I have a thing for fonts. They’re so much more than pretty, they’re compelling, they tell stories and invoke meaning. And while your PC likely came with a bunch of pretty cool fonts, there are endless possibilities of better fonts out there. Endless. So, the next time you’re creating a sign for a school-function or a pinnable image for a blog post, know that you can easily add meaningful typography… for free! Last week, I created a step-by-step tutorial detailing how to add a new font to your favorite computer software.
How to learn about fonts and typography
There are plenty of places to get fonts for free on the internet and poking around on Pinterest is usually a great place to start. A quick search for “fonts” and you’ll be inundated with beauteous pins like these:
See what I mean? There’s so much beauty in typography that you want to use more than Arial and Times in your flyers and images. Including unique fonts make you stand out. Not only that, but they add more emotion to your project.
A quick lesson in typography
Typography truly is a career, and a clear understanding of it gives you a bit of oomph in your work. (A nod to Mr. Penumbra…) While only you can figure out the true emotion you’re looking for in your project and, therefore, your font selection, here are a few tips:
Serif and Sans Serif
Most projects should use two fonts, some three. Anything over three and you’ll start looking like an unprofessional-PTO-newsletter-font-crazed person. (what?! it’s a real phrase. Ask your facebook friends. Sorry. Just putting it out there.) When I was a student in my graphics arts and journalism courses, we learned the rule of print: Always use Serif in text and Sans Serif in titles. The eye, when reading or scanning print, moves faster and smoother when reading text in Serif, while it’s attracted to headlines in Sans.
And then the World Wide Web came along (we’re talking early nineties, folks) and the graphic designers were thrown for a loop. Research was done and proved that words on screen need the opposite: text in Sans and titles in Serif.
This slideshow shows how using serif and sans serif fonts in minutes from a PTO meeting can make the information more easy or more difficult to read. (Note, I found these minutes through an internet search but changed the names.)
And then graphic artistry really took off in the form of Typography, with all sorts of decorative fonts taking over and leaving these rules behind. But a few things hold true: When you’re creating something in print (ie a newsletter or flyer) keep your titles simple and bold with Sans Serif and your text (the small details) in Serif fonts.
And always, always always always leave the fancy-script-like and crazy exciting fonts to only a few words on a page. If you have too much of this, no one is going to want to take the time to read it. If you take nothing else from this post, remember that the goal of your project is to provide something to be read. Looking pretty is nearly as important because you want it to be desirable. But if it’s pretty and no one can read it, then what’s the point?
Definitions, directly quoted from wikipedia
Serif: a serif is a small line attached to the end of a stroke in a letter or symbol, such as when handwriting is separated into distinct units for a typewriter or typsetter. A typeface with serifs is called a serif typeface.
Sans Serif: a sans-serif, sans serif, gothic, san serif or simply sans typeface is one that does not have the small projecting features called “serifs” at the end of strokes. The term comes from the French word sans, meaning “without”. Sans-serif fonts tend to have less line width variation than serif fonts.
Best places to get free fonts
I’m really cheap when it comes to these things. I mean, there are so many options for fonts that are free, that it’s almost senseless to actually pay for fonts. (Those of you who read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel might be nodding in agreement right now.) Here are a few places that I “shop” for free fonts:
DaFont is always the first place to search because of the plethora of fonts listed. It’s easy to search through categories like fancy, foreign, techno, gothic… but it’s also easy to miss fonts completely. I like to search the emotion or topic my words are expressing. For example, a search for “baby” fonts brings up some that look like this:
Another benefit of using DaFont is that you can actually see your words in type before you download. So if the title of the flyer is BYOBaby, I can change view it before downloading:
I also really enjoy Amanda & Kevin’s Free Srcrapbooking Fonts and Fonts for Peas. Fonts for Peas is a collection of around 500 handwriting fonts, created based on actual handwriting sent in to Amanda. Free Scrapbooking fonts is a huge selection of creative fonts that Amanda has presented. And they’re free!
Font Fabric offers a mix of free and paid fonts, presented as images, rather than type, so you can actually see what they’ll look like in your project.
Font Garden is very similar to DaFont in it’s presentation–it’s a little more difficult to search but it’s far more pleasing to the eye. It also highlights popular fonts, so it’s great for searching for timely and pretty fonts.
© 2013, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.