headings on greeting cards and invitations. We do not recommend using script fonts for your main body text.

      Decorative Fonts (also known as Fantasy Fonts) are typically used for signage, shocking or attention getting headlines and titles, and other situations where a bold typographic message or statement is being used. Decorative fonts rarely work well with body text, and they are not recommended for that use.

      Instead, use decorative fonts for that standalone message, that attention getting statement. You may find yourself in need of a decorative font for flyers, brochures, and greeting cards. In general, use these fonts selectively in strategic situations. Don’t go willy-nilly with them. The more decorative font you use, the more busy and messy your design will be.

      Here are some examples of decorative fonts:

      • Papyrus is a decorative font
      • Fontdiner Swanky is a decorative font
      • Permanent Marker is a decorative font
      • Eater Caps is a decorative font

      Mixing Fonts

      There is a danger in having too many different fonts. We recommend that you utilize no more than three different fonts in any particular design. Two might be better. Below are two greeting cards. Note how using various fonts of the right greeting card creates a messier, more confusing design as compared to the card that uses only 1 fonts.

      If you use different fonts, we recommend that you keep the same font for each text type: titles, headers, and body text. Never use different fonts for the same text type as that just generates an asymmetrical look that is not pleasing to the eye.

      Font Colors

      Treat font colors the same as mixing fonts: typically, it’s a bad idea. Limit yourself to two or three font colors and make sure that your colors work with the color scheme you chose. The two colors that should probably be predominately in your design are black and white—black when on a light background and white when on a dark background.