An email from a friend last night inspired me to think about the different typefaces we, as designers use on a daily basis and by using them what we communicate to an audience. A typeface is much more than just a series of letters strung together. The forms and styling of these letters have many attributes that determine how they communicate – kind of like having a personality of their own.

These days there are literally thousands of typefaces in the marketplace. Each one has it’s own nuances which help it communicate a slightly different message than another one. When selecting a typeface for a logo, headline or some copy a designer needs to carefully consider what the typeface communicates to the audience. Just like the shapes, images and colours we select can create an over-all image, so can a typeface. A typeface (or selection of) are an important part of any businesses corporate styling.

I remember a task I was set back when I was studying Design at University. We had to use either existing typefaces or create our own to create a series of words such as ‘angry’, ‘calm’, ‘happy’ and ‘cold’. A viewer was supposed to be able to read the meaning of the word not only by conventionally reading it but by reading the shape of the letters. Without the ability to use colour or images this task forced us to examine how the shape and texture of each letter plays an important role in creating a message.

The way a typeface is used can also impact on the way it communicates. For example really open kerning (big spaces between each letter) can look quite calm and tight kerning can create a busy uptight feel. Bolding letters makes a typeface stonger and light fonts are unobtrusive and unassuming. With body copy the leading (space between each line) can also help create an overall feel for the bulk of the text.

When using any typeface the key is to make it readable. Complex, decorative typefaces should only be used for small amounts of copy such as headlines. Body copy is for reading so you need to make sure the typeface that is selected for this component is easy for the audience to read for long long periods of time. After all it is not only the shapes of the words that communicate but the content within them.

Like everything to do with design every element has its place and plays its part in creating an overall image. Just like the colours and images you use create an image so do your typefaces so you need to make sure the personality of your typeface matches the personality of your business and the message you are trying to communicate.

You can take a look at the video that inspired this blog here. Thanks Alicia.