How your font-choice can bring in more clients (or scare them away)

It’s no secret that some fonts are taken more seriously than others – think Papyrus, Comic Sans, etc. (Try not to vomit.)

However, the nuances of font use are more subtle than that. Just like you select a color palette depending on different seasonal objectives, learn which fonts best match your brand’s identity to optimize your conversion rate and more!

How fonts create trust and comprehension

Your first task is to pick a font and stick with it (within reason). Even the smallest change to your look can interfere with brand recognition. This applies to your logo font and that of any slogan which frequently appears with your name. The more consistently you present yourself, the more your audience will trust you.

A

Not only do you need consistency, you must make readability a primary concern. An easy way to lose traffic on your site, and lose a potential customer’s trust before you even have it, is poor font choice.

Stray from beautiful, but over-embellished fonts like Edwardian Script or Vivaldi. A font that takes too long to read (see Mistral or Blackadder) will cause people to associate your brand with tedium and wasted time — as well as poor design.

To keep them coming back, choose a typeface that has the best size, serif usage, and respectable reputation for what you are trying to achieve. Rasmus, for example, is exquisitely readable and just different enough from other serif fonts to be unique, while Feijoa is classic and softly elegant.

Which fonts portray your ideal message

Every font sends a silent message about your brand or company and its reputation. That makes choosing your font the fun part (and one of the more difficult parts) of design.

Ask yourself not only which typeface is more appropriate for the application you intend, but which is more legible and well-spaced. These questions will go a long way toward helping you narrow down your choices:

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B

Does this font fit my purpose and mood?

A clothing company known for tough, durable products might use Clarke to look industrial and urban. A DIY site could use The Hand for a homemade and natural feel.

Should I use serifs, sans serifs, or…?

Serifs sometimes make text easier to read, but they might increase the formality of your design beyond what you intended, and they fare better on paper than on a screen. Working in publishing calls for a traditional and trustworthy font like Georgia or Didot.

But these fonts don’t work for everyone or in non-content situation (for example, a serif font might make a photographer look stodgy). In that setting, an impact or display font like Ostrich Sans, Gotham, or Din would fare better.

Do I want my fonts (if I use more than one) to correspond or contrast?

Corresponding fonts give an impression of unity and dependability, which is good for clients in health and finance. Contrast, meanwhile, injects an exciting creativity that would appeal to patrons of clothing stores or restaurants.

Should I experiment with a new font, or fall back on an old favorite?

Don’t experiment with your brand image unless there is a reason to, like a complete design, messaging, or tone overhaul.

If you need a nudge in the right direction, check out this flowchart’s font recommendations for different types of projects. Fonts speak to your audience more subtly than you realize, so make sure your font says the right things about you.

How font choice leads to more sales

When you’ve chosen the right font, the happiness and faithfulness of your clients will reflect that. People love it when a font fits perfectly into a brand image.

If you’re still trying to figure out what your brand is, selecting a font is an excellent way to define it for both yourself and your customers.

Keep in mind what works for your target clients. Younger demographics generally prefer informal fonts like Modula Mono, while FF Scala appeals to a more traditional crowd.

Look at the movie method — for many movie releases, such as Disney films, they have a new font created to define the mood of the upcoming feature. They’re entirely unique to their title, but still as legible as Arial or Times New Roman. Now, whenever people see these fonts, they instantly recall the matching movie.

While you may not be able to design a totally new font (however, using outlines you might be able to tweak it), you can follow Disney’s example by matching things like shape and weight to the tone of your advertising. Make sure you only do this for titles and headers, though — trying to read a paragraph in Aladdin would probably give you a headache (a serif is a safe choice for larger bodies of text).

C

In addition to picking the right style, experiment with things like boldness, capitalization, text placement, kerning, and font size until you have a page that can be comprehended in an instant.

Font weight

Bolding says “LOOK AT ME NOW,” important for when you want to make a sale. The contrast between bold and regular can capture attention if used right.

Capitalization

Correct capitalization appeals to the traditional shopper, all caps can be striking when used tastefully, and no caps is sometimes an effective way to intrigue.

Text placement

Pleasing text placement in an image draws attention to the product, not the text itself. The words should be like a good salesperson: ready to inform, but not pushy or show-stopping.

Readability

Kerning, like with monospace fonts, and large counters (the enclosed space in certain letters) make words easier to read. The easier a font is to read, the easier it is to convert.

Font size

Font size for body text should ideally be between 10 and 14 points (larger for older readers), with headings and titles proportionally larger.

Most shoppers are in a hurry, so even if your font is perfect for your brand, they won’t read what you’ve written if it takes too long. Use the examples above to cut reading time.

In the end, simplicity and familiarity are key for conversion.

Lastly, make sure your chosen colors work with your font instead of against it. A sharp, businesslike serif such as Baskerville would obviously lose its power when presented in bright pink or orange, while Ballpoint is hard to read in yellow because of its thin lines and relaxed attitude.

How have font choices impacted your business?

Have you nailed it with a superb font that brings in good feedback, or did you once make a design mistake that inspired polite cringes? Tell us in the comments!

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About Katherine Halek

Katherine Halek is the chief content strategist and social media manager at Signazon, a leading online printer that provides marketing collateral for thousands of designers around the United States. Katherine enjoys writing about graphic design, typography, and web design.Connect with her on Twitter and Google+.

Comments

  1. Wonderful article and tremendously informative! Katherine, I’d love to another one based solely on Google’s web fonts since they appear so commonly in website templates.

  2. Mary Carnahan says

    All good advice. I have only two comments.

    ONE. I spent years in the government contracting arena, compelled to use Times, Arial, or Courier exclusively for the graphics in proposals, often within a limited size range. It was through our fundamental layout skills – proportion, proximity, and arrangement of all the details that we made it work well.

    TWO. It’s a standard display of design expertise to vomit verbally at the mention of Hobo, Papyrus and Comic Sans. I would argue that unless you CAN use any font effectively when needed, the same way it is necessary to work with a client’s iffy logo or photo at times, you really can’t call yourself a professional designer.

    My current position designing for a CD duplicator and design shop allows me almost completely free reign in design choices, whether designing from scratch or modifying existing art, so it’s a great combination of freedom and constraint.

  3. Thanks for the link Katherine! Much love from the TDF team 🙂

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