How many fonts should you use when designing your marketing collateral? It’s a question which seems to always be asked in every design class that I teach and from just about any marketer that has to create their own flyers or marketing collateral. This marketing blog posts helps answer the question, How many fonts you should use in your collateral designs.
Before I answer that question, let me give you a brief overview of Type Fundamentals with some key definitions.
Take a look at the “Type” diagram directly below. You will notice that type or “character” is composed of several elements, 1) the point size which measures the height of the type face (a point is typically 1/72, therefore a 72 point character is about 1 inch in height), 2) the ascender, that part which ascends from the cap height to the x-height, 3) the cap height, or in layman’s terms, the top of the capital letter, 4), the x-height is the distance between the baseline and the median which the median is the line that runs at the top of the lowercase letters top part, 4) the descender which is the part of the type that runs below the baseline as in the lowercase letters p, q, g, etc.
I don’t think you will really need this information as a marketer, however, it’s good to have some background on the basics of type, or letters. Now, there are four main elements that make up type: 1) font style, font family, type face, and type attributes. I will explain each one of these elements below.
Font – Font and typeface are used synonymously to describe a quantity of type. For example the font 9-point Helvetica Light would be a separate font than 12-point Helvetica Light. In other words, all the characters of 9-point Helvetica Narrow would be considered one font and the same would hold true for 12-point Helvetica Narrow and so on. See image below.
Font Style – Font style and typestyle are used synonymously to describe a particular look and feel of a font. For example, the straight edge (san-serif) look of Ariel is a very different font style than that of the curly and wavy Edwardian Script font. See the image below and different font styles.
Font Family – A font family is the group of fonts that are members of one particular style. From the font definition above, where 9-point Helvetica Light and 12-point Helvetica Light where two separate fonts, together, with their other point sizes, they make up a family, or in the case of fonts, a font family. See the image below for an example of a font family.
Type Face – See explanation on font style above.
Type Attribute – A type attribute refers to the varying characteristics found within any specific font style. For example, bold and italic are two types of type attributes of any specific font. A font attribute can also include the weight of a font, meaning bold, as already discussed, as well as black, extended, and condensed.
So, how many fonts should you use on your marketing collateral?
From the above examples of type, you can see that it can get quite confusing, not to mention cumbersome, when it comes to selecting fonts, and which ones to use, or how many you should use. So, let’s get to the question, how many fonts are enough fonts for your marketing collateral? While there is no definitive answer, as a general rule, it’s recommended that two font styles be used for any basic brochure, flyer, advertisement, or any other type of marketing communications piece.
One font style for the headline and the other for body copy. You can add a third font style to your page if you are using it as emphasis or as a call out, in a quote box, or call out box to differentiate information from the body copy and the headline copy. Using too many fonts will begin to distract your reader from the message you are trying to convey and begin to make your design look cluttered and unprofessional.
Let’s take a look at an example data sheet for a client I did. I’ve removed the contact information from the flyers/data sheets and this first one, I deliberately changed the fonts and added six different font styles. This data sheet does not have that polished look or feel you would expect from a professional piece. The fonts are random, but look good to the designer; this is a typical response I would get from a client who designed their own piece. They would tell me they used a lot fo fonts because they looked good. Let’s forget about being practical and following design guides. They just looked good to them.
Now, let’s take a look at the proper way to lay this flyer out using the correct amount of fonts. How many font styles and/or font families do you think I’m using in this example? Give up yet? I’m using only one font style, Frutiger. I just vary the attributes, using a heavier weight, or bold, and an italic. Doing so gives the illusion that I am using more than one font style, but does not have that cluttered or unprofessional look or feel.
I know there’s a lot of information in this post and there’s certainly a lot more information when it comes to typography and desktop publishing. My goal was to give you a little background about fonts and explain how many fonts you should use in a single flyer, brochure, or any other marketing collateral.
While there is a general rule of using two to three fonts in any given design, those rules are often broken if you are using type as art, or some other design element within a design piece. I encourage you to explore and read more about typography and design. Below are some recommended books just to help you out.