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Fonts Are Like Spandex - One Size Won't Fit All

Jun 21, 2008
Let me start by saying (in my best Jack Nicholson-esque voice) that if you can't "handle the truth," you may well be offended by this article. Consider it a disclaimer. Feel free to disagree...your mileage may vary.

Still here? Good. Let's get to it then, shall we?

Yes, I am a Fontaholic

They say that admission is the first step.

I doubt that there are many computer users who have more fonts installed on their computer than I do. There is something uniquely brilliant about every font, and I can appreciate them from an artistic standpoint. However, when it comes to creating a website, promotional piece, or advertisement, less is definitely more.

Over the past few years, the trend in advertising seems to have gone the way of sans-serif fonts. An easy way to remember this is that sans-serif fonts do not have "tails;" whereas serif fonts do. Sans-serif fonts are much easier to read, and are often chosen for websites for this reason.

Think of it this way...fonts are a lot like Spandex(R). Just because you can wear it, doesn't necessarily mean that you should. They are not one size fits all, folks. Think of me as your trusted friend waiting outside the dressing room door that gives it to you straight, "yes, I'm afraid that does make your butt look big."

Grievous Font Faux Pas
You know you have a great product, your sales copy is impeccable, and you've nailed the keywords - yet, your conversions are still in the crapper.

Hmm...what do you suppose Joan Rivers would say? Now might be a good time to reconsider that flashing headline graphic, or the "adorable" trailing cursor effect you recently installed.

Remember the swan dress that Bjork wore to the 2001 Oscars(R)? Your "swan" may just be the albatross around your neck - and believe me, it is weighing you down. Save the cute and the kitschy for your MySpace(R) page. They have no business in your business.

The "less is more" principle governs more than just fonts - it applies to your message, and the ratio of text to graphics as well. Give considerable thought to the target of your message...will they find your font selections difficult to read, busy, or dated? Your appearance is your brand, so choose carefully. Similarly, once you've committed to a selection, stick with it. Doing so will not only increase your brand equity, but it will also reinforce trust with your customers. Falling prey to the "font of the month" will only serve to dilute your brand, and confuse your customers.

Can't Get Enough Fonts?
Sometimes you just need a new font to help give your creativity a boost. If that sounds familiar, you will no doubt enjoy this list:

What the Font - myfonts.com/
An incredible selection awaits you at this site. I have found two features of this site to be superior: first, the search tool - which will allow you to sort by a specific time period, or style; and second, the "What the Font" tool. This tool allows you to upload an image of a particular font that you like, and the kinds folks of this font community will endeavor to help you identify it. This can be particularly helpful when you see a font you really like, but have no idea where to source it from. The community members in the What the Font area are incredibly knowledgeable and helpful.

1001 Free Fonts - 1001freefonts.com
Great database of free fonts - the only downside is that they are not classified by type.

Like all good things, fonts are best when used in moderation. It's always a good idea to run your selections by a trusted friend or colleague before you go "live." While a design may seem intoxicating in the moment, things may look totally different in the morning...so font responsibly.
About the Author
Traci Hayner Vanover, The Promo Diva(R), is the publisher of Create the Dream magazine, http://www.createthedream.com, and the president of Market Outside the Box Trade Association, http://www.marketoutsidethebox.com. She also works with private clients as a publicist, copywriter and consultant.
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