by Stephanie Ringold, Graphic Designer, AGCarmel
About a year ago, there were over 900 fonts on my home computer. Today I’ve whittled that number down to 350 or so, but that still doesn’t stop me from coveting every font I see. I downloaded a new font set a few months back and I liked it so much that I promptly used it for a design project.
Everybody has their favorite fonts. Whether your go-to font is something clean and simple like Helvetica or Trebuchet, something timeless like Garamond or Copperplate, or something softer like Scriptina or Teen, there is a font out there for every occasion. Of course, there are also a lot of fonts that are better off left alone (I’m looking at you, Comic Sans). So how do you pick the perfect fonts for your project?
First of all, figure out what kind of look you’re going for. Pick a word like elegant, classic, fun, modern, or simple. Then, take a look at your font options. If the fonts you’re looking at can’t be described by that term, don’t use them. I have to remind myself all the time that no matter how much I might love certain fonts, they just doesn’t work in some applications.
Second, be mindful of the difference between display fonts and text fonts. Display fonts are meant to be used to accent the page – best viewed in large sizes with minimum text. If you design an entire flyer set in Rodeo Clown, your customers won’t want to read it. Instead, use a complementary text font to fill in large areas of text without compromising style. And you don’t have to limit yourself to the generic standard fonts either – there are plenty of great text fonts out there that will make your designs look professional and classy without setting everything in Times New Roman.
Dingbat fonts are another underused gem of the font world. Dingbats are like the typographic alternative to clip art. Some dingbat fonts replace characters with symbols or basic design shapes, like borders, ornaments and text dividers. Some contain icons for things like maps or signs, while many actually are created with simple illustrations. And unlike clip art, dingbats can be sized as large as you need without losing quality, or if you have access to programs like Adobe Illustrator, you can convert your “text” to a graphic and manipulate it. Just like regular fonts, there are hundreds of completely unnecessary dingbat fonts available, as well as some really great fonts that can be useful for a number of applications.
Lastly, remember that not all fonts are created equal, but there are always alternatives. There are some fantastic premium fonts out there if you have the resources to spend on them, but there are plenty of free options for personal and commercial usage that are available from reputable sites like MyFonts.com and Dafont.com. But be picky about the free fonts you download – otherwise you end up with hundreds of fonts you’ll never use. (Really, how often are you going to use that replica Star Wars font?)