The most successful companies strive to build strong brand identities because first impressions matter.
First, you need your designs to capture people’s attention.
Second, you need your designs to convert that attention into a customer relationship.
This is not easy to do.
It’s not surprising, therefore, that business owners often ask questions about typography, including:
- What is the best font for my company logo?
- What is the best font for business documents?
- What is the best font for my small business website?
- What type of font is most professional?
- What font should I use for business cards?
- What is the best font to use for business letters?
- Which font is most pleasing to the eye?
The good news is that you don’t need to leave typography (the art and technique of arranging type to make writing legible, readable, and appealing) and the best font to chance.
Nor do you need a Ph.D. in marketing psychology. Some strategies can help you create a more powerful brand identity and marketing messages.
For example, typography impacts how people perceive content.
A recent study conducted by MIT psychologist Kevin Larson showed subjects two different print layouts: one designed with poor typography and another designed with good typography.
Larson found that the document with better font choice took less time to read and led to increased cognitive focus and a “stronger sense of clarity.”
Perception is important. For example, If you’re starting your own business and writing a business plan. You might have thought much about the fonts you use in your business plan. But as the Larson study showed, the fonts you choose could help you persuade investors and partners to work with you. Or they could undermine your credibility.
Before we continue, we want to deal with a common misconception about fonts and typefaces.
Technically, a “font” is a computer file or program (when used digitally) that informs your printer or displays how a letter or character is supposed to be shown.
A “typeface” is a set of letters, numbers and other symbols whose forms are related by repeating certain design elements that are consistently applied (sometimes called glyphs), used to compose a text or different combinations of characters.
Although many people would call “Helvetica” a font, it’s a typeface. The software that tells your display or printer to show a letter in “Helvetica” is the font.
Designers know the difference between a font and a typeface, but most people do not. So, in this post, we’ll generally use the term “font” because that’s the common term most people use and understand. But now you know that the more accurate way to describe the text’s composition is to use the term “typeface.”
Part of any winning design strategy is choosing a font that creates a good user experience for your customers and underscores your business’s feeling and purpose.
This is something crowdspring has done daily for the past ten years. Our team of 210,000+ designers worldwide has helped tens of thousands of small business owners, entrepreneurs, agencies, and non-profits incorporate the right fonts into their branding, web design, print design, product, and industrial design, packaging design, and other types of design.
Ensuring you find the right font for your business is a critical part of establishing – and extending – your brand’s visual identity.
Let’s take a look at how you can pick the right font for your business to capture people’s attention and convert that attention into a customer relationship.
Different fonts have different personalities
Just like color’s emotional associations, fonts also have a psychological impact on people.
When using fonts for your business, choose a font with the right “personality.” As we wrote,
Typography is an effective way to convey more than just the words involved in written communication. It showcases personality by visually representing the tenor and tone of what it is you’re talking about. You may find that your purpose is best met by using a font with a vibrant personality throughout your website or using an amalgamation of sans and serif typefaces.
Different fonts are used for various purposes, depending on the tone and aesthetic you’re trying to create.
Some people are familiar with Serif and Sans Serif fonts (you’ve seen them even if you don’t know how to tell them apart). They were designed to make it easier for people to read words, making most Serif and Sans Serif fonts a good fit for many different kinds of businesses.
Some fonts are meant to be a little quirkier and make a bolder statement – those are more suitable for niche businesses with a very targeted audience.
So how do you know which font style will work best for your business?
Are you better off with something conventional, like Arial or Helvetica? Maybe you’ll find a stronger fit with an offbeat choice like Kirsten or Papyrus?
It’s clear that whatever your font choice should align with your customer’s expectations when they encounter your brand.
The Software Usability Research Laboratory (SURL) at Wichita State University ran a study that examined the traits people associate with varying fonts.
Traditional fonts, including Arial or Times New Roman, were categorized as “stable” and “mature” but were also considered “unimaginative” and “conformist.”
In contrast, “youthful” and “casual” fonts like Comic Sans were also considered “happy” and “casual.”
Ensure you consider these feelings and perceptions when selecting a font for your business to better attract your target consumer. And be sure to license any font you use.
For more on font licensing, read The Law on Fonts and Typefaces: Frequently Asked Questions.
Make sure the visual tone makes sense
Fonts can be evocative and provoke a wide range of responses from the people viewing them. The emotion generated from font choice is directly tied to the letters’ shape and our psychological response to those shapes.
Choosing a font with associations with something counter to what your brand represents will create a confusing experience for consumers.
You want to pick a font that emphasizes and supports customers’ underlying feelings about your business – and avoid one that will throw everything off.
Making sure you choose a font that is consistent with the kind of business you’re running will go a long way toward establishing a good relationship with your customers.
Fonts for a business logo, for example, should work to be traditional and clean. It would be best if you were sure anything with your font on it – letters, emails, business cards – reinforces the message that you’re a trustworthy, credible business.
A more casual coffee shop, on the other hand, should avoid overly rigid, hyper-clean fonts. A cafe’s atmosphere is typically relaxed and comfortable, and your font choice should reflect that.
Most important, be sure that the company’s name is legible and readable. You’d be surprised how many logos we’ve seen that are unreadable.
How can you remember a business if you don’t know the name of that business?
For more on branding, we recommend you read the following:
- Powerful Branding Lessons From the World’s Best Brands (That Actually Work For Your Small Business),
- Five Branding Mistakes That Could Put Your Small Business Out of Business,
- Important Lessons Your Startup Or Small Business Can Learn From The World’s Best Brands, and
- Why A Strong Brand Is Important For Your Small Business
The four major categories of fonts
There are four major categories of fonts for you to choose from:
- Serif – Letters that have short lines coming off the edges. Serif fonts are considered formal and traditional and are well suited for print design.
- Sans-serif – These letters are created without serifs. They are viewed as casual and playful. They work well in digital designs.
- Handwritten – Anything that mimics handwriting is considered a handwritten font. Cursive fonts, for example, are often used in formal invitations.
- Decorative – These are informal fonts that are entirely original. These fonts are interpreted as quirky, creative, and fun.
When choosing from one of these categories, it’s important that your chosen style works with the identity you are trying to create for your brand.
If you’re not sure the fonts you are drawn to work for your business, have your designer create several different styled fonts. Then run a focus group with your favorite choices!
That way, you can get some outside opinions from friends, colleagues, your mom – anyone whose opinion you value – to let you know how they feel about each one.
It’s a great way to make sure any design you choose hits the sweet spot for your customers!
Crowdspring gives clients the ability to quickly launch free public or private focus groups in every design project.
We believe it’s essential to keep your branding consistent, so we make it easy for every business owner to keep their designs on point with their target market.
Examples of businesses that use Serif fonts
Serif typefaces are associated with tradition and stability. They are high-end, classic, and easy to read.
Some classic Serif fonts include:
Stuart de Rozario of Font Smith writes,
Serif typefaces are great for premium brands as they convey elegance, prestige, heritage, and authority.
We described Serif fonts similarly:
Serifs give a visual anchor to characters, contributing to their solid and traditional feel. They also improve readability of lengthier amounts of text, delivering a professional and trustworthy impression.
If you’re designing something that incorporates a large text volume, a serif font is usually an intelligent choice.
You’ll help prevent your readers from wearing themselves out visually before they can finish absorbing your content.
The formal feel of Serif fonts makes them excellent choices for established, prestigious businesses or any business that wants to convey authority or tradition.
Examples of businesses that use Sans-serif fonts
Fonts without serifs are aptly named sans-serif fonts. They have a modern, clean aesthetic and bring stability to a design.
Some commonly used Sans-serif font choices include:
This style of type deconstructed traditional letterforms and modernized them into an accessible and appealing aesthetic.
Sans-serif fonts make for a clean, intuitive reading experience, particularly in digital form.
Using a Sans-serif font gives you the best readability and flexibility when choosing a font for body text. Most typography experts readily recommend sans-serif fonts for online content.
Sans-serif fonts evoke an informality that works well for blogs, personal websites, and casual business cultures.
Businesses that have used Sans-serif fonts for their logos to significant effect include Skype, Medium, Target, and Google.
Examples of businesses that use Handwritten fonts
Using the term “handwritten” is mostly a descriptive term rather than a technical one, but it’s clear what this font style includes.
If it’s a font that looks like someone took the time to hand-draw it, whether it’s neatly printed cursive or a funky block text, you’re looking at a handwritten font.
If you’re looking for examples of unique and appealing handwritten fonts, check out:
Handwritten fonts are great when you’re seeking out a personal connection with your audience, as it graces a brand with an intimacy not found in more traditional fonts.
Script fonts are great for attracting an elegance-seeking audience – think wedding invitations – whereas a scrawled-out print will more likely draw in a quirkier crowd.
When you’re considering using a handwritten font style, you need to be sure you’re thinking about the kind of customer you’re striving to appeal to.
Charities, childcare centers, clothing designers, and any industry seeking to add a personalized touch for their customers would do well to consider a handwritten font in their branding and marketing efforts.
Examples of businesses that use Decorative fonts
Decorative fonts are highly stylized, usually custom creations.
They’re evocative and unique and immediately amp up your brand’s personality with extra flair.
If you’re interested in looking at some flamboyant and fun decorative fonts, some examples worth checking out are:
Decorative fonts work very well for logo designs because it’s easy to modify them to fit your brand’s vibe. You can fine-tune them to convey a fun personality or to emphasize a more laid-back kind of mood.
When you incorporate decorative fonts into your visual theme, be careful that the font’s tone is in keeping with the tone of your business.
These out-of-the-box creations carry heavy emotional weight, so make sure you’re very clear about how your customers will interpret our decorative font choice.
Choosing the right font is a great way to reward your customers with a feel-good visual experience immediately. Your font choice can significantly impact your small business’s bottom line, so make sure you choose well.
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