If Content is King, Typography is the Jack-of-All-Trades

By Donna DeLeo, ETMG Independent Designer and Art Director

Typography; Jack of all trades

Typography, quite simply, is the art of arranging type. It is the balance and interplay of letter forms on a page. Used effectively, it is a craft that can help you establish your company’s brand and distinguish its character.

Yet since the beginning of the web, designers have been restricted in their use of fonts. For type to render properly on a web site, the font had to already exist on the visitor’s computer, leaving the number of fonts for a designer to choose from to a paltry few.

Fast forward to 2013. It’s a brand new world for web typography. Because technology has evolved so much, designers now have much greater freedom to use typography expressively.

As the limitations of font choice starts to lift, several type styles are quickly gaining in popularity:

1. Slab Serif Fonts

This type style has serifs—little feet at the end of the strokes of a letter—that are squarer and bolder than a typical serif typeface, such as Times New Roman. Slab serif fonts are commanding, yet friendly, and because they are highly legible, you will find them a popular choice for headlines.

Popular type styles for web design

2. Hand-drawn Fonts.

Although not suitable for every web project, hand-drawn fonts convey a strong human touch. When used wisely, these fonts will create a one-of-a-kind impression with your audience.

3. Vintage Typography

Like a well-worn pair of jeans, vintage typefaces make a person feel instantly comfortable. If you want your organization to feel like it’s been around for a long time, a vintage font may be the way to go.

While the aforementioned styles fall under type classifications, other notable typography practices have emerged as flat design—a design approach that eschews graphical embellishment for functionality—grows in popularity online:

Flat Type
Following in the footsteps of flat design, gone is the era of bevel, emboss, and drop shadows on type. Have you noticed Google’s new flatter logo1? A well-chosen typeface—like a little black dress—needs nothing more to make a statement.

White Space
As the old adage says, less is more. Too much crowding of content and imagery on a web page makes it hard to read and enjoy. Web content is becoming more concise and the amount of white space is increasing.

Large Text
Size does matter… the font size for headlines and body copy has increased substantially, making reading on your portable devices much easier these days. 2

In the end, “which typeface to use?” may be one of the most important considerations your web designer makes on your next web project. The selected typeface will set the tone for the entire web site. The options will be countless and a poor choice may convey the wrong message while a good choice will reinforce your brand and more importantly, resonate with your audience.

(1) Google Makes Its New Flat Logo…, Telecrunch, September 2013.

(2) Typographic Design Patterns and Current Practices, Smashing Magazine, May 2103.

Further Reading:

How to Write for Email vs. Social Media vs. the Web

Book Review – Infographics: The Power of Visual Storytelling

Additional Resources:

A Glossary of Typographic Terms by Canva

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