One of our favorite authors, Pat Friesen, discussed fonts in a recent issue of Target Marketing Magazine.
Select typefaces and fonts for their readability. A typeface is a set of fonts in the same family, such as Arial or Goudy. A font is a single kind of typeface, whether it is Times New Roman bold or Times New Roman in 10 point. For readability in print, this generally means using a serif typeface for body copy and sans serif for headlines, subheads and smaller pieces of copy, such as callouts or captions. Why? Serif type has thick and thin lines with horizontal serifs that pull your eye across the page. Eyes love serif type for denser copy such as books, brochures, ads and magazines.
Arial is commonly used online it is a classic sans serif typeface. The typefaces being used online are changing. Other popular sans serif typefaces for print include Franklin Gothic, Futura, Frutiger and Avant Garde. Online you’ll see Arial, Verdana and Calibri, to name a few.
Two typefaces are usually enough. When you look at typefaces (a.k.a., font families), you quickly see there are “relatives” within the same family—italics, differing weights, condensed, etc. These are good for differentiating copy elements, such as callouts, captions, body copy and sidebars. Your job as a nondesigner is to help your designer understand what needs to be emphasized so he can choose the most effective type treatment.
Use reversed-out type with caution. Be selective about using white type on black or a colored background, because it can be difficult to read. This is especially true in point sizes smaller than 10 point, serif typefaces with thick and thin lines, and in large quantities. While senior eyes may be OK with reversed-out headlines, it’s a no-no for body copy.
How big should type be? The answer varies by typeface, application and audience. But here are guidelines.
12-point font for e-mail marketing messages and at least 12-point for Web page design. He says the most common error in Web page design is using a font that’s too small.
At least 11-point font for body copy; and, if there’s any doubt, go up a size. Letters should be in 11-point or 12-point serif type. Online, he agrees with Bly—11- or 12-point minimum.
Typography is about pacing and message mapping. It’s important to use type as a visual guide for scanners and readers. Eye flow is, in large part, a function of typography.
Ask yourself, “Where do I want the eye to go first?” Using the choices within a typeface encourages readership and controls eye flow. For example, put benefit headlines and subheads in a bold sans serif font for easy scanning and added emphasis. Use italics for customer testimonials to make them stand apart from unquoted words. Create a hierarchy of type used for headlines, subheads, captions, sidebars, bullets and callouts to guide your reader to your call to action.
On the Web, vertical rhythm—the spacing and arrangement of text as the reader scrolls down the page—is influenced by font size, line height, and margins or padding. All must be calculated with care to keep the reader scrolling.
Many marketers think typography consists of selecting a typeface, choosing a font size and deciding between regular or bold. For most, it ends there. But there’s a lot more involved in good typography. It’s these details that often go neglected and take their toll on both readership and response.