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Contributors:Mark Pepper, Nick Hurm, Allen Brizee.
Summary:

This handout addresses how to make appropriate font choices to add additional meaning and emphasis to print documents and web pages

Using Fonts with Purpose

Does Type Font Matter?

It is easy to think that type font doesn’t matter. We read text all the time and have become very accustomed to focusing on the content or message of the words themselves and not what the words look like visually. In reality, the visual appearance of words themselves can (and should) have just as much effect on how a document is received as the content itself. Fonts can create mood and atmosphere. Fonts can give visual clues about the order a document should be read in and which parts are more important than others. Fonts can even be used to control how long it takes someone to read a document.

The professional printing industry has recognized this fact for a long time. Since the 1500s, they have used text called a “Lorem Ipsum” to demonstrate what a font will look like without having the reader become distracted by the meaning of the text itself. Although the term resembles ancient Latin, it is not actually intended to have meaning.

This image says Lorem Ipsum.  The font is a serif font - times new roman.  This is a classic looking font.

Image Caption: Times New Roman

Above is a font that is probably quite familiar to you - Times New Roman. Especially in academic circles, Times New Roman is so popular that you almost have to use a Lorem Ipsum to actually see the curves and spacing characteristics of the font itself.

This image shows the font Arial. It is a sans serif font.

Image Caption: Arial

Here is another popular font called Arial. Looking at the Times New Roman and Arial fonts together it’s possible to see some subtle differences. Perhaps the choice to use Times versus Arial won’t make the most drastic of differences; however, there are so many different fonts to choose from that the point becomes much clearer once we move beyond more traditional choices.

This image shows a font called Chalkboard. It resembles text written on a chalkboard in a classroom.

Image Caption: Chalkboard

Above is a lesser known font called Chalkboard. This font is so different that it shouldn’t be hard to realize that a page full of text in Chalkboard would look and feel very different from the more traditional Times or Arial.

Understanding how type fonts work involves learning some new terminology and thinking about the cultural codes behind words themselves. However, once you do so, font choice becomes another highly effective way to fuse your documents with additional meaning and rhetorical effectiveness.

Contributors:Mark Pepper, Nick Hurm, Allen Brizee.
Summary:

This handout addresses how to make appropriate font choices to add additional meaning and emphasis to print documents and web pages

Font Features

Graphic designers have developed a large vocabulary of terms to discuss the makeup of a font. Fortunately, learning just a few of these terms will greatly aid you in making choices about how to use a font to communicate additional meaning beyond just the words themselves.

Font Types

1. Serif Fonts

One of the primary distinctions between font types is Serif fonts versus Sans-Serif fonts. Although the exact derivation of the word “serif” is unknown, it may be easier to grasp the concept if you think of them as feet. Since “sans” comes from the French for “with out” you can see fonts as having feet or being with out feet.

This image shows the serif font Georgia.

Image Caption: Georgia

Above, the circled sections highlight some of the serifs in the font type called Georgia. The serifs are little lines (or feet) at the end of particular line strokes.

Popular serif fonts include:

This image shows a number of popular serif fonts. These include Times, Century, Palatino, Garamond, and Bodoni.

Image Caption: Popular Serif Fonts: Times, Century, Palatino, Garamond, and Bodoni

2. Sans-Serif Fonts

If serif-fonts have lines (or feet) at the end of particular strokes, then non-serif fonts are marked by the absence of these features.

This image shows the font Ariel. It is a sans serif font.

Image Caption: Arial

Above is one of the most well known non-serif fonts. Notice how in comparison to the serif fonts, the line strokes end cleanly without any additional flair.

Popular Sans-Serif Fonts include:

This image shows popular sans serif fonts. These include Ariel, Comic Sans, Gill Sans, Franklin Gothic, and Trebuchet.

Image Caption: Popular Sans Serif fonts

3. Decorative Fonts

Sometimes called script, novelty, or ornamental, decorative fonts stand out for their unique shapes and personalities. These tend to have a stronger personality or character than traditional serif or sans-serif fonts.

Some examples of decorative fonts include:

This image shows the decorative fonts Blackmoore LET, Cracked, Papayrus, and Playbill.

Image Caption: Decorative Fonts Blackmoore LET, Cracked, Papayrus, and Playbill

Tips

This image shows good and poor examples of heading fonts. The good example uses a sans serif font for the header and a serif font for the body text. The poor example uses a serif font for the header and another kind of serif font for the body text.

Image Caption: What to Do for Headings and Body Text

This image shows an example of a script font that is difficult to read.

Image Caption: When Not to Use a Decorative Font

Contributors:Mark Pepper, Nick Hurm, Allen Brizee.
Summary:

This handout addresses how to make appropriate font choices to add additional meaning and emphasis to print documents and web pages

Font Personality

Although fonts are often classified by the typographical features of serifs, they can also be described as having more human-like personalities. In other words, the appearance of the font (regardless of what the words say) gives off a certain mood and feel which can alter the effectiveness of your document. Learning to predict how your font choice might make your audience feel is another way to ensure your document achieves the effect you are going for. Although there is no firm equation (no Times New Roman always equals THIS specific mood), you have grown up in the culture where these personality associations have developed; therefore, much of the predicting may be based on awareness and instinct.

Let’s return to our Lorem Impsums, as to not become distracted by the meaning of the words.

This image shows the popular serif font Garamond.

Image Caption: Garamond

Above is a serif-font named Garamond. As a serif-font, it is good for long blocks of text. Its smooth curves and simple serifs could be said to portray a classic and easy-going beauty. These tend to be good feelings for long blocks of texts; therefore, Garamond can be an effective, rhetorical choice.

This image shows the popular sans serif font Franklin Gothic.

Image Caption: Franklin Gothic

Above is the sans-serif font Franklin Gothic at a large size and at a much smaller size. We could say it’s a fairly straightforward font. Its features are not very distracting. We can also see that it maintains a high level of readability even when printed small. Once you know that this is a popular font choice for newspapers, you can see how it could be chosen to capitalize on these exact features.

Beyond serifs and sans-serifs, the appearance of decorative fonts have the most potential to tap into cultural associations. Although the Lorem Ipsum is useful to look at a font’s, basic characteristics without word meaning, in practice, the meaning of the words are effected by the font they are displayed in. Because of this fact, great care should be taken to match the font’s personality with the sentiment and purposes of your document (especially when using the more decorative options).

For example, look at these two possibilities for the heading of a greeting card:

This image shows a font called Monotype Corsiva and a font called Bauhaus 93. Viewers are meant to see the contextual difference between the two fonts when used for a sympathy card. The text reads My deepest sympathy and condolences.

Image Caption: Monotype Corsiva vs Bauhaus 93

The top example is in Monotype Corsiva. This is a font that mimics the effect of handwritten text and reflects the heartfelt sentiment of the statement and card’s purpose. On the other hand, the bottom example is displayed in a font called Bauhaus 93. Bauhaus 93 (as the name suggests) is a cold, Modernist looking font perhaps best associated with fliers for graphic design shows. This coldness is not appropriate for a greeting card expressing condolences and is therefore a poor rhetorical choice. This does not mean Bauhaus 93 is a poor font all around. For example, it might be completely appropriate for something like this:

This image shows a more appropriate use of Bauhaus 93, a flier for an art exhibit called art and politics in the early twentieth century.

Image Caption: Rhetorically Appropriate Use of Bauhaus 93

Matching font personality with the tone of the piece is sometimes subjective and certainly not an exact science. A good technique to see if you’re choosing appropriate fonts is to use a font that seems completely opposite of what you’re trying to convey. Seeing how “wrong” this can look might help you pick a more appropriate font. Below there are two columns of words. Column A tries to set an appropriate mood for the feeling suggested by the word. Column B tries to achieve the opposite feeling. Do you think the columns are successful?

This image shows two different columns of fonts. The left column shows fonts used appropriately for their purposes. The right column shows fonts that contradict or do not match their rhetorical situation. For example, row one column one shows the word Important in a bold sans serif font. Row one column two shows the word Important in a fun font.

Image Caption: Fonts Should Match their Rhetorical Situation

Contributors:Mark Pepper, Nick Hurm, Allen Brizee.
Summary:

This handout addresses how to make appropriate font choices to add additional meaning and emphasis to print documents and web pages

Additional Tips for Using Fonts

The more you experiment with fonts the more flexibility and options you will find among the available choices. Here are a few more tips to consider when attempting to use fonts with purpose.

Material adapted from Before & After Page Design by John McWade, Berkely: Peachpit Press, 2003.