Selecting fonts for body text and publications is fairly simple. Your aim in that task is to use fonts that are not distinctive or eye-grabbing. Selecting fonts to complement graphics is entirely different. The process can be taxing and has been known to cause designers to reach for that bottle of aspirin in the desk drawer. Choosing fonts doesn’t have to be such a miserable task. You can relieve that headache easily without having to depend on over-the-counter medication by following a few simple guidelines.
Graphic design and typography have been around for quite a while, meaning the framework and concepts behind these disciplines are well established. If you hit a snag, there are always online and offline resources that can help you out. Of course, all of these resources may not harmonize. There is a lot of information out there that just doesn’t jive. To stifle this confusion, ask yourself a few quick questions while you’re searching for the right font to complement your graphics.
What kind of graphic is this anyway?
Perhaps you’re creating a graphic using Adobe, or you’ve been given stock media to work with. It doesn’t matter. All you need to know is what the graphic theme is and the mood behind that theme. Essentially, you’ll need to determine the message the graphic is conveying and what font will work best for delivering that message. The message is the most important part of the pairing process. If you can’t find a way to ensure that the information isn’t obscured or erased with the font you choose, your project will never get off the ground.
Should more than one font be used?
There are no rules that dictate how many fonts to use with each graphic. Of course, using too many can be distracting, but using only one can be uniform or boring. All of this depends on several different variables. How do you achieve balance? Honestly, this might take some trial and error. If you do use multiple fonts, however, you might want to select ones that have multiple weights and variants. This will allow you to take advantage of several styles, but you’ll be confident in knowing the fonts should complement each other.
Does this pairing work for the project?
The devil is in the details, and sometimes it’s not readily apparent that things aren’t working. This isn’t a good place for any designer to be, but it happens all too often. The biggest thing you need to remember is that achieving a successful pairing of graphics and fonts is entirely dependent on concord or contrast. If conflict occurs, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Your selected graphics and fonts should work together by being contrasting or complementary. Fonts and graphics can conflict with each other in a number of ways, and what works well with one project may not work with the next. Your design intuition will have to help you determine if this is the case, but a second pair of eyes can also help you avoid this conundrum.
Hopefully, these steps will help simplify the process for you. However, the most important takeaway from this discourse is that you won’t know if your font/graphic combination works until you try it out. It’s important for designers to be adventurous. New fonts are being created on a daily basis. Consider design fundamentals, but don’t be afraid to break rules and experiment. This is the most important part of creating art.
- “6 Rules for Pairing & Matching Fonts – Pro Church Tools.” Pro Church Tools. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 May 2014. http://prochurchtools.com/6-rules-pairing-matching-fonts/.
- Bonneville, Douglas. The Big Book of Font combinations. Unknown: Douglas Bonneville, 0. Print.
- “Smashing Magazine.” Smashing Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 May 2014. .