“Typography exists to honor content,” writes Robert Bringhurst in the designer’s bible “The Elements of Typographic Style.”
Typography, typefaces, fonts…we hear these terms often in the design world. Technically they are not all the same. For our purposes, however, we won’t go into such mundane details. Just know that the visual appearance of your words is important to your newsletter. The type you choose and how you use it can make the difference in members reading your newsletter or tossing it aside.
Fonts are divided into three categories:
SerifThere are little tails at the ends of each letter. Serif fonts often have a more traditional look. Times New Roman is a common serif font.
San Serif (French for without)The letters are without tails. San serif fonts often carry a more contemporary look. Calibri is the default san serif font Microsoft now includes in its Office programs.
DecorativeThis includes script and other stylized fonts. Brush Script is a common decorative font.
A good rule of design is to use a san serif font for headings and serif for for the body, or visa versa. Customarily, serif fonts are considered easier to read for large amounts of text because the tails lead the eye from one word to the next. However, because we’re becoming so accustomed to reading san serif text from our computer screens—studies show san serif is easier to read in this venue—we’re seeing more and more hard copy printed in san serif.
Decorative fonts are beautiful but they’re also much less legible. Think “accent” when using a decorative font, such as titles and headings. Never use a decorative font for large amounts of text and never use it with all capital letters.
Perhaps one of the most obvious tipoffs to unprofessional design is the clutter of too many fonts. Font design is comparable to textiles; you wouldn’t combine multiple prints, plaids and stripes without looking a bit hodgepodge. The same goes for your newsletter. Limit the number of font to two, at the most, three font families.