How to pick fonts for your Business, Branding & Logo Design

Most people don’t really care about typography.

You might appreciate pretty handwriting and you might choose Calibri over Arial in MS Word but that’s as far as most peoples interest and appreciation in fonts and typography will go, and it’s the same when it comes to business branding.

When engaging in a design project I find that most clients have an idea about what type of business image they want to portray or how they want their logo design to look but they have no idea about what type of fonts they should be using for their brand identity.

Not choosing a great combination of fonts for your branding might not sound like the end of the world but a bad use of fonts does have a negative impact on your design communication because bad typography speaks volumes.

The result of bad business typography

Bad typography immediately indicates that something was cheaply made or is cheaper.  If used by a business then it suggests that the business itself may not be that successful, or not as successful as another and immediately positions your business in a different class.  It subconsciously raises questions with consumers as to whether they should actually invest in your brand, product or service because bad typography creates doubts.  You may not realise it, but it does.

Being inconsistent with your typography also reduces the marketing potential for your business.  Consumers may not recognise typefaces by name or commit typeface details to memory but subconsciously they do know that a particular looking typeface belongs to a particular company.  This psychological impact is created through consistently using and displaying a single typeface as an identifiable element as opposed to using a variety of typefaces, and that’s why the fonts chose for your business branding play a very important role in communicating with your customers and building a professional brand identity.

To help get a better idea of how important fonts are, what they mean, how to chose them and use them well for your business branding and logo design, I’ve put together a little guide.

1. Understanding typography on a basic level

When you look at the photo below your brain will react and create a first impression. Ideas, messages and feelings will typically form in your head as your eyes soak in the overall image as well as the details such as the models makeup, hair, clothes and pose. The style, details and photo on a whole, sets a tone, character and story about the lady.

Same lady with different character
The lady with character

Now look at the next photo below. It’s the same model as above but you’ll probably see her in a totally different light, character, tone and story because she has different visual attributes. 

a lady with one character
The same lady but with a different character

What has this got to do with picking a font for your business, brand and logo design?

Like people, fonts have visual characteristics which can be used to judge them, but a font’s identifiable characteristics are subtle.

You can identify and judge a person through visual characteristics such as their skin colour, hair colour, style, size, length and weight.

To identify and judge a logotype or font you can use several general type design attributes.  These attributes will define a tone, style, character and story to create an underlying message to your customers.

Fonts are more than just letters, they are graphics and glyphs that compose character. With a little customisation that character can change completely.

What character are you’re business fonts portraying to your customers?

2. Understanding the difference between typography, fonts and typefaces

So far, I’ve used words such as type, typography, fonts and typefaces and although each term is different in definition, they’re used more synonymously these days. Take a quick read so you can understand some of the basics of creating type.

  • Type Design: Designing Individual Letters eg. A, B, C, D
  • Typeface: Creating a set of letters that carry the same design features eg. Arial 
  • Typography: Arranging a typeface so they can be displayed with legibility eg. Setting the size of letters, kerning and spacing between letters to form a unified set.
  • Font: A specific size, weight and style of a typeface eg. Arial Bold 14pt
  • Font Family: A typeface that has been redesigned into several font variations to create a collective eg. Arial Bold, Arial Black, Arial Narrow, Arial regular = Font Family

Due to the likes of Microsoft Word, you may have just thought that a font is a font and you’d be right in thinking so.  MS Word made it incredibly easy to just pick a font, make a size adjustment and use the font, but what you may not know is that professional designers use professionally designed fonts where a typeface doesn’t come as just a single font but a complete family of fonts.

An entire font family may have 60 variations of a single typeface where the Typeface changes it’s design and format.

These variations share a synergy of features between them making them relative to one another but at the same time, each variation can create a totally different message due to its change in characteristics such as being bold or light.

The point in knowing the above is to show that fonts share relationships with one another just like a family does.  A font may come from a particular family (immediate family) and it can also have friends in the form of fonts that pair well together (like cousins or relatives).  The above definitions also note that there’s a difference between a typeface and a font which is good to know, as it may cause confusion later on.

3. Understanding Font Classifications

The design of typefaces may be one of the most elegant, refined and complex studies in graphic design, with classic outcomes still being used today, and after thousands of years of type design, there are now thousands of typefaces to choose from, so categorising fonts helps identify and control their usage.

Fonts fall into one of four categories, each one with its own subset which could be linked to an era in time. There’s:

  • Serif Typefaces
  • Sans-Serif Typefaces
  • Script Typefaces
  • Decorative Typefaces

Serif fonts can be seen as more classical typefaces using small decorative elements to accentuate character for the letters.

fonts-for-business
Serif’s are the finishing edges on a letter
A Modern sans-serif font
Sans-serif fonts do away with serifs to create a metric design that’s contemporary.
script fonts
Script fonts take the form of hand-written typography.
decorative fonts
Decorative fonts are more entertaining and exaggerated forms of type adhering to their own style and available in all shapes, sizes and ideas, perfect for movies or creating a distinct message for headline use

Each typeface classification (serif, sans, script, decorative) has at least half a dozen subsets each to help classify fonts with greater detail. For example, Serif fonts can be subset into Slab fonts taken from the Egyptian era.

slab fonts
A slab font uses solid bars as oppose to sharp, curved points to create a serif.
Sans serif fonts for branding
Sans-Serif fonts can be subset into geometric fonts which are round or squared fonts which are more squared in design
Script fonts for business
Script fonts can be subset into calligraphy or blackletter.
Decorative fonts
Decorative fonts can be comical or mimick culture to create niche moods

As we delve deeper into typefaces and fonts we can see that time and history becomes apparent with each design, linking to a style or tone from an era.  All of these small details are characteristics that can help your business to communicate a message with the right choice of font.

On the most basic level, we can say that a serif font gives a classic and trustworthy feel, whilst a sans-serif is contemporary and sleek.  A script font is personal yet exuberant, whilst decorative is original and niche.

By that definition alone you could select your business typefaces and improve your design communication instantly but lets go a little deeper still.

4. Font Formats & Families

So far we’ve gone over the design attributes, styles and classifications of typefaces and fonts but to further refine a piece of text or make it more functional you can use font formatting or a font family.

Font families are subsets of fonts in different formatting or styles that originate from eeh original design. They may vary according to:

Body weight 

The weight of a font relates to how thick the stroke is.  Different weightings are classified as :

  • Thin
  • UltraLight
  • Light
  • Regular
  • Semi-bold
  • Bold
  • Black
  • Heavy

Something thicker creates a brave impact whilst something thin is a subtle approach.

fonts-for-business-weights
Aileron font in different weights creating a font family

Spacing, Tracking & Kerning of fonts

When a font is designed the letters are spaced out according to the designer’s intention. Are the letters condensed or extremely spaced out. Condensing a set of letters might make a well–rounded logotype whilst spreading letters out may signify a clearer message that’s easier to read. Kerning represents the spacing between individual letters whilst tracking represents a value of space given to the overall use of letters.

fonts-for-business-tracking
Tracking is the letter spacing between letters

Increasing or decreasing any of these characteristics too much and you’ll end up with a piece of text that’s too hard to read so any kerning or tracking must be done with reason, keeping style and legibilty at the focus of the end results

Width

fonts-for-business-size
It’s not just about thickness but space

The weight may be bold or thin but how about the amount of space an individual letter takes up. It could be a round fat letter which uses two spaces or a thin letter using little space.  Each one sends out a different style and message for your brand.

Big and strong or slim and stylish?

5. Improving your logo design with a good typeface

To improve on the fonts for your branding, pick a typeface from a classification (serif, sans, script, decorative) that communicates your business message. Think about depth, character and tone of the typeface as well as style.  After choosing a classification set, you can then delve deeper into finding a specific typeface to use.  Once that’s done look at each font set within the family of fonts to get the perfect font for your logo eg. a bold format or light.

Serif & Sans serif classification
Serif & Sans serif classification
Bold or light versions of the same typeface
Bold or light versions of the same typeface

If your logo has any other design elements such as an icon then you’re also going to want to pick a font that pairs with that design element to create a balanced logo design.  Look at the design elements used for your icon such as any curves, spikes, lines or shapes.  These elements need to compliment or contrast your choice of font to create a single image that forms your logo design.

5. Pairing fonts

The font you use for your logo doesn’t have to be the font that you use for every piece of marketing collateral, however, as mentioned, consistency is key to creating great, memorable brand imagery so to make your branding better, choose and use either:

  • An entire font family
  • A second font that pairs with the first

By choosing and using a second font, you can expand on your branding and make it a more versatile tool.  Your logo design may use a big bold and decorative font which is iconic and memorable but it might not be the best choice for a long piece or text such as a report or brochure.  This is where a second font comes in handy but the two fonts must be paired correctly.

Pairing fonts is a task that’s second in difficulty to actually creating a bespoke typeface.  Tips for choosing and pairing fonts are :

  • Use fonts that create eligibility
  • Use fonts that complement each other
  • Use fonts that contrast in style
  • Use fonts that deliver in context
  • Use fonts that don’t conflict

Technically, this means that any two fonts can be paired together but the question is whether they work well together.

When pairing a second font think about the context in which it will be used.  If it’s for long pieces of text then you’ll want a neutral typeface suitable for paragraphs and easy reading.  If it’s for headers and titles then a bold bigger font can be used.

Styles need to complement each other whilst also contrasting each other to show a difference in context and style.  The most important thing is that fonts do not conflict with each other.  A conflict can occur if the two fonts are too similar or too dissimilar in mood or style.

Create contrast in style, weigh and tone for a good pairing
Create contrast in style, weigh and tone for a good pairing
blank
Using the same font family can be a diverse way of making your brand look great

Pairing fonts could mean matching moods or neutralising them, and it may come down to your gut instinct to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

The easiest way to combine fonts is to pick a font from two different classifications to work together.

5. Improve eligibility, style and communication with your fonts

The end goal for any written piece of text, is to be read!  And you can help the chances of that happening through your choice of typography and layout.  To effectively improve your brand communication, select font choices for specific purposes because any document you create could need up to 5 different variations of a single typeface.

Try not to use more than 3 typefaces and 3 font variations for any document but if needs be, use fonts within your selected font family to keep consistency.  The overall image of “less is more” will create a better impression when it comes to the typography of professional documents.

6. Create a text content delivery structure

Now we know all about fonts, it’s time to use them practically to create an identity and deliver structured content.

Set out a font and format for headers, another for sub-headers and one more for paragraphs.

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A structure for text content delivery.

Overall picking the right fonts will help you to:

  • Create a brand identity
  • Deliver a message to your customer
  • Communicate consistently
  • Guide users through text content
  • Ensure legibility

Conclusion:

Typefaces are just graphics but they mean much more, creating language and communication that can be instantly understood.  It’s such an advanced age-old concept and it has become second nature for us to use typography but not to give a second thought on the impact that each letter has. Choosing good fonts for your branding can help send the correct message and create the right impression for your business.



4 Comments

  • blank

    Choosing the right fonts can be very appealing to the eye. Adding colors changing the size and style can be and eye catcher. Sometimes the first thing that your eye sees makes the person want to read further into your ideas!
    Thanks for sharing information on fonts!

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