With access to thousands and thousands of new fonts, designers find it difficult to weed out the bad from the good.
As students of graphic design, it is drilled in many of our heads that 99% of all scenarios can be tackled with about 5 or 6 ‘default’ typefaces. While this can give your design a very distinctive look, it can get a bit monotonous and can make your work look limited if done incorrectly. That doesn’t mean that your favorite font isn’t good enough. It simply indicates the increasing need for good typography in design. Sure, it’s good to stick to a particular ‘palette’ of fonts for the most part, but you can get a lot more versatility out of a single font if learn the fundamentals of type. Your favourite type can be tweaked, altered, shaped and spliced to fit a whole host of needs. There are many newer fonts in the market today that are just variations of their more staid cousins. It is important to make these changes look seamless and like they were part of the letterform to begin with.
In the days when print ruled, type was created by actual foundries. With most modern fonts today, the ‘foundry’ that designed the typeface cut corners to produce it. This might have been done by scanning printed letterforms, auto-tracing them in Illustrator, and putting them into FontLab without cleaning them up or correcting any errors created that the software created. Digital fonts, when blown up to large sizes, are prone to bad quality being easily visible. A good font should be elegant and readable at size 10 and size 84 alike. If your font isn’t, choose a different one. Make sure vectors re elegant and clean and have no signs of lazy auto-tracing.
While numbers, symbols, dingbats and ligatures may not seem important, you realise their importance when you need one and then have to improvise or borrow from a different font. To avoid all this, pick a good font that has all the symbols you need. A ‘perfect font’ can make you rue the day you chose it, if it is not complete enough for you to finish your project. Check to see if there is a better option, or one just as good, before you commit to an incomplete font.
Type weights (as boring they were to learn about in design school) are pretty important pieces of the typography puzzle. Type weights (bold, italic, etc.), like symbols, seem inconsequential up until the time you have to use them. There are many typefaces that come in one weight only such as roman capitals and many pixel or stencil fonts. Take their limitations into account before you start your project if you want to work with one of these fonts.
Different fonts look better depending on where you use them. For instance, Arial, Tahoma or Georgia are indented for digital applications, whereas more classic and older fonts such as Baskerville, Bodoni or Goudy are best suited to print. Fonts that are modern like Helvetica tend to look great both on and off screen. Don’t be afraid to Google your typeface. Who know? Maybe you’ll find its origins, usage and more.