Sunday, February 16, 2014

Fun with Fonts

With expanding use of social and digital media outlets, programs, and options, we need to better understand how the composition and designs of our posts, emails, websites, and means of communication are used and integrated by our audience as they construct and interpret our messages.  This is what visual literacy is all about.
I've already pointed out how Color Casts Powerful Messages and how vital The Power of Words is. I've also previously detailed how to teach and play with visual literacy skills Visual Literacy Fun and Games Boosting Critical Thinking and Attention.

In this post, I want to address the impact FONTS have on our perception, integration, and interpretation of messages.

Typography, according to Wikipedia is all about the art and techniques of arranging type in order to make language visible. It is an essential part of any visual design involving typefaces, size, length, and spacing of letters and words across a page, or screen. The way the text is arranged and displayed has enormous impact and influence on how messages are perceived and interpreted. As digital and visual literacies and technologies have rapidly expanded, so too has the study and availability of fonts and typeface options. Below are some things to keep in mind when selecting and/or creating fonts.

What to keep in mind when selecting fonts:
Blur the Line Between Work and Play
art by Sean McCabe
  1. Mood and Message - Font shape, size, color, and density all relay information, mood and emotion.  Bold fonts feel loud and confident as they 'shout' their content.  Heavy fonts relay strength; lighter fonts relay openness. There is also a plethora of decorative fonts which relay whimsy (i.e. comic sans), humor (i.e., curlz) , time elements with references to specific eras (i.e. herculanum, jazz, princetown), and/or attitudes. The problem with decorative fonts, however, is that they can be distracting and more difficult to read.                          
  2. Readability - As pretty, unique, interesting, or fun as your favorite font may be, make sure its size and design are easy to read - especially when highlighting a large amount of content.  To maintain readability, you will want to consider simple, "clean" fonts. Uniformity of font is also important to readability. Changing or interspersing different fonts in a message, poster, or written composition can be distracting and typically slows and hinders readability. While you may want to highlight content using bold, underline, or italic options, you want to use the same font. 
  3. by artist Sean McCabe
    Art by Sean McCabe
  4. Alignment also influences readability.  Like the font itself, text alignment should be used uniformly and consistently throughout the document/design - except possibly when highlighting quotes and/or inserts. Flush left alignment is the most readable since we read from left to right. Flush right slows down Western language reading which is done from left to right and is frequently used next to images supporting or enriching the content. Justified Alignment is when the text lines start and end at the same point on the margins.  These justified margins make the text a bit more cumbersome to read as there are fewer visual cues as to where sentences end and begin. Center alignment is typically used for headings and/or to highlight specific content.

How much do you know about font types?
  • A serif font (like Times New Roman, Calibri, Georgia and Baskerville) have strokes and semi-structural details on the ends of each letters. These semi-structural details help guide the eyes from letter to letter and are popular on web posts, magazines and newspapers. Serif fonts are typically used in the body of most documents.
  • A sans serif font (like Helvetica, Arial, Segoe, and Gotham) don't have the semi-structural details on the ends of letters, and are used for magazine headlines and computer screens.  They are often found as default fonts on Android, Roboto and Apple hand-held devices, and used for headings.
  • A monospaced font (such as Menlo, Consolas and Courier) are non-proportional and the amount of horizontal space between letters and characters is uniform. These fonts are often used when presenting computer code examples.  These fonts are also effective highlighting content when interspersed with standard variable-width fonts thus providing a visual cue or visual highlight for the reader.
  • A lot of people hate Comic Sans. In 1999, the website Ban Comic Sans was launched by graphic designers Dave and Holly Combs arguing Comic Sans is too irreverent to be taken seriously. Others dislike it because it looks amateurish, and is overused. Many feel its a fun font for comics but not for business documents or for "professional" use.
  • Designers love Helvetica because of its simple and clean aesthetic.
Now for some fun... 3 options:

Here's a quiz by PBS: What Font Are You? LOTS OF FUN!!!  It's based on work by Rick Poynor who believes that, "Type is saying things to us all the time. Typefaces express a mood, an atmosphere."

NEXT... Here's a link to an infographic from David Cross and Movoto Real Estate, What Font is Your City?

Finally, just for fun, here's an infographic from Brian Morris, January 28, 2013 in Infographic  on web designs and what your font choice means:

Additional Resources on typography and fonts:
Well, that's it for this week.  Thanks for your visit and please leave what font personality you are, or your favorite font city, or any other responses to this post in the comments below.


  1. Excellent, excellent, excellent!! I'm a self-professed font junkie so I thoroughly enjoyed your post today!

  2. You are so clever to find always the appropriate word for the letter of the week. And what's more: you know so much about the subjects you write about. I am embarrassed to confess that I couldn't find a proper translation of font in my dictionary, only that it was used in a church for baptizing. Google didn't help me either.
    Anyway I wish you a great week and thanks for your post.
    Wil, ABCW Team.

  3. Aren't you a font of information!

  4. HaHa, I loved Roger's comment.
    I'm Helvetica....says I'm rather boring, but that's okay with me.
    You always have the most interesting posts Meryl.
    Thanks for taking the time to share them with us.

  5. wow that's so much information! Interesting too :)