Even if you’re not a font expert, you can probably recognize a good font when you see one. This is because a well-chosen font fits seamlessly with its surrounding design. So, good fonts aren’t really noticed at all. You only notice a font when it doesn’t work.
Noticing good and bad fonts might be easy, but choosing a font for your own design is harder. So how do you choose a font? We’ll get to that in a bit, but first we need to clear out some misconceptions.
You’ve probably heard of terms like serif and kerning and leading, but none of those technical terms matter unless you’re a designer. So let’s talk about what really does matter for the average person.
Fonts are actually pretty simple
There are several font qualities that are not at all technical.
These characteristics are very easy to spot, even if you know nothing about fonts. And these qualities create associations in our brains. For example, a thin font will remind us of a thin person, so that font would be perfect for a weight loss product. Likewise, a thick font looks sturdy and strong, making it great for a muscle-building supplement.
As you look at different fonts, try to describe them in everyday words. How do certain fonts makes you feel? Chances are pretty high that the way you feel about a font is the same way other people feel.
Why are font feelings important?
You might be wondering why it matters how a particular font makes you feel, or what that font makes you think of. Well, it’s all about context. Context is the most important aspect of choosing a font. The font itself doesn’t matter too much—a “bad” font can work perfectly in the right context (i.e.: Comic Sans would be great in a comic book, but not anywhere else).
The next time you’re wading through a list of a bazillion fonts and can’t decide which one to use, remember the context and the font feelings.
Do you want to be formal and professional? Stick with an angular, serif font. Wanna be fun and carefree? Use a spaced, rounded font. Is modern and clean the look you’re going for? Then you want a straight, sans serif font.
There is no “perfect” font that works for everything, so don’t stress yourself out trying to find it. The key to good font choice lies in understanding the feelings of each font and matching those feelings to the context. Just like color choice, fonts can have a powerful psychological impact on your readers.
As your reward for reading, here’s a handy-dandy infographic you can use to help pick your next font.