Fonts explained - Photo by Marcus dePaula on Unsplash

Fonts: Information for the non-designer


It is said that there are around 300,000 different individual fonts in the world today. They’re everywhere, so, what’s all the hype about type?

We’re here to break down the basics and explain what font terminology means and why it is an important consideration when designing.

Font or typeface?

You may have heard both words used when talking about type. Although historically different, today they are interchangeable (unless you’re talking to a type expert!). To summarise, a typeface is the design whereas a font is how the said design is delivered. E.g. the weight and size.


What types of fonts are there?

There are lots of classifications of font, many historical so we will just outline the 4 main font categories that are useful to understand. These are: serif, sans serif, script and decorative.

  • Serif

    Has little decorative elements (or ‘feet’) named serifs, attached to the ends of the letters. They are considered more traditional.
    31 Design terms explained - serif fonts

  • Sans-serif

    ‘Sans’ means ‘without’, so as the names suggests, letters do not have the decorative elements. These fonts tend to me more modern and sleeker.
    31 Design terms explained - sans serif fonts

  • Script

    Think cursive or handwriting. These fonts usually have joined letters and can portray a variety of styles from elegance to informal and fun.
    31 Design terms explained - script fonts

  • Decorative/Display

    Often considered a novelty, decorative fonts are designed to grab your attention. They should be considered in use and in small doses.
    Decorative fonts


What’s so important about font choice?

Different typefaces can suggest different impressions. Consider your audience and the type of personality you want to portray, as well as the context it will appear.

For example, a luxury hotel may choose to opt for a serif font for a traditional, heritage feel, while a corporate business may want to go sans-serif for a contemporary and professional aesthetic.


What should you consider when selecting a typeface?

  • Is it legible? Are people able to read your message?
  • Is it versatile? Think about using it practically, will you need a variety of weights or italic versions?
  • Does it work well with other fonts? If you’re using more than one font, does it pair well or does it overwhelm?
  • Do you know the license? Not all fonts are free to use. Make sure you’re aware of the license and how you can use the typeface.

And last but not least, here are our 3 top tips for font selection:

  • Don’t overwhelm a design with too many fonts and stylings. We suggest between 2-3.
  • If you’re using a lighter weight, consider the font colour. Lighter colours and weights will be hard to read.
  • Look at the whole typeface – there is nothing worse that settling on a design, implementing and discovering it’s missing certain symbols or has an unusual character.

If you’re keen to find out more – check out our terminology blog which touches on specific elements of type.

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