8 Typography Design Tips for Using Fonts – Inspiration & Tutorials
The mixture of art and design is a world that is partly freeing and partly frustrating for many people.
There are few things set in stone when it comes to what you can and cannot do.
For some, it is more appropriate to have a rigid set of rules to follow, but at the same time, there are those who believe in the exact opposite and will aim to break every principle they encounter.
What this article aims to do is suggest that neither being a full-on control freak or a complete rebel is not the way to go, but instead it is those who seek a middle way with established guidelines instead that will find the most success.
Here you will learn things beyond the usual typography design tips, like how to use downloaded fonts, what the best fonts to use are, fonts to apply online, and so much more.
1 – Learning the Basics of Typography Design is Essential
The first step anybody can take when it comes to effective use of fonts in typography design is first becoming educated as far as the basics are concerned.
It truly helps to have a strong foundation because those who are unfamiliar tend to erroneously think that typography is relatively simple, only to find that it is more refined than they thought.
There is as much science to this as it is art, especially when you take into account the typeface anatomy, which involves specific jargon.
Designers who do not possess a strong foundation in the basics will find themselves unable to reach their full potential, let alone see themselves able to learn how to use web fonts properly.
It may help to illustrate the complexity of typography by taking a look at the picture below:
As anybody can see, things can get complicated in no time at all.
Although the picture does a superb job in illustrating the terms on a visual level, this is not even considered an exhaustive terminology or jargon list.
You would be much better off by spending some time browsing through the pages of a typography glossary and diving into everything.
In doing so, you will learn more characteristics of whatever typefaces that you will end up using in the future as you find out how to use downloaded fonts, among other things.
2 – Take Context into Consideration
Regardless of what fonts you prefer, you must first acknowledge the fact that the future location of the design is going to ultimately end up as a strong determiner as far as what you ought to use is concerned.
By keeping context in mind, you get to ask yourself questions such as “will the text be easily read or understood?” or “is the font the right size or not?”
These questions are vital because they tackle the issue of clarity, which should never be understated in the case of font usage, especially in the case of smaller ones.
Besides location, your intended message also plays a huge role in the overall context that you need to keep in mind.
Choosing a font for its natural attributes will work well if it matches what you are trying to say.
The choice of complementary fonts provides you with a plethora of personalities to potentially utilise.
As an example, if you are trying to come up with a design for your child's birthday, you may want to look into how to import fonts that are rounded and bubbly.
On the other hand, if you are trying to create a business newsletter, you will be better off with the use of fonts online that are much better suited to such an endeavour.
Two other contextual considerations to keep in mind would be historical periods and genres of typography design.
With that said, it may pay to do your research regarding the back of a particular font you are interested in using.
A little extra knowledge regarding when it was created and how may give you a bit of an idea on how to best use them or if it is even as remotely appropriate for your designs as you thought.
Going for a retro design, for example, may demand the use of fonts that will reflect the decade of the 1950's.
3 – Create Contrast
One thing you may want to try out is the pairing of a serif and a sans-serif font.
That is a combination that works out quite well for a multitude of reasons.
For one, they both have individual merits.
Serif fonts are thought of as being good at moving the reader's eye along in a manner that encourages greater effectivity and reading speed, especially for those that feature lots of text.
If your design is meant for online readers, then sans-serif is just what you need because of the simplified letterforms which can be displayed more clearly on different screen resolutions.
For its pairing, there's a great reason why they work: they create contrast.
The idea of contrast in typography design will bring together several concepts worth considering, which will include hierarchy and the complementary nature of certain fonts when used together.
You can achieve contrast in different ways, which includes style, weight, size, colour, spacing, and various others.
Perhaps its use will help you in learning how to use downloaded fonts that you haven't heard much of and will require experimenting to truly master.
Try mixing up as much as you can and see how much it affects the designs that you are trying to create.
Get the best fonts to use and pair up the fat and thin-looking ones, for example.
Different attributes will lead to the occupation of opposing roles, which is the key to the effectiveness of contrasting.
As much as you want to do this, you may end up creating the unwanted effect of conflict if you are not careful.
Some fonts seem like complete opposites of each other for one reason or another, but they can still work once paired.
Conflict is created when those that fail to complement each other despite the difference are paired up.
As you discover how to add fonts to pages, you will notice that those who are similarly proportioned will look harmonious, even as the overall appearances differ.
4 – Be Aware of Kerning
Although you may concern yourself more with things like how to use downloaded fonts, how to use font face, and how to use font CSS, among other serious topics, one thing you do need to focus on as well would be kerning.
What is this?
Well, this is the adjustment of space between letters within any given font.
Also take note that the issue here is far removed from tracking, which is the simultaneous space adjustment for all letters.
Moreover, no, programs such as Adobe Illustrator are not going to be automatic in solving your kerning troubles for you.
The picture below should give you a small preview of kerning:
For those who haven't encountered this issue or are new to looking for these things, then the problems are going to be incredibly subtle.
You'll see how the first letter stands out; various typefaces have the unfortunate tendency to produce letter spacing that is inconsistent.
Although it is not a problem if you are trying to come up with a paragraph or an article, it can be somewhat glaring when trying to come up with a single word design or a headline.
Sloppiness like this tends to ruin design aesthetics significantly.
5 – Have a Greater Focus on the Alignment
One typography design concept that no designer can ever, ever afford to neglect would be the alignment.
Non-designers seem to have an instinctive need to centre align whatever it is that they're working on, and it seems as if there's an unspoken belief that this makes everything balanced and better.
However, the reality of this is that centre alignment tends to be quite weak and is known by designers to be one of the hardest to read.
It must be stressed that this is to be used only selectively.
When people write and read, it is the left alignment that is most widely used.
This is because of all the books and magazines, which uses this format practically exclusively.
Write an article or a paragraph and make everything centre aligned.
See how much more difficult it can be due to the sentences lacking a hard edge?
You will find no consistent starting point or even a stopping point, and this ensures your eyes will not have a seamless transition from one line to another.
As subtle as this difference can be in practice, in principle it is quite huge.
None of this suggests that you stick entirely to left alignment or get rid of centre alignment from your practices altogether.
In regards to the learning of how to use of downloaded fonts thing and the alignment, the trick would be to mix things when you need to and recognise when you need to use specific arrangements.
When coming up with a single design, there must be consistency with what fonts you are using, as well as in regards to the alignment that is being used along with them.
Experimentation that is taken to far must also be avoided since it will lead to a design that is visually cluttered and very confusing.
6 – Have a Secondary Font Picked Out
Okay, so now you've got an idea as to what primary typeface to utilise for your design, the next step would be to consider choosing another font to accent it.
There are a few things that you need to know before you decide on a secondary font.
First and foremost, there must not be any conflict created between your primary and your secondary.
As discussed earlier, there are ways that you can avoid this.
Then there are those details that those new to typography design may miss or neglect.
Your supporting font must not be as ornate as the primary font.
This is because choosing a more ornate secondary will only serve to detract from the primary, which is the absolute opposite of what you are trying to accomplish.
There are also some scenarios where your two chosen fonts are too similar regarding thickness to be effectively used together.
Regardless of whether they are drastically different concerning their style, the similar stroke weight will not be capable of providing sufficient visual contrast, thus nullifying whatever effectiveness such fonts may have for your design.
What you need to go for would be a secondary font that can appropriately contrast with the primary, keeping in mind what was discussed earlier regarding the interesting topic of contrasting.
For example, the primary is somewhat bigger and brighter.
Therefore, an appropriate secondary would be thinner and more visually subtle.
Although there is no need to contrast as much, all you need to do is to make sure your choices have enough difference between to prevent any visual confusion and provide emphasis on the primary.
7 – Take into Account the Size
Yes, when it comes to typography design, size does matter.
One of the things designers will learn early on in their careers is that a headline needs to be capable of grabbing the reader's attention immediately.
For the most part, you only have a couple of seconds to get someone to stay for more than a moment before they move on to something else if you weren't successful.
Miss out on the opportunity, and you lose a potential customer.
In short, when you create headlines, it isn't enough to type it.
You must design it fully.
To drive this point even further home, picture two examples.
One design is a simple phrase that is made with consistency regarding overall size.
Another is a lot less, with one word being much more prominent than everything else, another set of words being slightly smaller, and the rest being the smallest out of them.
For the first example, you can already draw the conclusion that each word needs to be read to fully embrace what it is trying to say.
There is a solid consistency, which leaves no room for emphasis.
Every word is on equal footing with one another.
The second example, on the other hand, can be considered an entirely different story.
Let us say that the two examples stated above also have the same message.
Then this would make the second story a lot stronger.
Words have been de-emphasised accordingly, and one word, in particular, is practically screaming in comparison.
When you think about the first example, the viewer must first take the time to read everything.
An opposite effect is brought upon by the second example, which can deliver you the message in an instant.
It doesn't even matter if a reader meant to look at your design or not; the message would still come across well if they came upon the design by accident.
8 – Find Inspiration in Various Things
Before you decide to dive head first into the world of typography, it may be best to find other works and study them.
Look at these things for inspiration so you can develop your own ideas.
Not only will you find things to inspire you, but you can also see for yourself that there are numerous existing examples of proper font usage in typography design and wrong font usage.
Be on the lookout and question why certain things work out well or why they do not.
Take a look at the picture below and formulate your own opinion on it:
It is far from the most conservative or conventional design, but you've got to admit that it looks quite good.
Even with all the rules out there, it is best to find your own way and use them only as means of guiding yourself to what original works await you.
As you can see, there is no need to be so rigid with anything you may encounter.
Although there can be things that will strongly argue for or argue against doing certain things, in the end, it is a mixture of many things that can lead you to success.
Whether it is breaking the conventions of centre alignment, the use of different sizes, and looking into how a small space between letters can change things, the world of typography design is a wild and exciting one.
Moreover, while it is essential to ask yourself how to use downloaded fonts, how to use font face, and all those specific things, the journey to becoming a great designer is more than just knowing the technical stuff.
Take these typography design tips and guidelines and see what you can do with them as you grow further in skill with practice and patience aplenty.
Inkbot Design is a Creative Branding Agency that is passionate about effective Graphic Design, Brand Identity, Logos and Web Design.