The Invisible World of Typography Pt.2

Look around you. At your coffee cup, at your phone, at that sticky note you wrote three days ago reminding you to get milk (which you still need to do). You are surrounded by text, you can’t escape it, and most likely, it’s all different. Size, shape, weight, and personality can be chosen and rearranged in an infinite amount of ways. Just look at how much variety is in everyone’s handwriting.

Writing is a major form of communication. It is used on a daily basis and thanks to technology, it’s popularity has grown. The main goal of using text is to send an idea or a message to someone else. Most people think that the entire message is in what is written, but there is so much more to it than that.

There are subtle ways that text sends subconscious messages to the reader. The appearance of the words convey their own message, and can help to predict what the text will be about. These appearances change as the message changes. The different appearances of words are called fonts.

Fonts are very important to create visual understanding of your piece. Even before the words are read, the fonts tell a lot about what is to come. Think of fonts to be clothes. Even before you speak, your clothes are other’s first impression of you. It is important which ones you chose for different situations. For example, you wouldn’t wear jeans to a job interview, nor would you wear a suit and tie when going on a hike.

Different fonts convey different things. Just like with clothes, there are professional fonts and casual fonts, fancy fonts and gothic fonts, decorative fonts and script fonts and so much more. Just the same, each one has a time and place to be used.

To start off basic, there are san serif fonts and serif fonts.

Serif fonts are fonts like Times New Roman or Georgia, which have little ‘feet’ at the bottom of their letters. Serif fonts are the more professional fonts. They are used the most in printed works such as newspapers, magazines, and books.


San serif fonts are fonts like Helvetica and Arial, which lack the little feet that serif fonts have. A little bit of latin, ‘san’ means ‘no,’ so san serif means ‘not serif’ which means that san serif fonts are the opposite of serif fonts. Though they aren’t completely the opposite, san serif fonts are used quite differently than serif fonts. While serif fonts are seen as professional, san serif fonts are more casual. They’re more slick, more brash, and attract a lot of attention.


When composing a design, it is important not to use more than three different fonts in the same piece. Any more than this and the work becomes cluttered and disorganized. In reality, it’s best to only use two. One font for the title, and another for the rest of the text. This gives it a sense of continuity and conformity. You wouldn’t change shirts for every sentence you say, so don’t change fonts that often as well.

Often, for your title, you want to use a font that describes your piece. For example, if you’re creating a poster about technology, you’d want to use a font with a robotic feel and a lot of straight lines for your title. A more obvious piece of advice is to make your title the biggest text on the page. This way it is at the top of the hierarchy chain, making it the most focused text of your work.

Now your second font should be simpler. This font is meant to be read, more than it is meant to be eye catching, since it’s what you’ll be using for your information. That’s not to say that it has to be plain, you can still use a similar font as the title to keep up with the central theme. Just keep in mind that the more elaborate the font is, the harder it gets to read, especially at smaller sizes.

There are many different fonts out there used for many different things. It’s important that you understand the uses that go along with each font, and when is an appropriate time to use them. Two of the major styles of fonts are serif and san serif fonts, each of which conveys their own meanings. Simplicity is key in all designs, so it’s best to be reserved about how many fonts you use. Two is really all you need, and three should be your max. Choose your fonts carefully, since they will be your piece’s first impression. And since text is everywhere, it’s important you make your work stand out.


Shira is a Visual Communication major at Northern Arizona University with an emphasis in Graphic Design. They’ve had four years worth of design experience with real life clients, and is excited to join the Learning and Professional Development team as a student worker. They work with their art to remind people of the beauty and good in this world that are often hidden by day to day stresses.

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