Typography is a crucial aspect of any print publication because it serves as an unconscious persuader for your audience. It attracts attention, sets the style and tone of a document, influences how readers interpret the words, and defines the ‘feeling’ of the page – usually without the viewer recognising a particular typeface.
Selecting a typeface or font just because you’ve heard of it or because you use it routinely in your word processing program is not a good principle to follow for professional printed publications. Before making your final typographic selection, look at the same chunk of text (with an accompanying headline) in several different typefaces and combinations. Readability must always be the bottom line, but you also should chose typefaces that reflect the tone and style of the information you want to present.
Guide to Font Selection
The following guide to font selection will help you in making the best decisions about typography for your publication projects:
Step One: Legibility
The main purpose of good typography is that it should assist – even inspire – the viewer to read the text. A font is useless if it’s not legible.
Type is on the page to serve the text. It should make the words easy to read and provide a suitable background. Type should not overpower the text. Don’t set long blocks of text in italics, bold, or all caps because they’ll be harder to read.
Type can be beautiful and decorative. However, if type calls undue attention to itself or makes it more difficult to read the text, it becomes self-conscious and distracting.
The rules for text legibility are simple: avoid overly decorative fonts, stay away from colours that hurt your readers’ eyes, and so on. However, if your project requires the use of a funky or special font, you’ll obviously have to use one. Just tread cautiously, and use it sparingly!
Step Two: Size, spacing and placement
Body text should be between 10 and 12 point, with 11 point best for printing to 300 dpi printers. You should always use the same typeface, typesize, and leading for all your body copy within a document.
Ensure that you incorporate enough leading (or line-spacing) in large amounts of text. Always add at least 1 or 2 points to the type size. For example: if you’re using 10 point type, use 12 point leading. Automatic line height will do this for you – never use less than this or your text will appear cramped and hard to read.
Don’t make your lines too short or too long. The optimum line length is over 30 characters and under 70 characters.
Make the beginning of your paragraph clear. Use either an indent or block style for paragraphs; don’t use both.
Don’t underline anything, especially not headlines or subheads since lines separate them from the text with which they belong. Use italics instead of underlines.
Step Three: Colour
In terms of typography, you should pick colours that do not hinder the reading experience, and at the same time, highlight and complement your publication design.
Your choice of colour for type should be smart enough to get noticed, but sombre enough not to demand attention. In other words, a good colour palette will enhance your typography, and let the font itself and the written content convey your message.
Step Four: Appropriate typeface for your message
There are no good and bad typefaces; there are appropriate and inappropriate typefaces. Think about your reader and the feeling you want to convey in your document, then choose a typeface that fits.
Always bear in mind that the basic purpose of typography is to enhance readability. Typographic experiments should be based on reading experience, not the other way round.
Keep your target audience in mind. If your business is one that needs to be taken seriously, such as banking, don’t choose a whimsical typeface such as Jokerman or you’ll lose credibility. If you have a fun business, such as children’s party planning, don’t use a serious typeface like Helvetica or you’ll be perceived as boring.
Needless to say, always stay away from Comic Sans!