Did you know there are more than half a million fonts? When you are presented with this much choice, finding the best fonts for your website can look like a near impossible task. Serif or sans serif? Bold or light? Do I make my headings a different colour to my body text? There are many questions to ask, and you need to answer them all to have a successful outcome, providing users of your site with a pleasant experience. However, there are a few things you can do to make this choice a lot easier. Here are just some of the many things we keep in mind at Webmad when choosing fonts for a client.
So many fonts – how do I pick the right one?
The basics of typography
We need to start by laying some ground rules. What is the difference between a font and a typeface? Well in their most literal senses, a typeface is a complete set of characters with a common design ethos, while a font is a typeface with a specific weight, size, and style. So, what does this mean exactly? This would mean that, as an example, Times New Roman would be a typeface, whereas Times New Roman at a bold weight, sized at 25 point and coloured blue would be a font. Now when someone says Comic Sans is their favourite font, you can correct them and tell them – “Well actually it’s your favourite typeface.” There are some other terms used to describe the styling of fonts that I will briefly cover here: Line height is the vertical distance between lines of type, measured from baseline to baseline. Tracking is the spacing between characters when applied to an entire piece of text, whereas kerning is the spacing between individual letters or characters. Weight is how heavy the font appears – for example, light, medium or bold. With all of these fundamentals combined together you have a huge control over the look and feel of a typeface, and this can translate directly into your website.
Serif vs Sans Serif
The big question you might ask yourself when first picking a typeface: to serif or not to serif? For those who don’t know, serifs are the little strokes attached to the end of a letter. An example of a serif typeface would be Times New Roman. Sans serif comes from the French word sans meaning ‘without’ so sans serif typefaces are ones without serifs. An example of this would be Helvetica. There are more categories of typefaces than these two, but the large majority of them fit directly into either serif or sans serif. When you are selecting a typeface for your website, this should be the first question you ask yourself. And before you find your answer you should know, there is no correct one. No matter what choice you make, there are typefaces on both sides of the serifs that are great choices for every occasion. As a general rule of thumb, however, serif fonts generally convey ideas of tradition, establishment and trust whereas sans serif fonts are more modern approachable and clean. This isn’t a catch-all rule though so if you’re needing help finding the right match make sure you get help from the experts!
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Current font trends
The world of design is constantly changing and evolving, and typography is no different. There is a large trend currently that focuses on vintage, nostalgic fonts. These can be split into a few different categories: First of all is the vintage narrow serifs. These take inspiration from the peak of print fashion magazines in the 80’s, when typefaces that were tall and narrow were favoured. Art deco is also making a massive revival. Typefaces like Broadway that romanticise the glamour of the 1920s are experiencing a huge increase in popularity throughout the world. Some other styles to note are pixel fonts – reminiscent of old arcade games like Pacman and Space Invaders. Finally, Psychedelia, the styling reminiscent of the 60s and 70s and hippies (and, you guessed it, psychedelics) is also seeing a resurgence in pop culture. To summarize, typefaces that make people feel as though they are being transported to a different time in the past, whether it is one they directly experienced or only had the fortune of experiencing through media, are seeing a massive increase in popularity all through culture, whether it be print, film, web or software. If you can make users of your website feel that wave of nostalgia, you’re probably doing something right.
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