In our continuing effort to help our customer create great labels and market their products and businesses successfully, United Label is tackling another piece of the branding and design puzzle: typography and fonts.
People are bombarded with thousands of messages over the course of a single day, and as part of this we encounter all manner of typography and fonts. In fact, we encounter such a constant barrage of messaging that we probably ignore much of it and don’t notice what we’re seeing. That’s fine, for the average consumer—but for marketers, it’s important to understand how important typography is, and how it works.
What is the Definition of Typography?
Typography involves a variety of different elements. Font type, font size, font color, spacing, margins, and other factors all contribute to typography.
Almost all printed materials and digital materials utilize typography, whether we’re talking about posters, books, comic books, magazines, e-books, websites, product packages, banners, business cards, textbooks, power point presentations, paper documents, or any other digital document.
Some social media posting options and text messaging options allow for different typography choices and variations as well. In your daily life, you’re most likely already pretty familiar with the standard typography choices, such as bold text, underlining words, highlighting, or italics. Another common term you’ve no doubt seen is “serif” and “sans serif” fonts – which we’ll discuss later.
A Brief History of Typography
For as long as written language has existed, it can be said that typography has existed. Even cave drawings and hieroglyphics can be considered early examples of typography. Typography had to be done by hand before printing presses existed. During this time, decorative choices such as calligraphy and script were more common. You might be familiar with large, ornate initial boxes that start paragraphs and chapters in old books.
After the first printing presses were invented, typography could be more consistently established. Newspapers and typewriters demonstrate early typography developments, prior to the laser and digital printers that we know today.
As computers became more developed and more popular, it became possible to do more and more with typography on them. Now, graphic designers can make almost an infinite amount of typography choices at the click of a button, whereas things were much more restricted before, as typography was limited to what physical lettering options were available. Even everyday consumers have access to hundreds of thousands of different typography combinations during their day to day online lives. The internet has created a whole new frontier for typography.
What About Fonts?
Fonts have their origins in metal typesetting, where each font was a particular size, weight and style of a typeface. Nowadays, this also applies digitally to the size, weight, style, color, and other attributes of any piece of text. Popular fonts you see quite often include Times New Roman, Future, Helvetica, Comic Sans, Calibri, Franklin Gothic, and many others. However, there are thousands and thousands of fonts that have been developed for you to consider.
So how to choose one? In order to narrow down the list to get to a specific font that will be appropriate for your project, there are five overarching types to consider.
Five Basic Classifications of Typefaces
In this section, we’re going to look at the five basic classification of different typefaces — although you should keep in mind that there are thousands of individual fonts that will typically fall into one of these five categories.
- Serif. These fonts are generally considered the most common type of font used in typography. Each serif is a short stroke that extends outward away from the main strokes of any given character. These fonts are both classic and elegant, and are thus often used for titles and brand names. However, you’ll also see them used as the copy text for newspapers and other formal outlets.
- Sans Serif. Unlike serif fonts, sans serif fonts do not have any decorative or additional elements besides the main strokes of any given character. These types of fonts are simple and easy to read, and look more modern than serif fonts. For this reason they are growing in popularity, and are pretty common among tech products (such as the near-ubiquitous adoption of Helvetica due to companies such as Apple, Xerox, and Adobe using it in their products).
- Decorative. Similar to script fonts, purely decorative fonts are not as useful for a large block of text, but can provide a nice feature to your project, or grab attention. These types of fonts feature a wide range of different elements, making them unique and individualized (rather than, say, serif fonts, which tend to look the same after a while). Decorative fonts are frequently used for product logo, and, like script fonts, should be used sparingly.
- Slab Serif. Finally, slab serif fonts are more blockish and squared off in nature than traditional serif fonts. These fonts are a bit more modern than traditional serif fonts. They pack a bold punch when used right, but are still clear and readable.
Choosing Fonts in Different Situations
It is important to pay careful attention to what goals you are trying to accomplish when choosing a font and making other typography choices. Some projects will require more subdued typography choices, while others may need bold and attention-grabbing fonts. That’s why you need to be prepared and think carefully about the parameters of your project; otherwise, you risk making your product or business seem unprofessional
Typography choices that may be eye catching and appropriate in some situations will be completely ineffective and inappropriate in other situations. For example, a script font in bold colors is not appropriate for resumes or business communications.
In other situations, however, more subdued typography choices may come across as dull, ineffective, or lackluster. A logo for a children’s’ toy should might benefit from a fun, bold, and colorful font, rather than a simple black Garamond.
For a business brochure, for example, choose a simple serif font that is easy to read. Use traditional spacing and colors. But for a digital magazine, you may prefer an attention-grabbing font for the title, a bold slab serif font for the subtitle, and traditional serif for the article text. For your label, it will of course depend on what type of product you are selling, and how much text will be included on it.
How to Choose the Best Fonts for Your Website
When choosing the best fonts for your website, it is important to keep several different factors in mind, starting with two vital questions: The first question is: what is your website about? If your website is about a serious topic, you will want to make more serious typography choices. For example, the website of a cancer physician is likely to have more professional and subdued typography choices. The second question is: Who is the audience of your website? For example, if the audience of your website is children, such as with a gaming or educational website, you may want to make specific typography choices in order to cater to that audience. Children need large, legible fonts, but they also like eye catching color choices.
How to Choose the Best Fonts for Your Packaging
As we discuss at length in other articles in the brand resources, your packaging should reflect your brand’s identity in the most unique and memorable way possible. In the case of product packaging, typography choices can help to make a product feel more upscale or expensive.
Memorable typography choices will stick in the customer’s mind, and when it is time to purchase again, they are more likely to remember a specific product when there is a distinct visual reminder associated with it.
Nevertheless, packaging should still be legible and easy to read. With packaging, it is also important to keep the audience in mind – business consumers are far different from teenagers looking for sports equipment, for example. Some products may only need a few words to convey the message, while other products may require a lot of legal text. And of course, products for older people might utilize larger font sizes on the packaging.
How to Choose the Best Fonts for Your Advertising
The goal of advertising is to make a strong impact in the mind of potential customers. This strong mental impact is what drives them to buy. When advertising a product, it is important to highlight the effectiveness of the product, the necessity of the product, and the problem solved by the product.
In order to do this most effectively, you can make good use of typography by making unique and bold choices that will help your products stand out in a sea of brands competing for consumer attention. It is also vital to make sure that the brand name, product name, and important product info are clear to read from a distance. If there is any doubt about the readability of a piece of product advertising, it is a good idea to consult with a professional graphic designer before going to print.
How to Choose the Best Fonts for Your Branding
Regardless of how it all looks in the end, one key aspect of branding is that a brand’s look and feel should be consistent between all the goods and services offered by any individual business or brand. This means that there are some important considerations that business owners and graphic designers need to have when making typography choices for branding scenarios. It is important to make typography choices that will work for all products and services offered by a brand, not just some of them. This will help to create brand unity. Brand unity makes products easier to recognize on shelves or websites and it also makes products more memorable to consumers. The red script of the Coca-Cola logo, for example, is iconic and immediately recognizable by almost anyone around the globe.
How to Choose the Best Fonts for Your Labels
Labels are just one aspect to your overall product branding, but they have very specific requirements unto themselves, so keep that in mind when picking out what kind of typography you select. In fact, product labels often require several different fonts in order to communicate different vital pieces of information to the consumer.
The boldest and largest font on a label will usually be the product name. The product name should be labeled with brand consistent typography choices. The product and brand name should be clearly visible on the front of the package label in most cases.
Smaller pieces of information may be required on product labels, too, for example, on products with legal information (such as pharmaceuticals), or warnings (such as cigarettes), as dictated by government agencies. These pieces of information usually are best featured on the back of product labels. Typography choices for ingredient lists, product warnings, and other legal information should be small and simple, but clearly legible. This helps brands avoid any potential legal ramifications.
As it can be seen, fonts and typography is an enormous subject—far more than simply picking out some nice-looking lettering for your product. There are a lot of considerations, and a lot of options. Hopefully this guide has given you a starting point on what to think about, and when you’re ready to print, call the label experts at United Label at (973) 589-6500 or contact us here.