Selecting the perfect type:The Basics

Choosing a typeface for different design projects is a personal and subjective decision, usually connected with the project brief but there are a few guidelines and rules that will help you find your way in the vast world of typefaces and select the right type for the job.


Selecting the perfect type: The Basics

Type is powerful. It can either make or break the job. Every typeface has a different character and personality and it also can convey different moods, feelings and messages. Headline typefaces, known also as display typefaces, are evoking stronger feelings such as strength, agitation, silliness, scariness, elegance etc…  When it comes to texts, often used as text blocks, typefaces has to be more subtle and legible.

Defininf design goals?

The first step in selecting a typeface is to define you goals. As a designer, yours is the responsibility to serve the client with your problem-solving skills. Of course, every project needs and requires a different approach.  If the project is an annual report, you should probably select a typeface that is more legible but also one that somehow represents the spirit of the company. If you need to do a book cover design, a more eye-catchy font will be the best choice, one that tells the story of the book in a second and makes the book stand out in the sea of other books. A travel brochure might need to evoke the excitement of the journey to a new and unknown place. On the other hand, a novel or a textbook would require a readable and pleasing typeface, one that doesn’t tire the eyes after hours of reading.

To define your design goals and choose the right typeface, start with defining the age, attention span and demographics of your audience. As previously mentioned, different typefaces have different personality and thus, they attract different audience. For example, children are attracted to more easy-to-read and playful typefaces; teens are drawn to more expressive, edgy designs; seniors prefer legibility and clarity. After defining your age group, think about how much reading you are asking them to do and what is the information you want them to remember. Having done that, you will narrow down the typeface choices considerably.

What makes a good typeface?


The Anatomy of Type

Every designer strives to find the perfect typeface for the job, but the choice is more than difficult because often designers are not sure what actually makes a good design. What are the characteristics of a well-designed typeface? How to tell a good typeface from a poorly designed one? Although developing a good typographic eye takes time and patience, here are a few tips to consider when you want to determine if a typeface is good or not:

Consistent design characteristic

A good typeface usually has consistent design characteristics which includes the heights, character widths, stroke widths, ascenders, descenders and serif details if it is a serif typeface. Related characters will be similar in spirit. Even the grungy, nonconforming typeface will have some consistency in its inconsistency.


Legibility is an important factor in every typeface, no matter if is a display or text one. This refers to the ease with which the words and design as a whole can be read. It is particularly crucial when it comes to text typefaces that are used in smaller sizes. Designers should pay attention to legibility, unless other objective is required in a particular design project.


A typeface that is well-spaced is neither too tight nor too open and most importantly has even spacing between characters throughout the design. Spacing is a problem with many typeface designers as usually they do not pay attention to the proper and consistent spacing, which can affect the design considerably. But most of the type designers are self-thought and it is normal to make mistakes in the beginning. So this is something you want to pay extra attention when it comes to defining a good typeface.

A screen grab from Kern Type - a kerning game for designers. Learn more @

A screen grab from Kern Type – a kerning game for designers. Learn more @


Kerning is another important aspect designers should pay attention to. Usually, kerning is neglected by designers but it is crucial as uneven kerning can be really an issue. Even a typeface that is properly spaced has some character combinations that are too open or too tight but a well-spaced designs will have fewer.

Color and Texture

This is probably the most important factor that makes up the really good design which actually relies on all of the mentioned above. Even color and texture is proper world spacing. The right amount allows a typestyle to be read easily without having the words separated by large white spaces that interrupt the whole text flow and colour and affect readability of the design.

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So, as you can see there is much more to type design than the shapes of the characters. There are different things that have to be considered when choosing and defining a well-designed typeface. Usually, it takes time and work the eyes to become sharper in differentiating a good type.

In the next article, I will be covering text vs. display, typographic illustrations, script, calligraphic and handwriting fonts as well as some do’s and don’ts in relation to font choice.  

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