Your Font Sucks

It’s time to admit that Ryan Gosling was right.

When it comes to branding—whether you’re a giant, international blockbuster or a midsize, midwestern manufacturer—choosing a font to represent your brand identity should never be as easy as selecting one from the Word dropdown menu simply because it looks “cool.”

So, when it comes time for branding, how do you ensure that your font doesn’t suck?

Font Diversity is the Futura

Typography can make or break your brand identity, and we’re not joking.

Copy is one of a few direct lines of communication that you as a brand have to your audience, and the fonts you use play a big role in determining how (and whether) they can read it. And, unfortunately, those “cool” fonts are the ones we often can’t or don’t want to read.

What do we mean by “cool” fonts?

Script (also called Cursive) fonts like Pacifico and Allura mimic human handwriting and often appear more classic, warm, and inviting than their counterparts. A lot of brands, like Campbell’s and Coca-Cola, use Script fonts in logos or display text for this reason. While best practices tell us that it’s totally okay to have an eye-catching script font for these specific uses, it’s also important to have a more basic look for bigger blocks of text, such as the headers and body copy of your collateral and digital presence. Just imagine how tedious it would be if the Coca-Cola website was written entirely in their logo font, Spencerian Script!

To hold onto their iconic script, yet still maintain readability across their branded content, Coca-Cola needed font diversity. They developed TCCC Unity, a sans-serif font, to help make their online content legible. For additional variety, the company paired TCCC Unity with a serif font called You by Ian Brignell, which you probably recognize from their “Share a Coke with” campaign.

Pairing sans-serif (e.g., Helvetica) and serif (e.g., Times New Roman) fonts is a great way to establish contrast, while still maintaining a uniform and clean appearance for your brand.

Bad Kerning Isn’t Justified

Choosing a font is still just a bit more complex than selecting a couple of legible fonts, however. Something else marketing teams need to consider is the legitimacy of their chosen typography. As minute as it may seem, the aesthetics and logistics of a font are crucial to appearing professional and well-established.

Kerning (or “keming,” if your font sucks) is the process of ensuring that the spacing between characters is proportional, and that the overall font appears visually pleasing. Fonts developed by professional foundries are usually easy to spot; most have established proper kerning, and nearly all have a well-thought-out font family that includes options like “heavy” and “light.”

Don’t get too distracted by exact measurements, however; not all kerning is metric! Optic kerning is the practice of adjusting a font to look properly spaced, even if the individual letterforms are not equidistant.

Everyone’s Got A Type

If you’ve got all of the basics down and are still doubting the fonts you’ve chosen, consider some of the less-rigid factors about your brand and what you’re looking for typography to accomplish for you.

Simply put, there’s a time and a place for every font! Sometimes, the fonts we think look good just don’t match up with the vision we have for our brand. Don’t be afraid to try on different hats until you find the one that fits because, at the end of the day, what’s most important is that your font represents itself (and you) well.

Want to pull at the thread, and learn more about the history of fonts? Check out this entertaining video!

Last edited: 1/13/2023