Everyone knows that words are powerful. Using the right ones evokes emotion and action that can create predictable outcomes. Marketing, social rallies, and political campaigns are all excellent examples of this. And there is no better time than now to get to the heart of how to create those outcomes for your marketing without creating negative or ineffective campaigns. Many words that are effective in making a point can also have multiple meanings or be misconstrued based on the reader’s interpretation. That’s where fonts come in!
Although the term “show me don’t tell me” often refers to actions, it is also relevant here. When you verbally relay something to a customer or prospect, you have the advantage of using your tone of voice to make sure the meaning is understood. When you are writing or displaying that same sentiment, the typeface, or font, you choose is your tone. Ever get a text in all caps and immediately think the person is yelling? Instantly your back goes up, or your sympathy pours out only to find out they were rushing through a grocery store and had caps lock on by mistake. Simply using an uppercase font created a misunderstanding. Now imagine if those letters had been in thick, bold lightning strike fonts too!
The ABC’s of Fonts
First, know that the words “typeface” and “font” are interchangeable, another example of words having multiple meanings but being interpreted differently. So we’re going to keep it simple and to the point. There are four basic font groups: serif, sans serifs, scripts, and decorative styles with scores of subcategories. Typographers and scholars of typography (yes they exist!) have developed many ways to more definitively categorize typefaces that just lead down a rabbit hole!
Here are the most notable distinction of the groups: Serif fonts portray tradition, sophistication, and a formal tone while slab serifs are bold and contemporary; script fonts are elegant, classic, stylish, and formal. And decorative fonts have an appearance with embellishments or ornaments. But showing is better than telling, especially when we’re talking fonts!
As you can see, there are definite tones you can set simply by choosing the right style of font. At this point, I’m thinking perhaps this blog should have been called “Everything About Fonts You Ever Wanted to Know But Didn’t Care To Ask!”
Typeface is one of those elements that a lot of people take for granted. So why should you care? It’s not like you’re PRINTING reams of material these days. After all, you’re marketing digitally! This is why fonts are soooo much more important than ever. Today we are bombarded by tons of posts, ads, and pages across the cyberverse, and if you want to stand out, sometimes you need to just be clean and clear.
Fonts are created by graphic design artists, and, like jewelry, they should complement and show off your content. When a few specific and meaningful pieces are used sparingly, it’s a beautiful thing. When you pile on the multiple layers of fancy fonts to embellish your work, it just looks cheap and gaudy!
Remember that you’re competing with the world when you create your digital content, which means your audience is also seeing the rest of the world’s content scroll before their eyes.
“It takes only 0.25 seconds of exposure for people to recall mobile feed content at a statistically significant rate. And in News Feed on Facebook, we’re seeing people spend, on average, 1.7 seconds with a piece of content on mobile, compared to 2.5 seconds on desktop.” – Fors Marsh Group, FMG, National Institute Of Standards And Technology
WOW! So your ad needs to make an impact in as little as a quarter of a second! No, the font is not the key element to do that, that’s videos and images, but that’s another blog! However, fonts are a big part of what bridges the gap between when your ad, post, or page is seen and the time they spend with your content. After all, if your content is tight but it isn’t comfortable or easy to read, or your font makes it off-putting or inflammatory, you just got scrolled!
The reverse can happen in a derogatory manner too! Just like the text example earlier. If you use a font that is usually associated with a horror movie title font to get attention for a “Puppy Sale,” be prepared to have PETA and puppy mill opponents taking notice. And not in a good way! Remember, less than .25 seconds for that recall. How do you want your brand remembered at a glance?
What’s The Point?
Font sizes are measured by point (pt.). Surprisingly, that is a very important and easy way to know how your fonts will actually look. I just heard your brain say “huh”? It isn’t metrics or algebra. Stick with me here, you’ll be glad you did.
Points dictate the height of the lettering. There are approximately 72 (72.272) points in one inch or 2.54 cm. For example, the font size 72 would be about one inch tall, and 36 would be about a half an inch.
Ding, ding! Lightbulb moment! So when choosing that huge 120pt font for your site title because it looks so good on the screen (or adversely the 32pt for a printed sign), you can now visually guestimate what size that actually is and adjust accordingly! I think my inner nerd is showing…back to our regularly scheduled facts.
The ideal pt. size for website pages is 14 to 16. Social media posts and ads dictate your font size by default. But in their Ads you can choose from Headline sizes (H1, H2, H3, etc.). Unlike in word-processing apps and software, these are not editable but “static,” meaning they are preset by the platform and cannot be changed. The purpose of this is not for styling but for HTML and SEO purposes, but again, that’s another blog post! Don’t worry you can use custom fonts in your video or image content.
The Font Police
Okay, there are no Font Police, so to speak. But fonts are the actual intellectual property of their creators and, just like illustrations or photos, are licensed. When choosing a font make sure that you read the licensing documentation, whether you purchase it or it’s a FREE download. And remember: when purchasing the download, always make sure to check if it is available for commercial use, and that you buy the commercial use download. Trust me, they make it very clear and easy to determine this on any reputable font depository site. I personally have rarely been unable to find an open use font, or one that’s free for commercial use, that I liked just as well as a licensed font. But be mindful of the rights, and watch out for the bait-click ads and unscrupulous “Free font downloads” that are advertised by software resellers with confusing click-bait sites. If a site makes it too confusing to understand clearly how to get what you want, leave it!
So where do you find these fonts to download? Here are some great choices, and most of them are free. They are also safe sites from which to download, and nearly everyone in the marketing, publishing, and web development industries use them.
A Font By Any Other Name
Well, what more could we say about fonts? A lot! There are things such as spacing, colors, the psychology of fonts (yes, it is a thing!) and, of course, custom fonts that visually represent brands (Indiana Jones, Coca-Cola, Star Wars). But you may need a nap before that.
The most important thing we hope you’ve learned here is that Font Lines Do Matter, bold or light, serif or sans-serif, the way your message’s meaning is interpreted is up to you!