I’ve been lucky enough in my career to have worked with a number of exceptional designers, and one thing I was always drawn to in the work of those I admired was their use of fonts and typography. For me and the way I design, the use of fonts is of paramount importance, and is often the place I start when trying to convey an idea.
Typography is as old as the printing press. You can check out the history of fonts infographic, which startedwith Gutenberg’s movable type in 1440.
The choice of font is important because of the visual emphasis it gives to a word or phrase. If I write “HEY” in big block letters, it’s going to have a different effect on a viewer than if I wrote that same “HEY” in script. Fonts are the visual representation of an inflection or tone in speech. They can also impart subtle yet effective characteristics to a business or idea. Universities, for example, almost always use fonts with straight, clean lines in their advertising that give a serious, traditional appearance. A waterski business, on the other hand, might choose a bold, edgy font.
With that in mind, the first thing an advertising designer must ask is, who is the audience the advertiser is trying to reach, and also – what are that audience’s needs? If I’m looking to reach families with kids of a certain age who are looking for fun things to do during the summer, I look for fonts that convey a cheerful, fun, exciting and open look. If I want to help summer interns find a job, I look for more conservative fonts that convey a seriousness of purpose. The font you choose sets the tone for your overall campaign.
Once you know what the audience needs are and you’ve determined a tone for your campaign, the other extremely important thing to consider is the platform on which your ads will run. Traditionally, most advertising was done in print, which often allowed for a larger canvas and more detailed imagery. Now, with a sharp uptick in digital ads served, especially ads on mobile devices, it’s become more important than ever to convey your idea within the confines of an ever-shrinking ad space. For this reason, I often choose fonts that are bold and clean enough to be read in the smallest ad unit. If you can convey it in the small space, it will work in the big space.
If the space allows, the next thing I consider is pairing the chosen font with an image. If done well, it’s a one-two punch that makes for an extremely effective ad. Apple’s ads of late are well-established as leading the field in this way.
The font is modern yet classic, and uses a shade of black instead of 100% to give a softer, more inviting look against the clean white background. The image is sharp and well-defined in the space, and beautifully showcases the phone. The end effect is everything you want and expect with Apple : no clutter, no extras. Just a solid, highly desirable product.
While there are many fonts out there to choose from, I find as a designer you’re best off with a handful of fonts or font families you like. Having a small stable of “go-to” fonts streamlines your design and gives your ads their own style and voice, while still serving your advertiser’s needs. Through this marriage of font and design, you’re uniquely positioned to creatively sell an idea.
About the Author: Jason Garcia is a seasoned multimedia designer for Statesman Studio. He graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in communications, and previously worked at the University Co-op, where he designed multi-part advertising campaigns for a large and diverse student and alumni audience. Jason works in all media, from newspaper and high-quality print pieces to digital media, web design, and animated graphics. Connect with Jason!