Understanding Fonts In Design: A Non-Designer’s Guide

fonts in design

As a non-designer, it may not have occurred to you that the fonts you use can make or break your designs. It’s such a common thing to see words and letters everywhere you look and you may not have given much thought to it. From your phone to the billboard you see on your way to work, there are letters everywhere. What makes these letters stand out or shrink back is the type of font they’re presented in. Therefore we will discuss in this blog, the significance of fonts in design. 

What is a font and why is it so important in communication?

A font is a variation of a typeface. Yes, these two are not the same thing. A typeface is a collection of letters that share the same design features or characteristics. A font is when the typeface changes its weight, style, size, and effect. We will get to a more elaborate explanation in a moment. 

What makes this such an important topic to tackle is that these fonts in design have an effect on people and how they perceive things. We all know for a fact that visuals make a huge impact on the average person. It’s because they form a mode of communication. What we communicate is more often than not, tied to how we communicate it. In this light, fonts in design play a major role. 

What is Typography? 

You probably have encountered the word “typography”. But did you actually know that typography is not just the font type used in a design? It is actually the arrangement of the letters and words.  In other words, it’s how a single font or a group of fonts is arranged. 

Being knowledgeable of different typefaces and their corresponding font families is crucial to making your typography stand out. You can’t just use any font in your designs. You need to make sure it works well. In fact, designers need to have comprehensive knowledge of how these fonts in design integrate with each other, in order to be able to effectively utilize them in their designs.

It’s important to know how to work the fonts you’ve picked out. You can experiment by tracking, kerning, or adjusting the leading to take maximum use of a suitable font. Let’s find out what these terms mean in more detail below.


Tracking is when you adjust the space between the letters of a given word uniformly. Sometimes designers use tracking to fill the empty space in a design. 


Kerning is also a form of adjusting letters but specifically between 2 letters. In some typefaces, some letters seem awkwardly placed. Either they’re too close together or too far apart. In such cases, it’s suitable to kern those letters to ensure they are more in alignment with the others.


Letters sit on an invisible line that we call the baseline. What leading does is, adjust the height between these lines. It’s the typographical term for adjusting the height between lines. 

What are font families? 

Font families are the fonts that belong to a particular typeface. Observe the example below. 

Roboto is a common typeface. It has 12 font styles. Below are some of the styles that belong to the Roboto typeface.

These manipulated characters are different types of fonts in the Roboto typeface. Simply put, there are 12 members in the Roboto family. It is up to your designer to pick which font is most suitable depending on the occasion. All typefaces will have at least 1 font style in them.

Add to that, there are also different classifications that constitute a typeface. Let’s observe what those are.

Classifications of Typefaces

Typefaces can be classified into 5 groups. Serif, sans serif, script/handwriting, monospaced, and display. But for our purposes of introducing you to the basics, we will discuss the first 3 types only.

Serif vs Sans-serif

You may have heard these 2 terms quite often and wondered what they even mean. Maybe your designer asked you which of these typefaces you wanted to use in a particular design and you just stood there dumbfounded. Well, let us break it down for you. 

Serif typefaces

A serif typeface is a font group that has small decorative edges on the ends of each letter. 

The above image shows a serif font from a typeface called Roboto Slab. If you look closely you can see the strokes at the end of each letter. 

These are most appropriate for traditional or sophisticated settings. They give out a professional vibe and are extremely suitable for fashion brands and jewelry advertisements.

It’s also not surprising that books utilize this font. The small serifs on the ends of the letters create a baseline helping guide the eye on where to read. 

These typefaces look great on printed matter and are a safe choice if your brand has a conservative tone. 

Other common serif fonts include Garamond, Goudy, Baskerville, and Didot to name a few.

Sans Serif Typefaces

 In French “sans” means without. So it’s clear what the definition of a sans serif typeface is. It refers to those typefaces that do not have a stroke at the end of each letter. 

This is a typeface called Poppins. It’s a crowd-favorite, owing to its simplicity. And you can clearly see that the ends of the strokes are without embellishments. 

These are very minimalistic and do well in titles and they read very well. More than large bodies of texts, they are best suited for short bursts of texts.

If your brand is more casual and you want to approach your audience in a friendly manner, these are your go-to fonts. They are the top option for digital designs as they’re easy on the eyes. It’s also a favored option for social media posts. It works well on large and small screens alike. 

If you’re looking for fonts for a web-based project then sans-serifs will be the best option.

Other common sans serif fonts include Libre Franklin, Roboto, Helvetica, and Arial to name a few.

Script/ Handwriting Typefaces

Script typefaces are those that incorporate fluid-like smooth strokes. Which is why they’re also known as handwriting typefaces. While there are many types of script typefaces most of them, similar to handwriting, follow an uninterrupted flowy structure. They can be used in both formal and casual settings depending on the typeface you select.

Observe the different script typefaces below to get a basic idea:

These fonts do not work well in large text bodies. They’re to be used sparingly in digital designs. But if your brand has a feminine feel then these fonts could help you create an elegant and sophisticated logo. Or if you want to print out invitations or create other similar types of print projects, then these fonts could be useful. 

What is the right font for my brand?

As discussed briefly in the introduction, the font you choose plays a huge role in communicating your brand or message to your intended audience. 

For example, if you’re a gym owner looking to create your gym sign, you would not opt for sleek, thin-stroke typefaces. But rather, you would seek a selection of robust heavy bold fonts and experiment with those. Likewise, there are so many things to consider when choosing a typeface.  

Most newbies forget these important details when choosing a typeface or font. You may like a certain font but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s all ready and set for you to use. There are so many factors you need to consider when picking your font. 

 Factors to consider when choosing fonts in design
  1. Your brand personality
  2. The number of fonts you will incorporate
  3. Contrast between the fonts in case you use more than one. 
  4. Considering if the design is for print or for the web.
  5. The brand colors that you’ve decided on and if they work well with the font you’ve picked
  6. Other brand elements clash with the font chosen.
  7. The format of the font 

If you don’t take caution by considering these factors you’re in for a mess up. You could be sending the right message with the wrong font.

The Takeaway

We can’t stress enough the importance of using the correct fonts in your projects. Always, keep in mind what a good font does for your potential consumer. Consider the types of fonts out there and make sure to only work with what works best for your brand. 

It goes without saying that a lot of experimenting needs to go into choosing fonts in designs if you’re a non-designer. Accordingly, you might need to invest in some popular fonts to make an informed decision. 

Happy font hunting!

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