A friend wrote to me this morning and expressed chagrin when she realized that she nearly chose Comic Sans for a flyer she was putting together for her company. The company she works for doesn’t budget for a graphics expert to design their materials and has found itself, more than once, on the verge of a graphic faux pas because of it. Instead, they rely on the office staff to do their best in creating marketing materials for the business.
Fortunately, my friend is a good student and knew that it was downright wrong to choose Comic Sans. Here’s why:
It doesn’t look remotely professional. Even if you have a preschool, comic book store or other business which caters to youth, there is nothing funny about using Comic Sans. The casual feel of the lettering doesn’t contribute towards anyone taking your business seriously. Sending the message of friendly or fun can be accomplished with fonts which won’t compromise your professional stature.
It doesn’t match your logo. Your logo is the backbone of your visual communications, and if Comic Sans isn’t your logotype it should not be part of your marketing materials. Consistency with font choice is paramount in building your visual identity. Your logo designer would have specified which fonts to use with your logo when she created it, and she is counting on you to follow through with her advice.
It doesn’t convey the message you want to send. Are you trying to position yourself as an expert in your field? Do you want to look established and reliable? Comic Sans will not accomplish this. There’s a reason the biggest companies around use tried and true fonts like Times New Roman or Helvetica: they evoke a sense of familiarity and trust.
It’s hard to read. Especially when used in the body of your communications, decorative fonts are very hard to read. The irregularity of the letters and sometimes the kerning (spacing between them) is not easy on the eyes, particularly in the small size of paragraph text. I might issue a pass to use a decorative font sparingly for a headline, but only if the style of the font is appropriate for the message and your business.
It’s overused. Your neighbor just made an invitation to their backyard barbecue with Comic Sans. The girls down the street just used Comic Sans for their lemonade stand. You just passed a billboard with the slogan “Kars 4 Kids” in Comic Sans which suggests a child designed it. Forget the fact that Kars 4 Kids benefits children with cancer, which isn’t cute or comical. (Stay tuned for my rant on the intentional mis-spell for-the-sake-of-being-kute kraze!)
To be fair, Comic Sans isn’t the only font we should ban from business communications. The following also top the list:
Of course, there are many more fonts which are too decorative or stylized to be used for most business communications. There are also completely appropriate uses for the fonts listed here. In the course of writing this, I realize I have three examples of work on my website which utilize a banned font from the list above. But since choosing fonts isn’t always going to be left to the professionals, what can you do to make sure you don't commit a typographical sin?
Limit how many fonts you use in a single piece. Two fonts is probably the maximum you should use in a given piece. More than that make the content seem less cohesive.
Vary weights and size for variety. If using one font for the headline and one for the paragraph text seems boring or limiting, remember to use various sizes and versions of your fonts. Be intentional with which words you bold or italicize and consider how the reader will read them to make sure the message comes across as intended. Making headlines a bigger point size than the other text will guide the reader through the content.
Use fonts which have enough white space in the holes. Extra bold fonts like Compacta, where the eye of the letter e or the bowl of the letter o are proportionally small to the stroke, end up being difficult to read. While there is nothing wrong with bold headlines, make sure the font you choose has high readability. If you’re not sure, try squinting to check for clarity.
Stick with serif and sans serif fonts and avoid script. While I might use a well-placed script letter in a book design to begin a chapter, the use of fancy script should be avoided in business materials. If you must use script, never use all capital letters or attempt to place words in script around a circle.
Keep the genre consistent. If your company logotype is a clean, modern typeface, you’ll want to stick with that genre by choosing fonts that compliment it. Remember, your visual communication efforts should contribute towards your overall brand, and even Times New Roman can look stodgy next to Avant Garde.
With the big world of font selections pre-loaded on our computers, it can be tempting to want to try them all out, and I invite you to do just that. Type something beneath your logo and copy it with 10 different fonts, comparing them side by side. When you find the one or two which harmonize with your logo, use them consistently and you’ll look more professional with each marketing piece you create. Lastly, if you confess your typeface sins here, I will immediately reinstate your desktop publishing privileges.
Posted by Barbara Ann McDonald.