December 18, 2019

The Devil is in the (Web Design) Details: Why Typeface Matters

Words are powerful, no doubt. But what about the vocal range of words, the typography? Think Google or Netflix, there’s an intonation in their wordmarks that deeply registers with people. You could replace the brand name with the typeface used and nothing would seem amiss.

The Devil is in the (Web Design) Details: Why Typeface Matters

As an interface between content and viewers, typography can either enhance the user experience or harm it. Which is exactly why you should sweat the small stuff when it comes to the fonts on your website.

Keep reading to discover how the right typeface can give you more brand lift and your website an optimized user experience.

Brand Image Before Brand Identity

Finding the right typeface is a sequential process. You have to outline the values you want associated with your brand first. Once that’s finished, you can start deciphering what a typeface says to you and your audience. Remember to keep things contextual; a mismatch between typeface and other visual components can undermine those preset values.

Followeyes! recently unveiled a head-to-toe rebrand, shedding its previous industrial look for sleek lines and a minimalist aesthetic. The design team wanted the flexibility to scale text for varying applications and settled on two typefaces: GT Sectra Fine for its quirky letterforms on curved letters and Larsseit as a legible but powerful sans serif. Choosing two typefaces was deliberate; the duo pairs well together with the strength to stand alone as modern fixtures on the website.

Don’t Typecast Your Brand as Monotone

If you decide on a typeface or font (the style and sizing of a typeface), don’t be afraid to mix it up. A major upside of digital font files is the ability to create font combinations. Type designer greats like Jessica Hische have likened favoriting a single font to an overused item in your wardrobe: if you wear it everywhere, people will notice. And not in a good way either.

Also, you don’t have to settle on a kitschy font with over-the-top details to convey emotion. In cinema, especially the horror genre, normal typefaces have been used subversively to instill a sense of terror. On the movie poster of Roman Polanski’s 1968 mystery Rosemary’s Baby, Helvetica Neue Medium was modified by connecting letters in different stanzas to form a glyph symbolic of an umbilical cord.

In need of inspiration? Thumb through archives like Fonts in Use and Typewolf to avoid the label of a Comic Sans criminal.

Read Between the Lines

Design is inherently assistive. Aesthetics aside, font should be too. Our eyes follow a scan path when we read, and every 7 to 9 words, there’s a pause in which our brain processes incoming information. How information is presented has a direct impact on a reader’s connection, meaning the readability of content can’t be overlooked.

3 components of font to consider closely:

  • Size: point size varies according to need and device; a business card should have a smaller point size than an online submission form.
  • Spacing: smaller spaces require manipulation of tracking to create clean, even edges of text. If you dabble in font combinations, do a double take on the kerning, that is, the space between letter pairs.
  • Height: increasing the height of all lowercase letters in a typeface improves readability. But be careful not to diminish the space difference between x-height and the height of capital letters (cap height) as that would reduce legibility.

Go with a Persuasive Type

As seen in Errol Morris’ essay Hear, All Ye People, Harken O Earth in the New York Times, typeface even has the power to persuade. Attached to the essay was a quiz intending to test the influence of typeface on the perceived credibility of a passage. Results showed that participants were more likely to agree with passages written in Baskerville, which had a formality and “starchiness” that Comic Sans, Helvetica, and three other typefaces lacked.

“In my mind, Baskerville speaks with a calm, confidence-inspiring English accent, sort of like Colin Firth. No wonder it’s so trustworthy.”Michael Bierut Design critic

What’s the Writing on the Wall?

Your website could have an orderly layout and the cleanest copy, but it won’t compel consumers to do anything if the typeface is an oversight. If your brand doesn’t have an eye for design, partner with a full-service agency that does, like Union. Our team crafts websites and mobile apps with an in-depth understanding of where design, content and functionality overlap, so you can leave the heavy lifting to us.