The Very Basics.
There's a lot to say about fonts. So, this article is only about choice. I'll get onto writing one on using fonts at a later date.
Choose fonts based on:
1. Their job: Is their job to be body copy, display or somewhere in between?
2. Their personality: Are they a good fit for the document's themes and message?
FONTS AND THEIR JOBS
For the sake of being concise, fonts and text are usually display or body.
DISPLAY: The popular group. 'We are on display.'
These fonts are the entertainers and celebrities of the typography world. They distract us with their curly, dripping, cracked forms and we find we can't look away.
Display fonts are used for display text - headings, banners, fliers, invitations, short phrases or sentences and any typography that is showing off.
BODY: The nerds. 'We make up the body and brain.'
These fonts are the workhorses of the typography world. They are the quiet achievers.
Body copy fonts are used for blocks of text. They are designed and proven to be legible in paragraphs. They are the ones you see in books. Their design is finely crafted so our eyes don't get tired and their personalities don't distract us from what we are reading.
A TRAP: Body copy fonts cannot be identified by merely looking 'plain'. Plenty of commonly used 'plain' fonts are inappropriate for large blocks of text.
A RULE: Body copy fonts can also be used for display and creative purposes.
A RULE: Display fonts cannot be used for body copy.
FONTS AND THEIR PERSONALITIES
Like when you employ a person, a font needs to be a good fit for its work environment*.
We read the personality of a font before we read the words. A font with a strong personality should only be used when the personality is in line with the intended communication. If this alignment fails, we have confusing communication. This misunderstanding distracts the reader away from the document's message.
Fonts can communicate combinations or degrees of these and infinitely more themes:
clean and neat
art nouveau historical
middle ages historical
overly decorative script
Creativity doesn't usually thrive in a prison with stone walls. All rules are general. They are meant to be broken, when it is appropriate and fun to do so.
Know your audience then craft your message so its easy for them to understand.
Typography is an old art so I respect its mysteries.
The process of reading has elements of nature, nurture, biology, background and society. Creating a well designed font requires understanding all that plus programming and an excellent design eye. It takes a deft mind, time and fine tuning.
Many fonts that are utilised to great success today were designed a good while ago.
Below are fonts that I like to use for body copy and 'in between'. 'In between,' means paragraph text that may be in a brochure, advertisement, flier, poster etc.
This list includes fonts I use for digital and print documents for clients. For non client projects I don't stick to any hard rules.
There aren't really any favourite display fonts. I often like to use the traditional body copy fonts for display purposes, as they are or sometimes they are customised. Otherwise, I choose display fonts to suit their purpose.
Garamond – designed 1621, adapted 1825, digital version 1977
Georgia – designed 1993
Times New Roman – designed 1931, arguably
Palatino – designed 1984
Helvetica – designed 1957
All the above plus
Gill Sans – designed 1928
Futura – designed 1927
DIN – designed 1931
I hope this article limits the time you spend scrolling through the 'myriad' of font choices.
Author - Lamese Larney
* [Thanks for this tip, Footprint Recruitment - Ed]