You see fonts every day: on the way to work, on your favourite websites, in the magazines you read – everywhere. Why was a particular font chosen? Well, there are two reasons: 1. It’s the right font to use in that instance. 2. It’s the font that was chosen because the designer* likes it the most. One is good. Two is bad.
All the fonts?
You probably wouldn’t (shouldn’t?) wear your gym shoes, knee-high socks, trousers, a vest, a bow tie, and a flat cap at the same time. And, for much the same reason, you shouldn’t use more than 2 or three fonts in the same design.
Honestly, which note from your doctor looks trustworthy?
And unless you want whatever you are writing to look like a ransom note made by a 5 year-old, don’t use different fonts in the same word either.
The right font for the job
Every font has a purpose; a situation or use where it excels. In the example below, I’ve written the same phrase (for a sign on a drinking establishment in a western movie) using two different fonts. One looks like it fits, the other is a poor choice.
Here’s another example, this time for some army equipment.
Certain fonts are ideal for particular situations. But what if your needs aren’t as specific as these? Say you just want to write a letter or a sign. Does it matter which font you choose? Yes, it does.
Deciding on the right font
In the same way the clothes you wear say something about you, the font you choose has a bearing on what people seeing it will think.
Below are example letters from two banks, both asking you to open a savings account with them. Which one looks safer and more legitimate?
Look at the example sign copy below. One is likely to be read, understood, and followed more than the other one.
Hopefully, you can now see the importance of thinking about which font to use, but where can you get appropriate fonts?
Where’s the font?
If you need a specialised or themed font, e.g. for circus, then you might need to search the web to see if you can find one.
N.B. Fonts are restricted by copyright. While a lot can be used for free, some require you to purchase them before they can be used. It’s the same for images too.
If you want something a bit more plain, you don’t need to spend hours trawling the internet looking for it. Chances are there is already a suitable one installed on your PC. Just open your favourite DTP software to check out what fonts you have.
So, the next time you are writing something, think about who your target audience is (an existing client, a child, the local council) and what impression you want to give (polite, playful, authoritative) then choose an appropriate font.
*I’m using the term designer here to mean the person who designed the artwork (or chose the font). This may not necessarily be a professional designer.