Last Updated: February 16, 2024, 1:55 pm by TRUiC Team


Understanding What Fonts Convey

Ch 4.05

The fonts you use can affect how customers see your brand just as much as the words you use. In this guide, we look at the best ways to choose, find, and implement fonts for your business’s brand.

This video is part of the free Small Business Startup Course designed to help walk you through the entire process of business formation from idea to launch.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel

Tools & Resources

How to Start an LLC Icon

Get the Worksheet

Download the worksheet that goes along with the lesson.

Create your free Business Center account to get access to the complete Small Business Startup Course and all the worksheets.

How to Start an LLC Call to Action Download Now Download Now

Resources

  • Free Fonts: Google Fonts
  • Free Trial of Our Recommended Website Builder: GoDaddy
  • Best LLC Formation Service: Northwest
  • The StoryBrand framework was first introduced by Donald Miller in his book, "Building a StoryBrand." To explore his ideas further, we recommend checking it out.

Showing Personality With Fonts

Understanding fonts goes beyond their visual appeal. Every font style and type has a different feeling – from modern to childlike to artistic. The way fonts are paired play a role as well, as choosing the right combination can either strengthen your brand or cause it to be visually confusing.

Using your brand’s adjectives, you can select the fonts that best suit your business’s personality.

Understanding What Fonts Convey – Transcript

Did you know that the fonts that you choose to put on your website can be a make-or-break issue for whether or not customers who land on your website will trust your products or services? 

In this video, we're going to help you understand basic font theory so that you can select the right fonts that will match how you want your customers to feel when having a positive interaction with your products and services. 

Hey everybody, Will Scheren here from Small Business Startup Guide by TRUiC. This video is part of a larger course helping small business owners cut through the noise and get to the essentials of starting and operating their business. If that sounds like it would be really useful to you, be sure to like and subscribe. 

Selecting the perfect brand font is important because it will give your customers a uniform experience when interacting with your brand and will cut down on design time when creating documents and marketing materials. Brand fonts should be unique and memorable. They should be legible and work on any platform, and they should communicate your brand's personality. Selecting the perfect fonts for your brand is a five-step process. 

Step one – revisit your brand adjectives to make sure you know them well before selecting a font. Earlier in this course, we talked about defining your brand's personality, and using the adjectives you selected when considering your brand's personality will help you choose the right font. 

Step two – understand the personality traits of each font category. To be able to select a font that matches your brand adjectives and personality, we must take a look at the six basic font classifications, which are serif, sans serif, slab serif, script, handwritten, and decorative. 

Serif fonts are classic, traditional, and trustworthy. They're the oldest font style originating way back in the 15th century. They’re named for the feet, called serifs, seen at the top and bottom of each letter. Since serif fonts are the original font style, we generally perceive them as classic, traditional, and trustworthy. They're favored by brands that want to convey a feeling of respectability and tradition, like Tiffany & Co, Vogue, or Time Magazine. 

Serif fonts are diverse in that they can be used with bold and black weights for titles and headings, or they can be used with normal and thin weights for paragraph text. A few popular serif fonts include Times New Roman, EB Garamond, Playfair Display, Lora, and Merryweather. 

Sans-serif fonts are modern, and clean and help create a minimal design. Sans-serif fonts didn't emerge until the 19th century – much more recently than traditional serif fonts – so we tend to perceive them as more modern. Sans-serif fonts are much simpler and form than serif fonts, so they tend to evoke a sense of cleanliness and aid in giving you a minimal design. Sans-serif fonts have taken over the web in recent years, with so many of the top tech companies choosing bold sans-serif fonts. 

Like serif fonts, sans-serif fonts can be used in diverse settings. They can be used with bold or black weights for titles or can be used with normal or thin weights for paragraph text. Some common sans serif fonts include Helvetica, Arial, Open Sans, Roboto, and Source Sans Pro. 

Slab-serif fonts are bold, quirky, and confident. Slab serifs are a specific breed of serif fonts that feature larger blockier serifs. As a result, they look a little bit more rugged, bold, and quirkier than traditional serif fonts. This type of font works well for a company who has a long history of providing quality products who still wants to look current. 

Slab-serif fonts should primarily be used for headers and titles only, as they're generally difficult to look at and read when used in paragraph-text situations. Some popular slab-serif fonts include Rockwell, Roboto Slab, Courier New, and Arvo. 

Script fonts are elegant and unique. Script fonts, which are elegant fonts used to imitate cursive handwriting, have character strokes that connect one letter to the next. Just as everyone's handwriting feels very unique, script fonts feel distinct. They tend to follow the design trends of the day, making them a risky choice for a brand font as they might fall out of fashion too quickly. Still, the script fonts used by Ford, Johnson & Johnson, Cadillac, and Instagram have stood the test of time. 

Like slab-serif fonts, script fonts should primarily be used for headers and titles only, as they're generally difficult to look at and read when used in paragraph situations. Here's a few trendy script fonts that are popular today: Lucido Script, Pacifico, Allura, Dancing Script, and Satisfy. 

Handwritten fonts are informal and artistic. Handwritten fonts are pretty self-explanatory – they're fonts that look like they were written out by hand. They sometimes incorporate odd letter forms, and they're about as different from traditional serif fonts as you can get. They're a great choice if you want to position yourself as fun, playful, informal, or an artistic brand. 

Handwritten fonts should also generally be used only for headers or titles, as they're generally difficult to look at and read when used in paragraph situations. Some handwritten fonts that are currently available on Google Fonts are New Wave, Permanent Marker, Patrick Hand, Amatic SC, and Just Another Hand. 

Decorative fonts are stylized, distinct, and dramatic. Decorative fonts are the most diverse. They include any font that uses unique shapes, forms, or proportions for a highly stylized look, such as graffiti fonts. The logos of Lego, Disney, and IBM feature distinctive decorative fonts. These make their brands especially memorable. 

These powerful fonts are best used in small doses, so use them at your own risk. They tend to be a bit more trendy, so choose them wisely if you want your brand to endure for years to come. Decorative fonts should also primarily be used just for headers and titles as they're difficult to look at and read when used in paragraph situations. In fact, these fonts may be so dramatic that you may only want to consider using them with your logo. Some fun decorative fonts include Frederica, Fredoka One, Lobster Two, and Bangers. 

To sum up, here are some of the personality traits of the six font categories. Serif fonts are classic, traditional, and trustworthy. Sans-serif fonts are modern and clean and help create a minimal design. Slab-serif fonts are bold, quirky, and confident. Script fonts are elegant and unique. Handwritten fonts are informal and artistic. Decorative fonts are stylized, distinctive, and dramatic. 

Step three – understand where you can get fonts and know your budget and licensing requirements. Before you get serious about picking your brand fonts, think about how you're going to source your fonts. 

A great website to see what fonts are trending is Typewolf.com. Some font libraries that offer free, open-source fonts include Google Fonts, Font Squirrel, Font Library, and DaFont.com. While convenient, free font libraries tend to offer a limited selection of fonts, and these fonts might only come in a few different styles like bold or italic. It might be hard to find font families with a range of different font weights and styles like light, regular, semi-bold, bold, and more. 

Other font libraries offer paid font licensing, including Adobe Fonts, Linotype, and Fonts.com. These font libraries give you access to many more options, but they can get expensive, and paid font libraries can charge individual fees for each type of font license. So if you want to use your new font in your website, mobile app, or print material, you'll probably have to pay three separate font licenses. 

Whether you go for free or paid fonts is up to you, but when making your decision, consider where your brand fonts are going to be used. For the most part, we recommend using Google Fonts for free fonts and Adobe for paid fonts, as these spots are easily accessed and work well with most web browsers and email clients. 

Step four – pick a pair of brand fonts that match with your brand's personality. Now that you've revisited your brand's personality, gained an understanding of font families and what they're used for, and have an understanding of where to source fonts, it's time to select the fonts that you'll use with your brand. 

We generally recommend only using two fonts and your branding efforts. Having more than two fonts on a page is generally displeasing and tiring to the eye. Using more than two fonts should only be used sparingly and in needed situations. When selecting fonts, you need to choose a font for both your titles & headings and your paragraph text. It's fine to only use one font for both of these needs. However, if you want to limit yourself to one font, be sure to select a font from either the serif or sans-serif families, as the other font families generally don't work well for paragraph text. 

Before selecting your fonts, take a look at this matrix for understanding how well font families pair together and understand that, generally, some font pairing choices are not received well. 

There's a couple of things that we want to call out here. It's fine to use serif fonts for both the titles and headers and paragraph text within your brand, but if you do, be sure to use the same font for both. Generally, you don't want to use two separate serif fonts. Also, generally, you wouldn't want to use a handwritten font paired with a serif font as the tone of these fonts generally conflict with one another. Sans-serif fonts are your most versatile paragraph font choice, as they pair well with every font family. Lastly, slab, script, handwritten, and decorative fonts should really be used for paragraph text. 

So now that you understand font pairings that are generally not received well, let's talk about font pairings that generally are well-received. 

Pair up a bold serif header with nondescript sans-serif paragraph text for an approachable yet trustworthy feel. The contrast between serif and sans-serif styles makes them a natural pairing, allowing you to balance the modern traits of the sans-serif fonts with the trustworthiness of the serif fonts. Some balanced serif/sans-serif pairings include Abril Fatface for the header and Montserrat for paragraph text; Rozha One for headers and Railway for paragraph text; and Abril Fatface for headers and Quicksand for paragraph text. 

Use a single minimal sans-serif font for a modern, professional, and corporate look. You can try pairing a bold version of a modern sans-serif font with a regular or thin version of the same font for paragraph text for a look that’s sleek and professional. You can't really go wrong when you're pairing a sans-serif font with itself, so it's a safe approach if you're not confident in your typography skills. Some minimal design sans-serif font pairing options include Economica Bold and Economica Regular; Montserrat Bold and Montserrat Regular; and Source Sans Pro Bold and Source Sans Pro Regular. 

Use thin stylized sans-serif fonts for a high-end elegant feel. According to font psychology researcher Sarah Heideman, thinner and lighter-weight fonts are consistently rated as looking more expensive. If you're looking for elegant and expensive-looking fonts, you can try Julius Sans One, Playfair Display, or Verdana. 

Use thick, rounded, sans-serif fonts for a youthful and friendly feel. Thick, rounded sans serifs have the opposite effect to thin, lightweight fonts – they appear playful, adorable, and youthful. As seen in this example, they match well with inclusive and kid-focused businesses like daycares or restaurants. For this friendly, low-cost feel, use thicker, rounded font pairings like Quicksand Bold for the header and Open Sans for paragraph text; Fredoko One for the header and Montserrat for paragraph text; or Quicksand Bold for headers and Quicksand Regular for paragraph text. 

Use a single traditional serif font for a conservative and trustworthy feel. Similar to how we compared a bold version with a regular version of the same sans serif font, another foolproof method for paring fonts is varying the capitalization of the fonts. We can pair an all caps version of a serif font with itself for a feeling that's neutral, conventional and reliable. Serif fonts that work well for traditional businesses include EB Garamond, Playfair Display, Baskerville, and Wire One. 

To review, here's some brand font pairing options for different brand personalities. Pair a bold serif header with nondescript sans-serif paragraph text for an approachable yet trustworthy feel. Use a single minimal sans-serif font for a modern and professional look, and use thin, stylized sans-serif fonts for a high-end elegant feel. Use a rounded sans-serif font for a youthful, friendly feel, and use a single traditional serif font for a conservative and trustworthy feel. 

Step five – make sure your fonts meet three basic requirements. After you've chosen one or two brand fonts that match your brand's personality, there's a few final checks you should do before cementing them as your decision for your fonts for your brand. 

Brand fonts must be flexible. Considering that you're probably going to be stuck with these fonts for years to come, you want to make sure that your brand fonts work well for every medium, including print, web, and mobile. 

Make sure that you have a proper license for each application. And if you plan to use your brand fonts on your products’ packaging designs, your blog, your external presentations, and your social media images, make sure that you mock up designs for each. 

Brand fonts should have multiple font weights. Having multiple font weights is critical for building a clear text hierarchy which should be specified in your brand style guide. You'll need to use different font weights to differentiate between headers, subheaders, and paragraph text, and even callouts and quotes – both in print and online. 

In conclusion, much like any other brand design challenge, picking brand fonts is all about finding fonts that match your brand's personality and making sure that they work with anything that you throw at them. In the next video, we're going to take a look at nailing down your brand's colors. 

This video is part of a step-by-step course that gives business owners all of the essential information to start and operate their business. We provide a link where you can get access to all of the free and discounted business tools that we mentioned in this course below this video. 

Be sure to like and subscribe to get more of this content. We'll see you in the next video, and if you have any questions, let us know.