This year typography is a hot topic for designers. Trends are changing not just the shape of the letters, but also their usage and size is being reinvented. For example, bigger fonts than ever are being used for headlines, posters and in websites, not just to ensure that the message is being delivered clearly and effectively, but because it’s attention grabbing and the use of big bold fonts is simply in fashion. With new fonts being released every day, there are now a myriad of different fonts to choose from, and with the advent of @font-face, we also have so much more choice when deciding which font to use in websites
How to choose a font? What are the requirements for selecting the right typeface?
Not many people know how difficult it is to find the right font. I have to say that it is not an easy task. There are several factors to consider, and as designers we shouldn’t only choose our favourite font, but one that fulfils the most requirements.
Here we list a few suggestions for web designers to consider when they are selecting a font:
- Nature of the context. It is usually recommended that fonts be in line with the tone of the text – however, sometimes I prefer to do on the contrary, select a font that has nothing to do with the subject of the text, so the reader is surprised and it can make boring text attract more attention – although the most important factor when you are deciding on the seriousness of the typography is the kind of audience you are aiming to reach.
- Length of the content. If the text is long we should ensure that the reader doesn’t have to strain to read it. What is the point of making a responsive web design with an exclusive custom made design, if no one can actually read the content.
- Device Used. Reading on paper or on a screen is quite different. The web designer faces problems such as dealing with different screen sizes and resolutions, having a responsive design that displays different versions of a website on computers, tablets and mobiles, not to mention the browser we are using to view the website. The web designer should therefore consider all these factors when choosing typography, to make sure it displays clearly and consistently in whatever device or browser it is viewed on.
- Size Matters. Sometimes we forget about the size of a font. We must also remember that the reader can scroll! Perhaps for some website designs a small size font-face may look better, however it can be very uncomfortable for the reader. Of course if they cannot read the text they can always maximize the screen, but someone like my mother would have no idea how to do that.
- Number of font faces. It is best not to use more than two different fonts in a project, at most three, so make sure it’s a good decision! We suggest using a simple font for the body copy and a more attractive font for titles and subtitles.
- Handwriting, yes or not? Handwriting typefaces are very much in fashion at the moment, but they can be quite difficult to read. We therefore advise against using them for long texts, and use them only for titles and pullouts or for emphasis.
- Typefaces for dyslexia. Yes, that’s right. There are fonts designed to increase readability for readers with dyslexia. Also, rather than using uppercase on titles, we can use emboldening instead of italics and underlining, as well as shorter phrases and left alignment, we could make life easier for many people. You can see a more extensive guide here.
- Character set. Another important factor that you cannot forget is to find out if your desired font has a complete character set, on more than one occasion I haven’t been able to user lowercase, write the letter ñ, or other accents!
- Typeface Family. We should also check if our chosen font family has thin, light, extra light, bold, extra bold, condensed, and italic versions. This can be useful for future reference, so we don’t end up having to change the font at the last minute because we hadn’t take into account this detail.
- Classic Typeface. Sometimes the traditional font is the perfect one. After hours looking for new and innovative fonts, we can realise that the classic typeface is the more suitable and that’s why we couldn’t find anything better. You may be tired of seeing the same old font used everywhere, but they work, that’s the reason why they are used so much. In fact if you show several different font options to a client for their project, including the classic font they have been using for years, they often choose the classic old font.
- Options. Gone are the years of only having five fonts to choose from, such as Helvetica or Times New Roman, because they were the only ones installed as default on all computers. Nowadays the web designer has a large variety of sources like @font-face, which allows us to embed fonts into our website and therefore gives us much more choice of different fonts we can use, either paid or free of charge. We can now use more innovative fonts without seeing them transform into something different. Long live typography freedom!
Every designer has his or her own style and favourite fonts. The typeface design is an art and there are many professionals who exclusively work designing this language transmission media. Next November, if you are interested in font design you can visit the Typomad festival in Madrid, Spain, where you can attend different conferences to find out more news about fonts, view art exhibitions, go on a guided tour through the centre of Madrid to learn more about traditions in typography used throughout the city and also participate in workshops to learn new techniques. Find more information in Typomad.