Whatever it is that you are selling, the fonts that you use to create your logo and decorate your Web site say a lot about your product.
Fonts have personalities of their own and are used as decorative elements to convey a certain look and feel for products and businesses. When employed appropriately, they can be used to reinforce your message to your customers. So, for example, lawyers and doctors use conservative fonts to indicate their professionalism and graphic designers and artists use fancy fonts that reinforce the idea that they are creative people.
However, what works in print doesn’t always translate to the Web. And, with so many to choose from, using fonts on your Web site isn’t as simple as it might first appear. Nothing turns off a potential customer more than arriving at a Web shop that is cluttered with clashing, hard-to-read fonts. Its important to select fonts that match your Web site’s message and tone and explain some issues peculiar to using fonts on the Web.
Fonts with Personality
Whatever it is that you are selling, the fonts that you use to create your logo and decorate your Web site say a lot about your product. It’s important to match the fonts that you use to what it is that you want to say to your customers. For example, elegant script style fonts work well for all things wedding related, while gothic fonts are very ‘in’ right now for alternative arts. Use the right font and immediately your audience knows a lot about your business; mix these up and you confuse your visitors with mixed messages about who you are.
The Personality of a font conveys a certain message about the business with which it is associated. The example image above shows how the personality of a font conveys a certain message about the business with which it is associated. None of these fonts are a good match for how we traditionally think about these businesses. The lawyers’ names are too flowery and the wedding font looks scary
The fonts shown in the image have personalities that clash with the businesses they’re describing. However, if you rearrange the fonts so they better suit the four businesses, then it all takes on a much more appropriate look, as shown in the image below.
The font that looked scary for a wedding works just fine for a tattoo business, the lawyers look like lawyers and the wedding business looks just as we expect it to. The font for the children’s fashion business gives a youthful feel to the logo. It’s all about understanding who your market is and creating a look reinforced by the choice of font face and color that speaks to your market. If you’re interested, the fonts are, from the top: Skeksis, Sybil Green, Chopin Script and Engravers MT.
Lost in Translation: Fonts and the Web
So now you understand how to match the font with the type of business and your clientele. How does this translate to the Web? The answer is: not very easily at all.
There are constraints in Web design that limit the fonts that you can safely use on your Web site. The problem is that when you create a page, the HTML code on the page is interpreted by a visitor’s Web browser. If you use a special font, for example, one that you have purchased, it is unlikely that many if any of your visitors will have that font installed on their system. The result is that their browser will substitute another font for the one they don’t have and your page won’t look the way you designed it to look.
There are only a handful of what are commonly called Core Web Fonts, which are fonts that are generally contained on most computer systems. Core Web Fonts include Arial, Arial Black, Courier New, Georgia, Times New Roman, Verdana and Trebuchet MS.
Some other fonts, such as Lucida Sans and Comic Sans MS, are often identified as Core Web Fonts but they aren’t as universally available as the other fonts. Webdings, a font full of dingbat characters, is available to many users but not all.
Image: Core Web Fonts
This article was originally published on June 27, 2008