Choosing the best font for your brand: a key aspect in brand guides
Every time I work with a client on a brand guide, it is a meticulous process of going through several versions of brand colors, logos, tone of voice, slogans, and more.
Business owners usually understand that these are important aspects of their brand identity. After all, they would like to leave the best impression on their customers.
But one aspect of the brand guide is often neglected: the fonts or typeface.
I have had a handful of clients tell me, “Anything will do” or “Let’s just go for something simple” instead of taking the time to choose the perfect font.
You might think it is “just text,” but fonts can convey emotions, set the tone, and create a lasting impression of your brand.
Look at all the fonts in the illustration above, for example.
These are some great examples of impactful brand fonts. Even without seeing their brand name or logo, you can remember which brands these fonts are from.
Their visual identity is so strong that you can see their brand name and logo matching their fonts in your head. That’s the goal when creating your brand guide.
Given the many font options online, how do you choose the best font for your brand? Should you develop a font from scratch?
We’ll answer these questions and more in this quick guide to the world of impactful fonts for branding.
First thing’s first: look into your brand personality
Before you even consider the types of fonts you should choose from, you should define your brand’s personality. How do you want your audience to see your brand?
The font you choose should reflect your brand’s values and overall vibe. A serious and reliable law practice, for example, does not match a fun and quirky font.
Some common brand personalities include bold, calm, casual, cheerful, elegant, flexible, fun, formal, fresh, warm, etc.
Are you going for sleek and modern, or are you going for traditional and reliable?
Choose the right font styles
To narrow your font options, look into the font styles that match the qualities you want to convey for your brand.
While there are thousands of fonts online, every font can be classified into six basic font types: serif, slab serif, sans-serif, handwritten, script, and decorative.
Each of these font types has its unique trait. This is also known as the font psychology.
Try typing out your brand name in both serif and sans-serif fonts, and you can already tell the difference.
Serif fonts give off a more traditional and serious vibe, while sans-serif fonts give off a more carefree and modern look.
Here is a guide to the different personality traits of these font styles:
Serif fonts for a traditional feel
The serif is named after the thin decorative strokes or feet at the end of a character’s stroke.
This is one of the oldest fonts and is often used for classic and traditional brands.
A lot of professional-looking logos and fashion brands like Burberry, Tiffany & Co., and Vogue use serif fonts.
Slab serif fonts to catch attention
These are large and blocky versions of the serif. It is often used for headlines, display fonts, and anything that requires bold fonts for emphasis. Volvo, Sony, and Honda are some famous logos using the slab serif.
Sans-serif fonts: the modern font for logos and web design
This font style means “without serif.” The characters in this font have a cleaner and minimal look, as it does not have decorative serifs.
These fonts are often used for brands because of their legibility and are great if you are looking for a more modern typeface.
These are also commonly used for web design as they are easy on the eyes.
The logos for Google, Spotify, Facebook, and Netflix use the modern characteristics of sans-serif fonts.
Handwritten fonts for a more approachable brand
These fonts mimic a person’s handwriting and give off a more personal and approachable vibe for any brand.
It is common to see weird and quirky letterforms for these font styles.
You might have seen them for the logos of Ray-Ban, Virgin, and H&M.
Script fonts: the best fonts for a classy and luxurious brand
These are fonts that mimic calligraphy or cursive handwriting.
They are ideal for brands that want to come across as elegant and classy.
As script handwriting can look distinct, there are several iconic script logo fonts, such as Barbie, Ford, and Coca-Cola.
However, choosing the best script font for your brand can be risky, as it tends to be hard to read and can go out of fashion quickly.
Decorative fonts for their iconic and quirky typography
This is the most diverse and varied font style. These fonts are highly stylized and use a variety of shapes, forms, and proportions.
These are great if you are looking to create a logo that is distinctive and especially memorable.
Toys R Us, Disney, and Subway are some common brands with decorative font styles.
Still don’t know how to choose the right font style?
You can look at the logos and branding of your competitors.
You may want to look for a similar style, but adapt a specific font that makes your brand stand out.
Creating font pairing and hierarchies
Brand fonts are meant to be used for all of your brand’s collateral, including your logo, your social media posts, your blog, or your merchandise.
Font hierarchy visually organizes your brand content from the most important to the least important so people can read it more easily.
There are three primary levels: headlines, subheadings, and body text. Each level has a font that tells your audience which information is important and which information they can read later.
The headline, typically displayed in the largest and boldest font, is the most crucial element for capturing the audience’s attention.
On the contrary, the body text, presented in a smaller font, holds less significance.
This hierarchy is particularly important if you have a website or online content. Websites usually have six levels of typographic hierarchy for headings alone.
This allows search engines like Google to understand what your website is about, so they can recommend your site to people searching for related content.
See how fonts pair with each other and whether they still give off the personality you want for your brand.
Here are some general rules when creating font pairings:
- Pair fonts with different weights or thickness
- Keep stylish fonts, like decorative and script fonts, as accents
Delving into typography
After narrowing down the specific fonts you want for your brand and how you want them used, you can delve deeper into typography. This is where it is crucial to have a reliable graphic design team.
Typography deals with specific details like glyphs, alignment, spacing, and typographic anatomy. This is where you specify whether you want the letters spaced out, certain characters to look a certain way, or specific lengths for your character tails.
While these may seem like very small and specific details, they can make a big difference in how your fonts look when in use.
Paid vs free fonts
There are several open-source fonts online from libraries like Google Fonts, Dafont, and Dribble. While they don’t cost you anything and a lot of these free fonts are of high quality, you are limited in your ability to customize them.
They often come with a single weight and kerning that you can’t adjust. As it is free, you also have no copyright to it, and you may face issues later on if someone decides to license it.
However, free fonts are a great way to experiment and see which fonts would suit your needs best.
Paid fonts, on the other hand, are always of high quality and come in a range of weights and glyphs for you to vary your use. You also won’t have any copyright issues with these fonts.
However, it is still best to have your font developed instead of getting it from a provider. Providers may stop offering certain fonts at any time, and copyright terms and conditions may vary depending on pricing.
Basic font principles checklist
We’re almost there! After you’ve chosen your fonts and highlighted the little details on how they should be used, you’re set for a final check. Make sure your fonts check off the following basic font principle questions:
Is it legible?
While it is important for your font to reflect your brand’s personality, it is more important that your audience can read it in the first place. Check if your font is legible and easy to read at first glance or when viewed from a distance.
Is it flexible?
Along with your logo, your fonts will be used in your marketing collateral, like posters, business cards, flyers, presentations, and social media posts.
Have mockups of these collaterals and see if you would be happy to keep using these fonts for the next couple of years.
After all, you would be seeing these until your next brand update.
Is there enough contrast?
You should only have 2–3 font families for your brand, and there should be a strong contrast between these three when used together. You can achieve this with different font weights, kernings, and styles.
High-contrast typefaces usually have both thick and thin strokes and pair different font styles together. However, they should still be cohesive and match your unique brand identity.
There you go. You should be all set to choose the next iconic font for your brand!
Choosing fonts for a brand is a thoughtful and strategic process that requires a deep understanding of the brand’s identity and goals.
As the owner of a creative agency, I’ve witnessed firsthand the transformative power of well-chosen fonts in building memorable and impactful brand identities.
By following this step-by-step guide, you can navigate the world of typography with confidence, creating a visual language that speaks volumes about your brand.
Remember, the right fonts are not just letters on a page; they are the silent ambassadors of your brand’s personality and values.