Typography Do's and Don'ts

Choosing the right typography for your next project, whether it be a brochure, invitation or website, is an essential step in any design that needs to use words. We've put together this handy guide of do's and don't's of typography to help pinpoint some issues you could possibly be facing with your project.

Do Be Picky.

More is not better. Don't pick a plethora of fonts and then proceed to use them all in the same project. You only need a handful (usually two or three) of different fonts to get your point across. Too many fonts can make your design look chaotic. Keep it simple!   Example of kerning

Don't forget about kerning, tracking, and leading!

Kerning is the space between two letters in a word. Tracking is the of space between all letters and words in a group, whether that be a sentence, paragraph or line. Leading (sometimes called line-height) is the space between lines of text. Usually these three will look pretty good in whatever design software you're using, but you should always play around with the different spaces to make sure you're getting the absolute best legibility.

Do mix serifs with sans-serifs.

The main title of your project could be written in a bold sans-serif font. It might be a good idea to use a serif font with your body copy. You want there to be some contrast to show the difference between the two sections of your project. It's also important to note that you should avoid mixing two serifs or two sans-serifs if possible.

Don’t put two spaces between sentences.

You may have learned when learning to type that you should always put two spaces after every period before starting a new sentence. That practice is now outdated since the invention of word processors. The reason you may have learned to add the extra space is because it was necessary when using a typewriter.

Don’t use illegible fonts.

You’ve always heard that “Content is King” which should translate in typography to “Legibility is King.” If the typeface you choose is beautiful but illegible as body copy, you need to rethink your original decision. Also, if you want to put some text on a super busy background you’ll need to put something directly behind the text so it’s legible. Using a light typeface or a bold font for small body text is also a bad idea.

Do learn the difference between typeface and fonts.

Now this tip may not help you directly with the project you’re working on, but it can definitely help you in the long run, even though often the two terms are used interchangeably.

Simply put, typefaces are designs and fonts are their representation. A font is the variation of type in styles (like bold or italic) and sizes. So Pacifico is a typeface. Pacifico, 16 point, regular is a font.

You could ask someone, “What typeface are you using?” And they could respond, “Pacifico.” Then you asked, “What font are you using?” And they’d say, “16 point, regular.”


Do understand usage.

There are a bunch of pretty great free typefaces that are available for your use in anything from a billboard to an e-commerce site. There are also a lot of free fonts that are only available for personal use. It’s important to pay attention to the license, even if it was free to download. Usually the license is included as a simple text file in the compressed file that you downloaded. Always keep the license, you may need to reference it later.

The same rules apply to typefaces that you may have purchased. You need to check the license that was included with the font to make sure you’re allowed to use it in your project. Remember that you can fold the cost of a typeface into the fee for your client, as long as they know what they’re purchasing.