Typography can make or break your design: a process for choosing type

Typography can make or break your design: a process for choosing type

One of the most important skills you can learn as a designer is how to choose type.

This is because text is one of the primary ways designers can communicate with users. Typography can make or break a design.

There’s a beauty and complexity to typography. Some people devote their entire careers to type. Thankfully, their work is well documented, so we have tons of online resources for typography.

This article is designed to serve as a starting point for helping you learn how to choose type for your designs. It will encourage you to explore fonts and font combinations beyond those you’re familiar with.

Identify your purpose

Before you do anything else, first identify the purpose of your design. What information do you want to convey? What is the medium for your design?

Good design aligns its typography with its purpose. This is because typography is key to setting mood, tone, and style in your designs.

For example, if you are designing a greeting card that’s illustration heavy, choose a font that fits the style of your illustration. Harmonize your type with the rest of your design.

Choose a font that suits the style of your illustration

If you’re designing an image-driven landing page, choose a simple font that doesn’t detract from your images. Use type as a way to emphasize information to communicate meaning.

If images are the focus of your design, choose simple fonts so that the images stand out

Identify your audience

After determining the purpose of your design, identify your audience. This step is crucial because age and interest will influence your font options.

After clarifying the purpose of your design, identify your audience. This step is crucial because information about your users such as age, interests, and cultural upbringing could influence the decisions you make for your type.

For example, some fonts are more appropriate for children. When learning to read, children need highly legible fonts with generous letter shapes. A good example of this is Sassoon Primary. Sassoon Primary was developed by Rosemary Sassoon and based on her research into what kind of letters children found easy to read.

Sassoon Primary was developed Rosemary Sassoon

Other fonts are more appropriate for seniors. Senior-friendly fonts use readable sizes, high contrasting colors, and avoid scripts and decorative styles.

When choosing type, take into account your audience and their needs. Simply put, empathize with your users.

Look for inspiration

Look at the work of other designers. Try understand how they made their decisions for type.

Font Inspiration

For font inspiration, The 100 Best Free Fonts by CreativeBloq is a great article to put you in the right mindset for choosing type. In the article, CreativeBloq explains the motivations behind each font.

Another useful resource is 100 Greatest Free Fonts Collection for 2015 by Awwwards.

Invision also compiled a giant repo of typography resources. You’ll find lots of sources for inspiration there.

Typ.io curates font inspiration from around the web

For inspiration from actual websites, check out Typ.io. The site curates font inspiration from around the web. In addition, the site provides CSS font definitions at the bottom of each inspiration sample.

Asides from looking at dedicated font inspiration websites, visit your favorite sites and check out what fonts they use. A good tool for this is WhatTheFont. WhatTheFont is a Chrome extension that lets you inspect web fonts by hovering over them.

Pairing Inspiration

Beyond just fonts, also look at font pairing inspiration. Font pairing is just as important as the fonts themselves. Good font pairing helps establish visual hierarchy and improve the readability of your designs.

Font pairing is just as important as the fonts themselves

For inspiration, start with Typewolf. Typewolf curates font pairing inspiration from different sites. Beyond that, they also have font recommendations and in-depth typography guides. It’s a treasure trove for typographers.

FontPair also curates font pairing inspiration, specifically for Google Fonts. You can sort by type style combinations such as sans-serif and serif, or serif and serif.

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