Matching Type to Message

By LaurenMarie

Consider the following sentence in each of the different styles presented. What does each type choice say about the style of the event?

You Are Invited

Can you begin to see how important choosing the appropriate typeface is?

Questions to Answer

Learn to ask yourself (or your client) the following kinds of questions to get a better understanding of the style of typeface you need to use in your design.

  • What is the message?
  • Who is the audience?
  • What mood do I want to create?
  • How will the typeface work with (or against) the message?
  • How will it work with the images and other elements of design?
  • Are there special historical considerations?

Literally the message of your design will be conveyed through the font you select. But the message will also be expressed through the style of the type. People’s faces, just like typefaces, can say a lot about the subject before anything is actually said or read. Before you start to look at type, you need to have a firm understanding of the message you want to send, even if you don’t have the exact words yet.

The audience is equally as important as the message. If you use a 1950’s typeface for preschoolers, the allusions from using that style will be completely lost on your audience. Speaking of young children, if they are your audience, keep in mind they are just learning to read. You need to use a face with easy to distinguish letters to increase readability. Senior citizens also require special considerations. They need a face that is also easy to read and one that is large enough for them to see clearly.

You can control the mood of a piece considerably by carefully choosing a typeface. Look at the details of the face. Are the lines thick or thin or a combination? Is the type heavy on the page or light and condensed? Is it crude or elegant? Is the overall shape more square or rounded? How do these characteristics contribute to your message?

Connotations

Keep in mind the connotations that faces have. There are many typefaces that have been used in largely distributed or well-known designs. You need to be careful when using faces similar to these as well.

Typefaces can also have a particular meaning in certain cultures and sub-cultures. For example, in the US (and perhaps elsewhere) rap musicians frequently use Gothic (also called blackletter, Old English or Fraktur) style type. Using this face on, say, a pop star’s album would be completely out of place.

It is best to stay away from the faces used in famous logos or titles. What would using the Star Wars or Coca Cola typeface say about your design? Cheesy, that’s for sure! They are very quickly recognized and that has significant impact on your design. There is a bail bonds company near Disneyland that uses the typeface created from Walt Disney’s signature in its logo. Disney will be quite upset when they find out about that!

Practice

Look at the following examples of various typefaces. What does each say to you? What mood does it have? What context would it best fit in? What adjectives would you use to describe each? Traditional, clean, stylish, restrictive, generic, unrefined, elegant, practical, awkward, structured, delicate, refreshing, educational, contemporary, whimsical, melancholy, serious, funny, exotic?

Type Variety

We’re Not Quite Done Yet!

In the next two installments at Creative Curio, we’ll be discussing adjusting type and fonts that every good designer should have in his or her arsenal of creativity (last time, we talked about why you shouldn’t type in all caps and before that, serifs, baselines and x-height if you want to check those out). It would be good to subscribe to the Creative Curio feed so you don’t miss one of these great articles!

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