As a copywriter, I’m going to tell you that words matter. The copy (or text) used for your brand needs to speak to your audience, cater to their specific doubts and needs, and overcome objections before they’re even made. The right words can have a big impact on your conversion rate.
But what if I told you that when it comes to words, it’s not just what they say but how they look that gets results?
What is Typography?
When people hear typography, they typically think of the font. The font family chosen is definitely part of typography, but so is size and colour, arrangement and legibility. Typography is the entire package of how you present your written text.
Why Does Typography Matter?
Typography is a big part of a brand’s image as it’s a part of all visual communications between brand and consumer. Different fonts create different feelings. Think of the infamous Comic Sans. In business, it’s widely considered to be juvenile and unprofessional. But if you’re selling something marketed for kids, you just might be able to harness its playfulness and make it work for you.
Script fonts convey elegance and romance but they can be pretty hard to read. Have you ever tried to read something written in script or in ALL CAPS? It takes a massive amount of brain power to sort it out.
If inclusivity for legibility is on your mind, you’ll want to stick to readable fonts like Arial, Verdana, and Tahoma. These typeface are easy to read in both small and large sizes and are popular for both print and digital.
In terms of sizing, think of a time when you had to squint to read the text or scroll endlessly to try to get through a large paragraph. Size of text equates to effort of the reader, and if you make it too hard for them to consume your content, they will quickly give up. Sometimes in copy, less is more—if you’re struggling to fit it all on the page, cut down your words, not your text size.
Colours can create emotion, and the colour of your text should match both your brand and the response you’re after. Colour can also affect readability—yellow text on a white background, for example, is rarely a good idea.
Every element of your typography works together to create the feel of your brand. Being intentional about your typography translates into customers effortlessly engaging with your content for longer.
The Different Parts of Typography
Now that we know why typography matters, let’s talk about all the options that we have. Many designers create custom fonts for brands, and there’s a lot that goes into deciding exactly how it will look.
Kerning refers to the spacing between your letters. Because letters vary greatly in size (capital B and lowercase i take up significantly different space), it can be quite distracting to have equal spacing between each letter. Look at how awkward the p-o-g and a-p-h look. With equal spacing, those letters appear separated from their peers. Pay attention to kerning, and manually adjust each letter if you have to. Most digital font files will come with a built-in kerning table created by the font family designers. Small adjustments to a more natural kerning can enhance legibility.
X-height is the height of a lowercase letter, using the lowercase x as the measurement. Typefaces with a large x-height have less white space vertically between the top of a capital letter and the top of a lowercase one. While this is a design choice, be aware that large x-heights can make text look crowded and harder to read.
Ascenders and Descenders
Ascenders are the part of lowercase letters that go above the x-height, simply because of how they are constructed. The vertical lines in h and b are examples of ascenders. Descenders are the part of letters that go below the typeface baseline, like in q, g, and y. Less breathing space can make the font look very powerful. Greater breathing space can make the font look more formal.
Your line height can have a significant impact on your typography. For example, typefaces with large x-heights can be made more legible by adding more line spacing. Lines that are too close or too far apart are hard to read due to the amount of effort and focus required. For easy readability we aim to have the line heigt 120% – 140% of the font height.
Serif or Sans Serif?
A serif is a stroke at the end of some letters. A Serif font has these extra strokes, while a Sans Serif font does not.
Notice the differences on the edges of the T, g, u, r and f. Serif offers that extra bit to your letters.
Don’t believe any of the rumours that one is better than the other for print or readability. You can achieve results with Serif or Sans Serif if you pay close attention to your kerning and line height.
Do think about what image you want to portray—Serif fonts tend to convey more elegance and formality. Sans Serif fonts are seen as more modern and clean. Which style best matches your brand?
Geometric vs. Humanistic
Geometric typefaces are based off geometric shapes, so they tend to be quite uniform. Geometric font families are popular with modern web designs.
Humanistic typefaces are based off Roman inscriptions letters, so differences in stroke weight are apparent. Humanistic typefaces take on a more “natural” feel, with curves and angles one might see with handwritten texts.
Examples of Good (and Bad) Typography
We’ve talked about how certain fonts convey certain emotions, and how colours can do the same. We’ve talked about how text size can cause frustration if it’s too small or large, and that fancy typefaces may be hard for the visually impaired to read. Serif fonts convey elegance, while Sans Serif fonts promote something clean and modern.
It makes sense, then, that specific typefaces immediately bring specific imagery to mind. Consider the following:
The problem with the above examples is that the typography doesn’t match the image that should come from these types of businesses. Johnny’s Auto Body Repair is in a playful, juvenile typeface and immature colour. The Muay Thai Studio is a place of strength and endurance, but the soft cursive and purple colour suggest otherwise. Susan’s Nail Salon looks like it belongs in a video game, and Joe’s Accounting Services can’t be taken seriously with that handwritten-esque feel.