Help, I'm Lost In A Sea Of Typefaces! Part 1
by Ilene Strizver
Decisions, decisions, decisions! One of the most challenging aspects of any design project is choosing the typefaces. There are now more than forty thousand fonts on the market and that number is growing daily, which makes the search for the “perfect” typeface only slightly more daunting than looking for that proverbial needle in a haystack. With a little planning, however, you’ll find that selecting appropriate typefaces is far more manageable than it appears.
Here are a few basic guidelines to demystify the process and start you on your way to making the right typographic choices.
What are your goals?
Every design project poses specific requirements based on what the finished piece needs to accomplish. What are the goals of your project? A text-heavy annual report calls for a typeface with a high degree of legibility that also captures the spirit of the company; think of a face like ITC Napoleone Slab. A book cover needs a distinctive, eye-catching face that tells a story at a glance. Here ITC Juanita could be the perfect choice. A travel brochure might need a typeface that “oozes” the flavor and excitement of an exotic place, such as Arriba-Arriba, or ITC Simran. And a textbook or novel is best served by a pleasing, readable text face that doesn’t tire the eyes after many pages, such as ITC Charter.
Who is your audience?
Now that you have a sense of what you’re trying to say, the next question is: to whom are you saying it? Consider the demographics: age range, income, level of education, attention span. Different typefaces attract different audiences, both subliminally and overtly. Children are drawn to easy-to-read, childlike fonts, such as ITC Kristen, seniors to larger settings that offer clarity and legibility, teens to edgy, expressive designs, and so on. Also consider how much reading you’re asking your target audience to do and what information you want them to walk away with.
Believe it or not, just by taking time to think through your project’s communication goals, you’ve already narrowed down your typeface choices considerably. Now you’re ready for the big step: tackling the actual selection process. In Part Two, we’ll offer some tips on how to sail across that sea of typefaces without capsizing – stay tuned.
- Editor’s Note: Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio, is a typographic consultant, designer and writer specializing in all aspects of typographic communication. She conducts Gourmet Typography workshops internationally. Read more about typography in her latest literary effort, Type Rules! The designer's guide to professional typography, 3rd edition, published by Wiley & Sons, Inc. This article was commissioned and approved by Monotype Imaging Inc.