Inside: Fonts, typefaces, huh? How many do you need? Where do you start? Here's how to choose the perfect fonts for your small business.
When solo business owners talk about branding, colors often get the most attention. Understandably so, as they tend to be the most eye-catching.
But what about all that text?
With all the confusion about fonts and typefaces, many people prefer to skip this conversation entirely and either stick to the default (hello, Helvetica and Arial) or use a ton of different fonts without much regard to the resulting chaos.
But that does no good to anyone. Not the business owner, and not their audience either. Because blandness and confusion don’t set you up for success.
I have a feeling you already knew that.
Will it say the right thing about you and your business? Will it be readable? Where are you even supposed to start?
Well, that’s what I’m going to share with you in this post.
How to choose the perfect fonts for your business
With hundreds of thousands of fonts available online, finding a unique and useful font can feel like a herculean task.
But guess what? It doesn’t have to be.
So, before we get into it, let’s quickly clear up the font vs. typeface confusion.
A typeface is a set of letters and other characters that share the same design. For example, when you say Arial or Montserrat, you’re talking about typefaces.
A font is a subset of a typeface – letters and other characters that share the same size, weight, or style. So when you say Arial Black or Montserrat Thin Italic, you’re talking about fonts.
If you think of a typeface as a family, then fonts are its individual members.
(Side note: there are also superfamilies, which are sets of typefaces designed to work together. For example, Merriweather and Merriweather Sans are a superfamily.)
In practice, most people say font, whether they mean font or typeface. I’m going to continue the tradition, except when I specifically mean typeface only.
With definitions out of the way, let’s hop straight to the tips:
1. Choose fonts that fit your brand personality
Fonts are like children; they’re all different. Even when they look almost the same, on closer observation, you can spot subtle differences.
When you take a look at a bunch of fonts all at once, you’ll notice some come across as playful, some look very serious, others have an air of elegance to them, or a hefty dose of quirkiness.
Knowing your brand’s personality is paramount here because you want your fonts to reflect it accurately.
Not sure what your brand’s personality is? Grab my free Brand Clarity Workbook and answer the questions in it. Pay special attention to question 4.
Once you’ve determined your brand’s personality, make sure the fonts you choose fit with the overall tone and mood of your brand.
2. Consider industry standards
Look around your competitors’ websites and notice the text – what are the commonalities? How do they differ? What is the look really communicating?
Get a good sense of the fonts typically used in your industry.
I’m not saying you have to stick with them, but being aware of what they have in common can give you a good starting point for choosing yours.
3. Think about audience expectations
When it comes to font choice, it’s absolutely essential to take into account your audience and what they might be expecting to see.
Generally speaking, an established banking institution will usually use fonts that feel serious and traditional, while a life coach might choose fonts that look friendly and modern.
And that makes sense from the audience expectations point of view.
Yes, a new bank might look and feel fun, but just how secure will your money be if you open an account there? People want a bank to feel solid and like it’s going to be around forever.
And the life coach’s audience? They’re looking for someone they can share their innermost thoughts with, someone relatable and welcoming.
So, what is your audience expecting from you? Figure it out and select your fonts accordingly.
4. Keep readability in mind
One of the most important factors to consider when choosing fonts is how readable they are. This is especially important for body text, as you want your readers to be able to easily understand what you're saying.
I’m not about to take sides in the serif vs. sans-serif debate.
Instead, I’m telling you to test your potential picks. Start by writing a few medium-length paragraphs using the fonts you’re considering.
Then back away from your screen.
- Can you still read what you wrote?
- Do some letters disappear?
- Do some letters look like… well, different letters?
If you’re planning to have any printed materials, such as workbooks or checklists, print out a few paragraphs in each of your font contenders.
- How readable is the text on paper?
- Does it flow easily from one line to the next?
Easy stuff, right? So don’t skip it.
5. Consider versatility
It’s a good idea to choose fonts that are versatile and can be used in a wide variety of contexts.
What do I mean by versatility? A lot of options.
Some typefaces only come in one style and limited weights. Script fonts are typically like this, but also, for example, Abril Fatface, if you use Google Fonts.
Well, that’s not a lot of options. If what’s available doesn’t quite fit the requirements of your project, you’re up the creek. Or tempted to use another font just this once. And that rarely turns out well.
A versatile typeface will have normal and italicized options at multiple weights (thin, regular, and bold at a minimum).
Many of the most popular typefaces on Google Fonts are quite versatile.
Open Sans, Roboto, and Merriweather are all examples of versatile typefaces with a ton of options.
6. Use fonts for hierarchy
Using different fonts is a great way for creating visual hierarchy, leading the reader’s eye along the page or graphic.
The typefaces you use, the weight and size of the font, and also the style (bold, italic, all caps, etc.) play a role in what readers perceive as most important.
The whole point of effective visual hierarchy is to make sure readers don’t need to expend extra brainpower to understand your message.
Because confused people don’t buy. They leave.
To make sure your readers keep reading, pay super special attention to the most important rule:
7. Keep it simple
Generally, the advice for choosing fonts goes like this: “stick with 2-3 fonts – one for headlines, one for body text, and maybe one for accent text.”
Not bad advice, by any means, but what usually happens is that the person picks three typefaces and proceeds to use multiple fonts from each, willy-nilly.
The result is often a hot mess.
So when I tell you to keep it simple, here’s what I mean:
Typically, you’ll want to reserve the most variations for your body text. You’ll use the regular font for the most part, and italics and bold for any text you want to emphasize.
For example, on this website, I use Lora for all body text, bolded and italicized liberally to make my points.
To function properly as headings, they must be visibly different from the rest of the text. Duh, I know, but you’d be surprised how often people don’t take that into account.
You can use one typeface for all your headings, even the same one as your body text, but make sure their size distinguishes them clearly as headings.
Or you can use a different typeface for more variety.
You might have observed that I use Lora not only for body text, but also for headings H1 and H2.
But my H3 headings are Quicksand – and notice how all throughout my website, you only ever see Quicksand in bold and all caps.
It’s part of what helps keep my font system clean and simple.
I don’t use subheadings in blog posts, generally, but they do make an appearance on many of my pages. If you know for sure you’ll never use them, then don’t worry about subheadings for now.
But if you think you might use subheadings soon, then definitely consider how you want them to look from the outset.
If you’re using a single typeface for your body text and headings, it might make sense to choose a different one for your subheads.
But if you already have two typefaces in use, don’t add a third one.
And remember to test them all together to make sure you like the resulting effect. You can use a simple layout showing how the text would look in real life.
I hope these tips will help you choose the perfect fonts for your brand. Keep in mind there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, so test and experiment until you find a combination that feels just right.
And if you want my help with font choices, you’re in the right place. Because one of the things I do as part of my signature branding package is create a cohesive font system for my clients.