Top Five Font Faux Pas

Small caps, bold, italics, and a dizzying array of fonts—when it comes to typography, it’s easy to be dazzled by the options. For a design to be effective, though, the thing to remember is that typography has a purpose, and that purpose is to convey your content.

We’ve put together a list of five of the most common font faux pas; steer clear of these, and it will be your message, not the font, that catches your clients’ eye:

1. Overusing colors: If you want your message to be the focus, people have to be able to read it, and readability often goes hand in hand with simplicity. For body copy, where the majority of the message exists, this generally means black type on a white background. If you really want to add color, do so sparingly and purposefully. Keep it in singular areas, and create some separation from nearby black type to keep things from looking too busy.

2. Overpowering type: While black type is an excellent rule of thumb, sometimes a larger or heavier font may look overbearing in black. For situations like this, grey tones are a nice way to lessen the power of black type, allowing you to keep a message large, but not overpowering. It’s also a great way to lessen the clutter of information that has to be included, but could take away from the overall impact and effectiveness of a great design,

3. Elaborate fonts: Fonts that appear to be written in chalk, fonts with curlicues, fonts that look like they should be on a poster for a Dracula movie—you name it, there’s a font for it. But unless you are actually making a Dracula movie, elaborate and gimmicky fonts are only a distraction from what really matters in your design: the message. Your best choice for most projects is a font that is easy to read and that doesn’t call attention to itself, like Helvetica or Times New Roman. Specialty fonts are best left for headings, titles, and areas where you have to get a point across with very limited space.

4. Too many fonts: Even if you’re using fonts that are easy to read, the message can get lost if you switch back and forth between them. When it comes to fonts, simplicity is the name of the game. Every second that a client has to pause, every second a client spends feeling like something is “off,’ is a second not spent thinking about who you are and what your business can offer. Keep your message front by sticking with two or three complimentary fonts.

5. Not scaling proportionally: It’s so temping. You have a certain amount of space to fill, and your text is either slightly over or slightly under that requirement. If you stretch or condense that text box just a little, making the letters just a tad wider or a tad thinner, it will fit perfectly. The problem is that if you don’t scale text proportionally, the letters will look distorted. This will make them harder to read, less pleasing to the eye, and if your design has text in other places, it won’t match. You can avoid this problem by always being sure to scale proportionally—adjusting the height and width by the same amount.


What’s your favorite way to use fonts to show off, rather than distract from, your message? We’d love to know!

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