Choosing fonts is one of the most important steps in creating a killer brand identity that will last for the long haul. Fonts (or typefaces), like people and businesses, have different personalities. They can communicate many different messages. They can render a logo unreadable or provide the perfect pitch to complement a logo and reinforce a brand’s personality.
With thousands and thousands of fonts available, selecting fonts for your brand is no easy feat. Where do you even start? Should you use a free font or purchase one? If you buy your font, which one should you get?
To start, I believe that it’s worth considering purchasing a font for your branding. As with most things, you get what you pay for, and it’s pretty safe to say that you get less with free fonts than you do with those that you have to purchase. Keep in mind, too, that many free fonts are only licensed for personal use.
Typically, free fonts aren’t as carefully crafted as fonts you have to purchase. It takes loads of time and energy to develop a really high-quality font, so it makes sense that the business or person behind a great font would appreciate being compensated for his or her efforts. And if you’re planning to use a font for as long as you plan to use your logo, you want one that’s well designed.
When selecting fonts for your brand, you want to be sure you do the following:
- Pick a high-quality font that is readable and will work in a number of situations.
- Keep the number of different fonts (outside of your logo font) to a maximum of two.
- Choose a font style that accurately reflects the personality of your brand.
How do you know a well-designed font from a not-so-well designed font? It comes down to legibility, consistency, and versatility.
LEGIBILITY It stands to reason that any font you choose must be readable. Fonts that are overly condensed, too wide, or highly decorative can be tough to read. The last thing you want is for a viewer to misread your business name because the n’s look like h’s or worse, not be able to decipher it at all.
CONSISTENCY A well-designed font will be made up of characters that have consistent widths, heights, and other features like strokes, stems, ascenders and descenders. The space between letters will also be consistent. This means there won’t be huge spaces between some letters and smaller spaces between others that you have to adjust manually (kern).
VERSATILITY When selecting a text font for clients, I usually try to find one that has a number of different weights. I often use up to 4 weights of a font ranging from light to bold or even black, in some cases (although rarely, as I don’t like super heavy type). Free fonts often will only have one weight, which can be a problem.
You can probably get away with just two different weights in a pinch (a regular/book version and bold), but I like to have light and medium in my pocket as well. That way, I have everything I need to differentiate copy as much as I want. I often will use medium instead of bold when calling out type within a paragraph as the bold version of many fonts is often too heavy for my tastes.
NUMBER OF FONTS
With fonts, less is more. In many circumstances, one font is plenty. For a comprehensive branding project, you might want to consider using more than one, but I’d say three is your absolute maximum.
Often your logo font will work for headers, too, which is always a bonus! When you’re keeping the number of fonts you use to a minimum, having different weights provides more options for headers and subheaders without making your layout look too varied.
A third, decorative font might be useful for very special occasions (say, around the holidays), but if you pick your two main fonts well, you really shouldn’t need a third font.
Also, sticking with two is better for your brand recognition, so I would use a third font very minimally.
This is where it gets fun! Different typefaces communicate different messages from sophisticated to whimsical, professional to casual, modern to traditional, industrial to quirky.
Below I’ve listed a number of different font personalities with examples.
Keep in mind that how you treat any font will impact the message it conveys. Letterspacing and tracking add air and sophistication; using all caps says “sturdy and professional”; some italics add a feminine twist; using all lower case feels more friendly and inviting.