What Are Fonts?


Some people know a font as a stone receptacle full of water used in baptisms at churches.  Before computers, most folks had no idea what a font in design might have been, not to mention what a good one was.

Fonts are used in typesetting in the print world, and for our computer designs for billboards, the programs display the letters in different sizes and styles….these are the fonts with our immediate interest, although the other ones have a great importance too!

In the print world, we have the luxury of being able to hold the paper in our hands and move it closer to our bifocals.  We can shift the surface so the glare doesn’t hit it or move to the shade so the sun doesn’t overwhelm the contrast between the print and paper.  With billboards, some of those things are out of our control, as the LOOKer motors by at 25-50+ mph and attention to the way we read and how the letters strike are of a critical, time-sensitive nature.  We do want the designs to work, because we love to keep our customers for a long, long time, which is the best way to reach that coveted “first-thought” (click) positioning for your product or service.

Intuitively then, bigger bolder letters will be easier to see, right?  Not necessarily, see the first line in the chart below where the curly font is bold, but harder to read.  The style and shape of the letter will determine how easily it is for the eye to comprehend.  And for us, the easier it is for the LOOKer to “see” it quickly, means there’s more time for them the “get” the message.  Over the years I have tended to grab several great fonts, but as the internet has flourished, availability of different fonts is about as plentiful as the number of leaves on a tree.

This chart is an introduction to some simple variations of some Bold ‘N Easy fonts on the left and some Curly ‘N Hard fonts to the right.  Notice that they look fine on your screen just now, although it’s easy to see the ones to the left first.  (OK, we cheated, you read right to left, and they are on the left, so we know you read them first.)  See if you can find some junk mail, flyers or business cards on your desk that have the curly fonts on them and notice upon picking them up that you can move them in and out with your hands to focus on them to be read.  Now step back 20 or 30 feet or zoom out on your screen, or print it out and take the chart below down the hall.  Notice how the ones on the right seem to disappear?  Not good for billboards at all and many times, the simple design selection dooms a campaign to failure.  So if you want successful layouts and effective message delivery, focus on your font selection.  In future stories, we’ll focus on some of the attributes of the fonts that give them feeling and an air of authority.

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