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Font styles for your brand: Typography basics


I'm sure you've read the best branding tips for entrepreneurs, but many don't emphasize the importance of typography for your brand. Learn about the use of fonts for your business and the basics of how to leverage these in your brand!

The world of font styles is definitely an exciting part of the branding process. With growing shops like Creative Market, we’re seeing an influx of different creators offering their art to the rest of the world. You can be scrolling through websites for hours. Usually having so many choices can be dizzying, but choosing typography for your brand doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

As most designers, I’m obsessed with fonts and regularly test out new ones. The choices for certain ones are dependent on both style and design psychology.

But what do you do if you’re not a designer or experienced in typeface designs?

Some people want to understand the choices made behind it before choosing or letting someone else choose it for their businesses.

I’ll be going over some basics on how to choose them and the meaning behind it.

Why are typography and font styles important?

Like other types of design, visuals have such a huge impact on our brains. Whether by first glance or repeated exposure to something, our minds process them so differently.

Typefaces are also not designed by chance! The designer who originally created it had a specific purpose for it.

I’ll only go over this for a second because for the most part, it’s not that big of a deal—unless you’re a type designer!

So let’s go over the term typeface and font.

  • Typeface – the name of the family of fonts. Like Helvetica.
  • Font – the more specific styles of that family. Like Helvetica Light, Helvetica Regular, Helvetica Oblique, etc. However, sometimes they don’t have more than one variation.

Common terms- typography for your brand

  • Serif – A serif is the little decoration at the end of the letters. They’re the little lines at the end of the letterforms.
  • Sans serif – As you can guess, these don’t have the serifs on the letterforms.
  • Display – a display font is usually for headlines and large text. They’re made to stand out and sometimes they’re more decorative. These are best in small doses.
  • Text – If the word “text” is in the font name, it means this is good for the body text. That’s because they made these easy on the eyes to read in small sizes with a large block of text.

The psychology of type and font styles

If you read my post on color palettes, then you know that even psychology can be subjective. People can perceive things differently based on who they are, how they understand things or their backgrounds.

This is why it’s essential to know who you’re marketing to before you put all of this time and effort into your visuals! Learn to sell first and work with a few clients so you have that experience, and then you can do all of the pretty things through brand strategy.

It might be a good exercise to know what your clients like. Talking to them one-on-one can help you determine the style that really speaks to them. Notice how I said clients and not you? 🙂

On a larger scale, you can look at the industry and see what matters to them. A tech company that runs a mobile app will have different typography needs from a home magazine.

Functions of typography for your brand

A good method for how your selections will function is to do a word association exercise. What are the core beliefs of your brand? How do you want to be portrayed to your audience? What’s your specialty?

Next, determine how your choice will work in with your brand.

  • A sans-serif can represent a few things: modern, fun, minimal, clean.
  • A serif can represent: classic, timeline, elegant, professional, print-related

Then you can determine different weights you might want to incorporate into your type choices. A very bold font can be for loud statements, or they can feel masculine. You should figure out your color palette before this, because the combination can change things up. If you use that same bold sans serif font with a lavender color, it can symbolize a fun and modern brand.

Always keep in mind what message you’re trying to send to your target market and how your typefaces can aid you in that.

Misuse of font styles for your brand

I haven’t even gotten to a very popular choice for businesses–handwritten and script fonts! When used correctly, they’re beautiful and add a personal touch or a bit of sophistication to the branding.
If used incorrectly, it can really cheapen a brand. It can look very DIY and unprofessional when it’s on too many things.

Since handwritten and script fonts count as display fonts, it should be used sparingly. Use it to accent certain words, or on your logo. But don’t ever use it as the main body text.

The most common thing mistake I’ve seen is when people space out the letters (also called kerning) script fonts. They’re meant to flow smoothly, so adding space in between defeats the purpose.

When something is that pretty, use it as a garnish. It will make a bigger impact!

Licenses for use

I get a lot of questions about how to properly use it. Think of it like this– an artist created a painting and put it online to sell to many people. So just like art, the use of it depends on the license.

Places like Creative Market make it pretty easy: personal/standard use, commercial use, and extended use.

You need a license for all fonts you use! Many people don’t know that there is also a license with free Google fonts. And that lets you use it for free however you like– these are called open source fonts.

Most premium fonts you need to pay attention to. For the most part, there is only one owner. Some people get confused and think that because it says it can be for 5 desktops, it can be for five people. You are a business and you have a license for 5 desktops, which means it can only be shared with people who work for your company. If you’re a designer and you end up using this for your client, and your client needs this font, they have to get their own license.

Licenses can get more complicated when it’s a boutique type foundry or one artist. You’ll have to check it more carefully to see how you’re allowed to use it. Personal use means you use it just for yourself and you are not planning to use this to make money or sell anything. Commercial use is what most people recommend if you’re working on something for a client or you’re using this for your own business.

Types of licenses

A desktop license means that you can put it on your computer and use it for programs on there. A web license means you can install this on your website and usually for a certain amount of viewers. You can pay for 15,000 viewers a month or more depending on their terms.

So remember that it’s not as easy as your friend sending you over the font they like. Make sure that if you’re using it professionally, that you’re using it legally too–because there are legal ramifications, just like any other art!

That wraps up the basics with typography for your brand. I hope you gained some insights into the differences of each, the terms used, the best way to use each one, and how to acquire them legally.

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