Fanciful Font Pairings #EyeForFont

22 May 2014

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Take a glimpse inside the world of typography, as we explore the devil in the detail of what some may only see as a mere selection on Word, others find an enthralling adventure. Our Wickedweb exploration presents some interesting opinions on the use of font.

There are many elements that have to come together in harmony to make a good piece of design. As designers, we sit there for hours looking at them all, painstakingly pushing their little tiny pixel butts across our screens to create pixel utopia. Typography is one of those elements, in fact, type is one of the key players. Type is used to get across that key messaging, support that stunning photograph, and make users want to click on that big shiny flat, minimal and considered, ( ;) ) button. Even if it’s just one word, it’s a big deal. Yeah, I know, no pressure much! But when picking multiple fonts, it’s vital that you keep the fundamentals in mind and choose fonts that work together and maintain contrast and unity.

How many?

Pick as many as you like it’s totally up to you, have fun, go totally wild! It’s best to have a good mix, but too many fonts of the same nature, whether it be strong, bold and shouty, or, timid, thin and subtle, will start looking like a crazy literate’s scribbling’s where everything has tried to happen at once in a big font fight. There is no rule on how many fonts you should or shouldn’t use on a page, just keep your choices consistent and maintain that challenging harmony between the ones you settle on. Headings will usually adopt the same style with a strong contrasting sub-heading (doesn’t necessarily have to be a completely different font – maybe just a different family in the same one) and the body copy supporting, providing a complimentary style.

Contrast & Harmony

When selecting your fonts, pay attention to the presence of similar traits between them. Look at their proportions, cap height, maybe they have similar proportions, the direction of the movement. Match them up so they complement one another. It might be as simple as using the same font just using a different style in the font family. On the same note, pairing two font styles together like the classic old favourite serif and sans serif, will often create a simple visual harmony with the two contrasting and complementing each other effortlessly when coupled effectively. Using font weight is a good way to outline the visual hierarchy of the type. The size of fonts will also help you achieve that unity, big font, little font, simple. Little font stepping down to let big font its thing, while little font works away in the backdrop.

What to avoid

We won’t focus too much on the conflicts that break up the perfect pairing, because that’s just no fun. But let’s just briefly understand what will not work and then move on to the fun part! Here I should probably illustrate what looks just plain bad, but that would mean making a mountain out of something that makes me shift uncomfortably in my seat while I write this… so I won’t. Be mindful when picking your fonts that they are not too alike. If they share too many of the same properties they will look awkward and jarring. Sharing a number of the same properties, the fonts are trying to preform very similar roles and destroy that contrast and harmony. The fonts will appear the same and look like a really bad mimic of each other, and that’s never going to be easy to look at. It’s tricky to outline exactly what will and won’t work, and will usually come naturally as a gut feeling. If it doesn’t work you will try and work out why and the decisions you form will help you achieve quicker and better font pairings in the future.

End Note… Be creative

So go forth, enjoy typefaces and their harmonious pairings. Use them well and be creative. Here are a few of the font pairings I’ve been working with lately in some of the projects I’ve been working on. Enjoy and spread the word #EyeForFont.

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