Back in the day, when paper was the king, a lot could be deduced about you from your handwriting. Handwriting is very personal, as if you are thinking through your fingers. In the modern day and age, with the advent of digital, the same can be said about typeface or font family you use to write your resume, or the content for your website. Typography is both a timeless art and a contemporary skill that you have to master in order to choose the right typeface.
If you are wondering why we are attaching so much importance selecting the proper font, here is just one example. Imagine writing an elaborate financial statement in Comic Sans? What kind of reaction do you think you would get from the readers? Our guess is that you probably wouldn’t be taken seriously if you use a font that resembles a child’s scrawl.
As with everything in life, there are some golden typography rules. Here are the five basic ones.
1. Context and Content
Where is your text going to appear? Are you writing an ad copy and you need the typeface to simply pop up? Maybe you are designing a magazine page which has to be pleasing to the eye? If, for instance, you are designing the front cover of a book about the American civil war, using archaic-looking typeface, like Clarendon, might be a good idea.
Legibility is “the ease with which a reader can recognize individual characters in text”. You might also call it readability. Your text needs to communicate the message properly while taking into account the limitations of the human eye. The letter and word shapes can either make it easy or hard for the reader to read the text. If the text is hard to read, well, its basic intention is impeded. Communication should always come before style.
3. Size Does Matter
Font size serves the purpose of grabbing attention. The smaller it is, the less attention the reader will give to it. You only have two or three seconds to grab the reader’s attention and this particularly refers to headlines. Do not simply write the headline out, but design it with a purpose. Writing everything in the same font size equals to zero emphasis on the message you are trying to convey.
4. Combine Different Typefaces Effectively
This one can be a bit tricky. The general rule is to combine a neutral Serif with a San Serif (e.g. Times New Roman with Helvetica). If you want to be sure that you got this right, you can combine two fonts from the same typeface family like Gill Sans with Perpetua.
5. Sometimes no rule is the best rule
There are situations when you have to go with your gut instinct and when the design decisions you make should be subjective. As someone once said: “The moment you fully understand a design rule is the moment when you have permission to break it.” For creating a good and effective typography sometimes you must break the rules.