The Font of all Knowledge? The Importance of Using the Best Font

We all know that writing compelling content is crucial for marketing material but it’s easy to underestimate the importance of using the right font – a word now interchangeable with typeface – for your website, flyers, posters or other paper collateral.

A font speaks volumes

Whichever font you choose has an impact. It can make your business stand out from the competition. When it’s too fancy or too small to read easily, it can annoy potential customers so much that you’ve lost them forever. It can convey your brand or the tone of the message you wish to get across or it can confuse because it’s inappropriate to the content.

For instance:

You’re advertising pre-paid funerals. Tell you what, let’s not use Curlz MT…

Curlz MT Font

Perhaps just a tad too jolly and informal?

In recent years, there’s been a lot of interest in what is actually a very complex subject. In 2001, Dr. Aric Sigman was commissioned to carry out research into the psychology of fonts. Ten years later, Simon Garfield published a book called Just My Type. These studies offer a fascinating insight into some of the different aspects of your font choice.

Yes, fonts are people too

First, each font has its own personality and in choosing one over another it says a lot about us at the same time. The infamous Comic Sans, for example, is meant to be perfect for ‘annoying attention-seekers’, while Times gives a trustworthy and respectable impression. You’re advised not to use Courier unless you want to appear to be a real nerd. Oh and by the way, this is written in Calibri, which apparently has ‘a warm and soft character.’ Well, thank you kindly, but less of the soft, please.

The names of famous people are even attributed to fonts in the study, so for example, Richard Branson is Verdana (professional yet appealing) and Jennifer Lopez is Shelley (sex kitten).

Shelly Script Regular Font

It’s all very subjective, isn’t it? To us, Shelley doesn’t so much say ‘sex kitten’ as ‘Victorian school child’ – which brings us on to the next point.

Font preferences for readers

Apparently, different fonts appeal to different demographics and provoke various reactions, so when creating a web page or paper document of any sort, we should consider gender, age, culture and even personality to be more effective in reaching and captivating our chosen audience.

These considerations all seem to become a bit simplistic and stereotypical, with blocky, bold, rectilinear fonts supposedly appealing to men, and curvy, round fonts allegedly preferred by women. Then, let’s use something funky for young people and LARGE AND CLEAR for an older age group.

In reality, we suspect, the most all of us want is something that’s easy to read!

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 Cowboy – if 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 the best approach.

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. As a general rul of thumb, try using no more than two different fonts at any one time.

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 marketing materials using appropriate fonts to make the end results both compelling AND legible.

This is the first of a two-part series on the importance of choosing the right font for your marketing materials. The second part is all about fancy fonts and web safe fonts, and is available to read right now!

Mailing Expert