Trip the Font Fantastic! Picking and Pairing Fonts

Fonts are our secret, delicious vice, aren’t they? We love love love our favorites, and even still, we always want more. But there are a series of practical considerations that go into picking the right font for the job, so your image has meaning and impact. Here are some tips for making good design decisions when pairing fonts and putting them to work. 

Set the direction

The type of project you’re working helps to set the overall direction for your creative decisions. Is it a business card, a wedding invitation, or blog banner? Bearing the context in mind will help to guide your font choices. It’s like figuring out what you are going to wear for the day. If you were going to the gym, you wouldn’t wear a tuxedo to work out in, right? You still have a lot of choices to make — shorts, sweats, yoga gear — but the broad outlines and limitations are clear.

three photos with text showing different moods in font choice


Match your mood with a font that’s feelin’ it!

With your direction set, you can start thinking about the mood or atmosphere you want to convey. Does your project require a serious mood or do you need to sprinkle in some delight? If you’ve got a serious information piece, you might pick Didact Gothic, Tahoma, or Arial. These fonts have clean and simple characters that convey words earnestly. On the other hand, if your project calls for more levity, you might pick a font like La Belle Aurore, Sue Ellen Francisco, or Amatic Small Caps. These fonts brighten the mood with handwritten characteristics and cheerful whimsy.

grid showing six moods with fonts to match


Vary size, weight, and position

Now that you’ve zeroed in on a font that can carry the mood of your piece, you might be tempted to immediately pile on some more… cuz won’t more fonts create more flare and excitement? The reality is that a lot of the time, one typeface will do. Really, it will. Setting some text in a different size or heavier weight (bold) offers variation and distinguishes headlines from body text. You can also do a lot with one font when you play around with positioning.

image showing varying weights position and sizes for the same font


Look for contrast when you pair

There are times when a second typeface does add to your overall design. If you are going to add another typeface, don’t just pick a slight variation; make it significantly different from the first one. Pick a bolder or more decorative font for the most important part of the message and a simpler font for secondary copy; one that helps downplay the text so it isn’t competing for the viewers’ attention.

grid showing six font pairings


Tamp down the flavah for longer chunks of text

If your project involves lengthy body copy or paragraph text, you’ll need a workhorse like Arial, Times New Roman, or Verdana. These fonts give up a bit in style to do the heavy lifting in the legibility department. Is there really any question about which font works best for the paragraph below?

two blocks of text with different fonts _ Verdana and Things We Said


Stay tuned for more scoops on fonts

The next article in our series on fonts will be talking about hierarchy, grouping, and spacing. Happy designing!

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