The ‘font’ of all knowledge

August 2, 2021

When creating a website, designers will talk a lot about colours, imagery and video but what about the typography which is chosen?

Interestingly, typefaces can produce some quite extreme views… with Comic Sans as an example. An article on the BBC website back in 2010 discussed ‘what’s so wrong with Comic Sans?’. Apparently, it was never designed as a font for common use, but was created in 1994 by Vincent Connare, who worked at Microsoft as a ‘typographic engineer’. He was clicking his way through an unreleased trial copy of Microsoft Bob; the typeface it used was Times New Roman and he opted for a more ‘friendly’ font, which was later known as Comic Sans MS. 

It was rejected for the project but, not long afterwards, adopted for Microsoft Movie Maker and included as a supplementary typeface in the Windows 95 operating system, where everyone with a PC could use it – and, some would say, over-use it… It left even mild-mannered people enraged.

It’s difficult to know exactly why, people do find that they have favourite typefaces or, at least, ones they simply don’t like and ones which they are drawn to.

In a recent article in The Guardian, journalist Hannah Jane Parkinson argued that fonts have personalities: “Fonts are a huge part of our lives. Even if you think you don’t have a favourite font, I can assure you that you absolutely do. We are wedded to fonts; they work their way into our hearts and minds by either stealth or, of course, design.”

When we are at the stage of designing a website, it’s likely that our client will have already got some brand guidelines in place or typefaces which are part of their branding. Generally, these will have been created to reflect the image that company wants to portray or what the business does. A City accountancy firm will no doubt select a different typeface to a vegan café. If we have free reign with our typeface selection, then we’ll put a lot of thought into how a company wants to be seen. 

We’d generally suggest that less is more when it comes to websites. Mixing up typefaces can look messy and can potentially confuse visitors to your site. That said, if you want variety, then you could select up to three different ones – ideally from the same family - but keep them for different areas of text, such as headlines, introduction and body copy. 

Also, don’t be tempted to muddle your website with a variety of fonts – bold and italics – or even capitals. Again, it will seem messy. 

You’ll want the typefaces you’ve chosen to be easy to read though, as people will soon click away from your website if they aren’t. For this reason, select a clean design which isn’t too arty. Also make sure that the font you chose is scalable. Some typefaces are easy to read when they are large but not as much when they are condensed. 

The typeface chosen also needs to be web browser friendly – as some fonts are faster to download than others and you don’t want potential customers to click away because a page hasn’t loaded. 

On top of all this, you’ll need to consider if you require a licence to use the typeface you’ve selected to use on your website – and how much that will cost, as the price varies. It’s worth having that conversation with your brand designer before they chose some beautiful fonts – as you might find that those particular ones are expensive to include online. 

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