Fonts are primarily for visual pleasure, it’s true. Since visual impact is significant to user experience, designating the right font for your content will help decide if your content will actually reach and engage your audience.
Your Font Experience
- Font enthusiasts may have heard about a documentary called Helvetica by Gary Hustwit where the subject of how Helvetica came to be the most popular font in the world is analyzed.
- Typeface aficionados may have heard of books that dig deeply into what certain fonts say about our culture as well as give a background on font histories and controversies in modern day.
- You know about fonts on a surface level; you know which ones you like to look at and view a sample book when faced with such an overwhelming choice, such as with graphic design.
Whether you know a lot about different fonts or not, however, you are affected by fonts you read on a daily basis.
- From about 100 A.D.we have used a visual language in Western civilization
- From about 1440 A.D, we have Gutenberg to thank for inventing movable type (in the printing press)
- From 1469 A.D – 1818 A.D, conventional typefaces were designed in Europe
A more in-depth chronology of Western typefaces can be found here.
Why Are Fonts Important?
Fonts can affect how people interpret the information they read and it may be the deciding factor to whether someone reads your content or moves on to something else. In this digital marketing world where visuals rule, the impact of fonts has psychological significance to every reader that visits your website.
Selecting the wrong font can prove distracting to readers, while selecting the right one can provide a positive user experience.
Using Fonts On The Web
Popular and well-known fonts as well as their inventors are listed in this periodic font table and serve as a great example. Look at it and pick out ones that you like best and ones you hate or dislike.
- What do you like / dislike about them?
- Does the font incite a certain emotion?
- Which ones seem informal and inappropriate for your website?
- Are some too artsy?
Answering these questions provide an example of the psychology or message that fonts convey to readers. Also, readers may unconsciously associate a certain font with a certain group or brand.
While this association can be great for brand marketing, it can backfire if the association is a negative one.
To Serif Or Not To Serif
Thinking in terms of your brand, use some adjectives to describe what you do and who you are. Then decide which fonts suit that brand personality.
- Serif – These are the shorter lines at the ends of letters. May give you website a traditional yet “humanistic” feel. It’s warm and it’s personal. Though these are easy to read in printed materials like books, they can be more difficult to read on a computer screen.
- Sans Serif - More minimalist and simple. Straightforward to read but less distinct and less personal. Typically used for technical documents or powerpoint presentations.
Script & Custom Fonts
Though script or cursive fonts may look pretty on formal invitations, they are more suited for specific decoration on your website and not appropriate for your content because they are too difficult to read in paragraph form.
The same fonts may look different depending on the environment. For example, Helvetica and Geneva typefaces may look better on Macs and Arial may look its best on PCs. Fonts such as Verdana are chosen because they are neutral and look well on both Mac and PC platforms.
- It should also be noted that typefaces that are not pre-installed may be replaced by default fonts, which will change the look and visual impact of your site.
These are parameters such as kerning (line and character spacing), bold, italic, underline, colors, and size. Though these are all effective devices for visual appeal, using them too generously can overwhelm your reader. Smart writers use attributes sporadically so that the website looks professional and doesn’t become illegible or chaotic.
Though we now have free access to thousands of typefaces we can adjust and download, from its early stages typography was something that required expert skill to design and establish the aesthetics of each typeface.
Today we are influenced by fonts new and old, though we may not even be aware of the impact they have. Typefaces continue to prove significant because they evoke emotion and influence positive or negative responses from readers, albeit in different cultural contexts.
So what do you want your font to say?