Whether you’ve learned about them in your years of study or if you’re a self-taught professional, using fonts can get tricky sometimes. In graphic design, using fonts correctly is one of the main components that make good design. So what do you need to know about fonts? Some of the things I believe you need to know well is font pairing (picking fonts and how to pair them), modifying text (alignment, kerning & tracking) and hierarchy & dominance. 

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Font Pairing

In my experience as a graphic design professional, knowing where to go to find a font is something that will help you out tremendously in the long run. Before you start looking, it’s important to know what kind of project you will be working on. If you’re working on a smaller scale (print or logo design), choosing a font from any resource (whether paid or free) is okay.

If you’re working on a larger scale however and plan to use the logo font or its paired font somewhere else (web, email, etc.), then I suggest using only Google Fonts. The reason for using these fonts is because they’re open source, meaning they are 100% okay to use commercially and can be easily loaded up in any website, email, etc. Other fonts, like Gotham for example, are not open source and are more difficult to work with, may not work in client-based email systems like SharpSpring and may even require you to purchase complicated licenses to simply use them on your website.

Once you’ve picked your font, you’ll need to know how to pair it with another. I suggest pairing with one other font, though if you absolutely have to, only choose one extra with a maximum of three fonts. When you pair fonts, make sure to either pair a sans serif with a serif or to pair fonts that have good contrast (considering weights and avoiding visually similar fonts). Pairing fonts will get easier with practice and experience, but if you’re still not sure what to do, here’s a nifty article from Canva that provides the 10 golden rules you should live by when combining fonts.

Modifying Text

Another essential thing to know about using fonts is the ability to align, kern and track the letters. Aligning text, in my opinion, depends on the kind of work you want to create. For a great refresher, read How to Use Centered Alignments: Tips and Examples to gain a better understanding on how to use centered, left, right and mixed alignments.

After you get your alignment layout set up, you’ll need to know how to modify your text content with kerning and tracking. Know the difference. Creativebloq explains it as, “Tracking is about controlling the uniform spacing between all letters in a piece of text while kerning refers to the spacing between two specific letters.” So how do you know what a good spacing looks like? Read the rest of the article 10 expert font kerning tips, and get some good practice with a free online game called The Kerning Game. You also might have noticed in your Adobe Programs there’s also a tool called “Optical Margin Alignment.” Read about it and watch an explainer video here: InDesign Secrets: Understanding Optical Margin Alignment.

Hierarchy & Dominance

So you’ve picked your fonts, set up the alignment and adjusted the kerning. Now, you’ll have to do one last thing, which is to create a sense of hierarchy and dominance. Simply setting sizes, weights, color and spacing will turn something boring into something great and engaging. Fine tuning these things will get easier in time, but an amazing resource is to refer to Typographic Hierarchy from fonts.com.

Using fonts are not as easy as you might think, but once you have these tips down you’ll have an improved understanding of how fonts can contribute to good design. Remember to pair fonts with good contrast (considering serif & sans-serif, weights and avoiding visually similar fonts), use proper text alignment, practice tracking and kerning with The Kerning Game and to set up a visual sense of hierarchy and dominance. Finally, consider using Google Fonts to avoid any complications and difficulties from licensed fonts. You don’t need to be a typography genius, but simply using these tips as a starting point will help you design more effectively.

This article originally featured on the Marenated blog.

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