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Let's Talk Type

Let's Talk Type

Mike Lenhart

As designers, we all do it. When we put on our typographer “hat”, we need to establish the current typeface or two that we’re going to use in any particular document. I really love doing this part of the job. It can be a fun, and creative, way to research your font suitcase to find just the right one to effectively communicate to your clients’ audiences.

The Perfect Font for Every Job

In design communications, there is always a voice that needs to be conveyed. Is the piece a corporate brochure or an annual report for a non-profit? Should the font be laid-back and easy or should it be serious and direct?

How your choice of typeface behaves in the document is extremely important, if not the most important piece of the design. There’s no law against going away from convention, but we need to be careful where and when we flagrantly break the rules. There are more restrictions and limits on what to use in corporate communications, but we can still be creative and make the color of the piece stand out. There is also nothing wrong with using scripts and fleurishes in more social pieces, like announcements or invitations, but be careful not to make them too sugary.

A Real Workhorse

When the typeface or typefaces (rule of thumb – no more than 2 in any given piece of communications) are chosen, try to get one that is truly a workhorse. What does that mean? Here are some rules of thumb as taken from the Erik Spiekermann book, Stop Stealing Sheep – and find out how type works:

*A good regular weight

*At least one good bold weight that will compliment the regular one

*Very legible numerals

*Economy – it should be able to fit in tight areas without becoming illegible or unreadable

The Fun Fonts

Yes, there are many one-of-a-kind fonts out there that are also called display fonts. They’re usually pretty specific on how they look and usually work in a few instances. These can be used and abused, and, believe me, I’ve seen them abused a lot – usually by folks that don’t have professional training in typograpy.

Fonts can be fundamental, finicky, and fabulous. The more practice you get in this area, the better you’ll undoubtedly get. When reading magazines or other written publications, take time to notice the typography of the pieces. You’ll soon have an eye for great layouts using great typefaces and also ones that aren’t so great. It’s a whole new way of honing your design skills.


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