The font of all knowledge? Fancy Fonts and Web Safe Fonts

As promised in Part 1 of this series, this blog will address the issues and opportunities generated by the use of fancy fonts.

Fancy fonts are fun!

There are literally thousands of fonts to choose from these days, some of them completely free to download, some of them requiring a licence. In fact, it would be quite easy to drown in a sea of fonts that are now available and it’s for that reason that many people stick to what they know. However, with careful thought, it’s not necessary to be over-cautious. Success may come to those who are prepared to go that little bit further to find something out of the ordinary to make their brand stand out from the rest.

Even the names suggest a sense of fun and originality. Here are some of our favourites:

  • Bleeding Cowboyif you know Uckfield, this was used on the shop front and website of Elysium Engraving
  • Ecofont – actually takes regular fonts and fills them full of holes so less ink is used when printing!
  • Charcuterie Ornaments – “homage to the inventiveness, passion, and care of peasants” – apparently.
  • Doctor Cosmicucumber – the less said the better…

They certainly raise a smile in a world which can be dull and monotonous.

Web safe fonts – myth or reality?

Thinking about websites, in years gone by, only a few so-called ‘web safe’ fonts could be used, because it was impossible to see a fancy font on a computer which hadn’t already got it installed.  A default font would appear instead. This meant that all text on the internet looked pretty much the same.

One of the ways round this was to replace written text with an image of the writing, such as a .jpg. Such a clunky solution! It looked sloppy, considerably slowed download time and was a sure way to deter anyone from bothering with your website.

Without getting too technical, in these enlightened days there are a number of developments which allow an astonishing array of fonts to work well across the whole array of digital media. CDNs (Content Delivery Networks), such as Google Fonts or Typekit, do exactly what is required, freely delivering content like fancy fonts to consumers.

This aside, it’s still important to test your font choice to make sure it performs well across different environments. For example, email coding is not yet that adventurous, so sticking to tried and tested fonts in that medium is probably best.

Consider legibility

Not all fonts have been designed with legibility in mind. They’re simply created to make a bold typographic statement and not intended for large chunks of text. If you choose something that is too overpowering, it may distract people from your message – they’ll be too busy admiring (or hating!) the typeface instead.

Especially where websites are concerned, it’s best to use highly fancy fonts only for decorative purposes or for headlines. They’re a great way to get attention. For the body of your text, restrained is better because it’s easy to read. For print purposes, it’s slightly less of an issue because people dwell for longer upon cards, flyers, letters and brochures; however legibility must still be a paramount consideration.

A combination of different fonts may be effective but we all have to be careful not to create a mish-mash that’s confusing to the eye. Fonts come in families, so you could use variations of one typeface to make the final result more cohesive.

Interesting research about fancy fonts

To round up this blog, we’ve been fascinated to read some work undertaken by neuroscientists Hyunjin Song and Norbert Schwarz of the University of Michigan. They have discovered that, in certain circumstances, using harder-to-read fancy fonts can be a positive, even though it slows down the reading process. Apparently, it suggests to a consumer that more effort and skill is needed to create the product or service. They used restaurant menus as an example, presenting subjects with the same menus – one printed in fancy and one in simple font. The skills needed by the chefs to produce the food on the fancy font menu were rated much higher than for those on the simple menu – hence, higher prices could be justified!

It’s always a balancing act, isn’t it? Overdo this idea with your own marketing material and people may not bother to struggle through it, which they would as a captive audience reading a menu in a restaurant.

Here at Mailing Expert, we can help you to design material using appropriate fonts to make the end results both compelling AND legible.


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Compelling Copy can be Clear as Well

Or – how not to be too clever for your own good when writing marketing material.

Though technically anyone can write, the task of creating copy for websites, brochures, flyers and other marketing collateral is often delegated to copywriters because of their skill with words. That’s their job, after all. Horses for courses. Producing exciting messages to cajole potential customers into buying your product or using your services is in their blood, (or it should be), whereas the rest of us often haven’t the time, inclination or ease with words to write effectively.

We might struggle for hours on a piece of writing which a copywriter could create in a quarter of the time – and with better results – so it makes more sense for us to do what we’re good at and leave the writing to someone with the right skill-set.

Copy that’s as clear as mud?

Engaging a writer to, well, write, is only common sense. However, writers simply love words and like nothing better than playing with them. They love a little lick of alliteration, they’ll go to the ends of the earth for hyperbole and as for onomatopoeia – boom! (See what we did there? If not, it confirms exactly what we’re talking about).

When you’re trying to get across your marketing message, wordplay is all well and good. It makes copy quirky, witty and individual and can really give a sense of your brand image, BUT – that’s only as long as the information isn’t so tied up in linguistic acrobatics that it’s no longer clear what you’re promoting.

We’ve all seen adverts which make us shake our heads and think, ‘Well, that was very entertaining, but what exactly is it about?’ Cleverness kills conversions. On the other hand, copy that is clear to the point of being patronising can be oh so dull – and boring material loses sales too. It’s a dilemma…

There are more than two types of copy

It seems to be an ongoing debate in marketing circles – this idea of clear v clever copy. We’re here to tell you that you can have it all. Sometimes, clear, down-to-earth copy is required, just like the famous Ronseal ad, ‘It does what it says on the tin.’ That’s clear and that’s clever too.

Sometimes, clever copy can pique people’s interest. Here’s one from Swiss Life, financial and legal services:

I like working with you is impossible.

For all life’s twists and turns:

Flexible financial plans.

Clever. Compelling. It makes you look twice. Clear? Yes, we know what’s on offer.

Good copywriters will know which approach to use no matter what the product or service, to maximise effect and the chance of conversions. We all understand that a marketing campaign is wasted if it isn’t on-message and on-brand. That doesn’t mean that the message can’t be clever as well as clear. A clearly-stated benefit which is exactly the same as your competitor’s clearly-stated benefit isn’t going to make you stand out from the crowd.

Marketing guru, David Ogilvy says, ‘There are no dull products, only dull writers.” There are clever writers too. The cleverest writers know when they shouldn’t be too clever.

Mailing Expert