FLIGHTS OF FONTASY

Recently we tweeted about the claim by 14 year old American school boy Suvir Mirchandani that the US Government could save $400 million annually by switching from Times New Roman to Garamond, because Garamond uses about 25% less ink to print. We could only use 140 characters to tweet the story so we weren’t able to convey our skepticism about the claim but several other designers around the world published their views and were not convinced. For one, the US Government don’t pay for ink in the same way that ordinary folk do, and they do a lot of their printing on huge printing presses not office ink jet printers. Still, it was a good idea on his part, despite being inaccurate.

It may seem a mundane detail but fonts are a critical communication tool and important design choice. There are so many of them available, some new and some dating back to early 20th century, and people have strong likes and dislikes as they convey very different tones and degrees of formality.

You can broadly group fonts into 3 categories: Serif Fonts (‘serifs’ being the little end bits on letters in the formal typefaces like Times New Roman and Centaur); Sans Serif fonts (without the little end bits, such as Arial, Helvetica and Verdana); and Monospace fonts (where each letter is the same width, such as Courier and Lucida Console). Sans Serif fonts are deemed easier to read than Serif fonts, which is good for accessibility (see our recent blog on this!). Many sites use Arial, Helvetica or Verdana because they are safe and ubiquitous but there are other good options.

We, your web designer, will code in a ‘cascading style sheet’ that specifies the preferred font that should appear but also the subsequent preferences should the first choices not be available on the viewer’s device. The fonts on the style sheet will usually be very similar to each other so that the end result is as close as possible to the intended and planned design.

Without the style sheet code, if you did opt to use an unusual font that some of your visitors didn’t have installed, they’d see a default font chosen by their browser, which you have no control over so, for example, if it was wider than you’d planned, all your layouts would be screwed up.

Like all aspects of design, trends come and go and there are definitely some fonts that are now considered very dated or unsuitable for a professional website, such as Comic Sans, Copperplate or Curlz MT. Comic Sans has been widely dismissed as being corny and over-used but if you are really keen on it you’ll be pleased to learn that Australian digital designer Craig Rozynski has refreshed it and created Comic Neue – a new version of Comic Sans for the modern age.

Give us a call if you need any help with choosing or updating your fonts, or any aspect of your website. Thanks to services like fonts.com or Google fonts you are able to choose from a vast array of font choices. We can guide you through the maze to pick something perfect for your brand.

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