5 top tips for picking the perfect typeface

Selecting the right typeface depends on function, context and a host of other factors. Here's how to do it...

From global branding projects to mobile applications, the right – or wrong – typeface plays a pivotal role. So how do you select the right style for the job?

Every project is different, of course, but there are rules that will help you find the right font. From testing selections to perfect pairing, follow these tips to get it right every time...

01. Think function

Always think about function as well as form. There's no point finding a typeface that ticks the creative boxes, testing it and wowing your client with it, only to discover that it won't actually work for the project because it lacks key technical features. Consider these from the start.

02. Follow foundries

Type should be in your consciousness, not something you only think about when you need to use it. Try following some foundries on social networking sites, read typography blogs or simply keep your eyes peeled for good and bad examples of type you see out in the world. the more you notice, the more you'll know.

03. Test rigorously

Always test your type in ways that are relevant to the project. You don't know if a typeface will work until you've seen it at the right size and tested whether the spacing works. As Peter Bil'ak points out, you need a realistic idea of how it's going to look – which you often won't get from fake Latin.

04. Think effectively

Like any design decision, typeface selection needs to be the result of effective thinking. The fact that you like a typeface doesn't necessarily mean it's going to convey the right brand messages to your target audience. You may convince your client, but the design won't do its job.

05. Pair up properly

If you're trying to pair two typefaces, start by defining what you want to achieve: are you aiming for harmony or contrast? Are you looking for complementary typefaces with corresponding curves, for example? Be careful not to let things get too uniform. Done wrong, this can be as inadvisable as double denim.

Words: Anne Wollenberg
Image: Studio Dumbar

The full version of this article first appeared in Computer Arts issue 237: Pick The Pefect Typeface.

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