10 FONT FEATURES AND THEIR APPLICATION
One can say the fonts are one of the key elements of design – they express the tone and mood; they bring feelings and influence the opinion of the reader even before one starts reading the text. They are communicative means acting with profound layers of the reader’s consciousness. This article presents an attempt of explanation on which fonts fit better for different areas of the economy. Also, it will show the way how even the slightest variation of a font impacts the whole perception of a text in readers.
Overview Of Top 10 FONT FEATURES AND THEIR APPLICATION
1. Font weight
It often happens that we see font weight as the first thing when reading something. Here are the types of that: light, regular, and bold. For reading itself, the light font weight is the most preferable, because of its neutrality; these fonts are not influenced by optical distortion or weak sharpness. These fonts are easily readable; their graphemes are quite clear; that is why light fonts are so convenient for readers. You can transfer a wide range of emotions from politeness to some rudeness even.
Thin symbols or light font weight are visually delightful as an elegant linear sketch. The phrase which is written in this style expresses notes of sensitivity and care. It attracts attention and evokes warm feelings so that it is found in the perfumery and cosmetics area, and also anything in connection with bodily aspects. So it is nice even for underwear and ornaments.
The best choice for additional readability and appreciation of the text is semibold style. They are proper to put accents in the text, or for designing logotypes.
Bold font styles draw the reader’s attention to some valuable messages. It might be that they are not as readable as light styles, but it helps your brain to get the short essential messages if you spend some time looking at that. To express massiveness, authority and increase the visual properties of the font, the black font is applied, which is usually impossible when using neutral styles. These fonts bring an immediate emotional reaction. It is the reason one can often find them in show business printed materials, games and advertising business.
2. Font width
The width of symbols is rapidly recognized, and it is and strongly increases readability and visual perception of the written text. Font styles of regular width are perfect for reading, and different variants – condensed and extended – are looking bright and bring emotional reactions.
Slightly condensed font styles are also quite easy to read. If one needs to put a lot of text in a small place, then compressed styles find its use. But here is a question of balance appears, if overused, this method leaves a feeling of saving space.
Extra condensed font styles bear some interesting effect. They are noticeable due to vertical lines that prevail in the text. It looks very impressive, creating a feeling of alertness. Narrow letters focus attention; they convey short words of essential meaning. So, these fonts are used for advertisements, headlines, and slogans.
Extended and extra extended fonts substantially change the view of the text, because of numerous horizontal lines. If the symbols are wider you read the text slower, so It become significant and memorable. Everything around becomes great and abundant. Extended font styles become even more attractive when looking at some angle because such a perspective changes the perception of proportions. So these fonts are widely used by industrial designers for advertising the things of beautiful outlook such as cars, planes, and sports items.
3. Font contrast
Font contrast is the difference between main and additional strokes. The contrast shows the position of the font on a scale of legibility and appearance. Low and medium contrast usually looks very good and helpful for long reads, they are indifferent and plain, not bringing any emotions; but styles of opposite view like monoweight and contrast styles evoke a lot of them.
Text, which is not having any contrast looks very dull and primitive. Monoweight fonts disrupt a linkage between typesetting and handwriting, coming from industrial and post-industrial aesthetic visual effects, and is quite recognizable in neon stands and stick fonts. So these features make a monoweight perfect instrument of modern look and perspective thinking.
Romanticism and Classicism styles are of high contrast, which makes them deeply artistic. Here beauty rules in favor of readability of a title sheet, cover art or poster. Interchanging thick and thin lines show bright opposition between strength and weakness, ice and fire; and connection of contrast strokes creates an elegant silhouette and a rhythm, which reminds one of music or dancing. Altering thin and thick lines are showing contrast and confrontation between opposite options. These dichotomies between meanings make these fonts perfect for the fashion industry, theater, and glamour.
The height of the lowercase letters against capital letters and their ascenders or descenders is one of the main font properties that define its usage. Mood and character of the message depend on X-height. Usage of the font defines the height of the lowercase against capital letters and their ascenders and descenders. The text also reveals its character and mood through X-height.
Medium X-height (from 2/3 to 3/4), is the case when upper-case and lower-case letters are balancing of similarity and difference. This feature allows finding the beginning of a sentence easily but doesn’t distract you from reading. So, it’s easy for the reader to work with the text.
Small X-heights (1/2 and even less) can bring a substantive difference between letters within one font. They make the font interesting as the equivalent for medium X-height. The more the difference is, the better you can communicate outer expression, musical ideas, and artistic craftsmanship. So it is suitable for personal or lyrical texts like greetings, invitations, poems, and theatrical playbills.
Large lowercase letters (3/4 and more) make the look of the text more homogeneous (because all the letters are looking similarly); application of this style allows putting more letters in the line. Smaller capital letters and short ascenders and descenders minimize interaction between lines of the text and space. Introvert fonts convey a feeling of comfort and safety, but not always.
5. Corner Rounding
The strokes of the text symbols inevitably create corners by their intersections and bonds. One can distinguish between the square corners like in T, H, E, letters or sharp corners as one can see in A, V, Z, N. The stroke forms a contour, one can distinguish here: sharp, square or rounded styles. Corners, intersections, and edges are natural anchors catching the attention of the viewer; they make people focus. It is an ancient skill to distinguish sharp forms among others, so the sharper the corners are, the more focused people are, and the easier they catch their attention of the viewer.
If common, recognizable corners give way to the rounded ones, it evokes associations with something pleasant and comfortable. Also, these round forms work with our deep instincts, because they are connected with our idea of infancy. That is why these fonts are widely applied for baby items design, something like baby soap, baby food, and baby clothes. Also, it looks the best choice for anything handmade because it evokes ideas about some very familiar and sweet food like ice cream, fruits, buns.
From the other hand, any sharp lines and corners create a kind of alertness and stress. They are ideal for selling something shocking for the teenage audience, some exciting things, countercultural or subcultural items, to emphasize the brightness of their emotions. Have a look at free graffiti font style.
6. Serifs and slab serifs
There is the logic of font building, which has been developing since the very roots of the written word till the present day and the shape of serif depends on that. That is why the fonts with serifs are called Antiquas, they are antique, coming from the early times of writing. You appreciate serif fonts like you appreciate good wine and there are heaps of books on this subject, but here we will speak about what their overall meaning and their proper uses are. Also, you can find massive literature on this matter, and we are going to show some ways of their proper application.
In some text fonts, as in Times New Roman, you can find serifs at the ends of the strokes, and the idea is helping the eyes of a reader to catch symbols faster, this way you move through the text much faster, following the lines easier. But serifs don’t allow any optical distortion to make vertical stroke shorter and keep the letter height and the baseline the same.
If you have a look at the names of the fonts, they show the viewer different times and places, standing for historical costumes for a character. Any of them, like Venetian Serif, Garaldes, English serif, Classical serve as the gates to specific country or epoch. Further travel details depend on the cultural awareness of the viewer. All this antiquity brings viewer feelings of belonging to something historical, classical, stable, unshakable, worthy of trust. For example, all the slab serifs are trying to convey us the pathetic of their ancestor, the capitals from the Trajan’s Column. Hollywood producers acknowledge this fact, having made Trajan very recognizable typeface in the cinema industry.
There is a great difference between slab serifs and other serif shapes, so these fonts are present among the classifications. To consider a serif as a slab when it is straight enough, rectangular, and almost equal in thickness with the main stroke of the font. This makes these letters very inconvenient for writing using calligraphy, it is better to stamp, to draw, or to cut out. This font is not for comfortable reading, but the viewer might find oneself somewhere like Wild West or Germany. The main characteristic of the slab sent is its severe straight outlook, so we can often see it on the floor of some factory workshop, some steakhouse or a tool shop.
7. Italics and oblique
Such styles as italics and oblique are quite famous among modern font families together with straight fonts. Today they have different functions and meaning.
The name of Italic font implies its origin. It comes from Italian Renaissance epoch handwriting it has been serving us since the 16th century for highlighting some parts of the text. Change of reading intonation is shown by the slant of the font. Additionally, this shape of letters has less vertical lines and more smooth elegant curves, giving notes of politeness to a phrase. The font is widely used for personal invitations. Anything alike handwriting looks more personal, more confidential, more complete.
To convey the experience of speed to a text, and sometimes, to highlight parts of it usually they apply the oblique font styles. These fonts are built by slanting straight letters. Being slanted, all the vertical strokes become oblique, and rounded shapes may use their uniqueness. More monotonous text, as if leaning due to the wind, is perceived as something speedy and prompt. That’s why slanted fonts are an excellent choice for sport or an automobile theme. Text looks like it is leaning because of wind, which is perceived as something prompt and rapid. So, sports or car industry are the best places for application of the font.
Digital fonts include letters which are created using geometry. There is a geometric formula which has different meanings concerning the function of a font. Decorative typefaces usually follow spontaneity, imitating handwriting and calligraphy and rejecting geometry. The fonts of general purpose which are known since the very beginning of book printing era, are well- calibrated and have either humanistic or geometric proportions.
The Humanist proportions come from the times Renaissance Age humanists; thus the name shows their influence. These are beautiful and legible fonts, designed to perfection. Perfection in elegance and legibility are the main characteristics of the font. The open letters vary their width demonstrating the obvious difference between upper-case and lower-case with slanted stress axis. Geometry perfects shapes of letters, not creating any specific pictures in humanist fonts. They are universal, being convenient for most people. For that reason, Sans Serif typefaces with humanist proportions are so popular in the communicative sphere. They are used for creating navigation within the cities, look for diverse geometric fonts.
Geometrical design from scratch, despite experience and tradition, is characteristic of the 20th century. The first geometric fonts appeared in 1920-1930s under the influence of Constructivism. All characters were built of simple geometric shapes: circle, square, triangle. Typically, they were sans fonts, or the serifs were replaced by slabs. Nowadays, they are called Geometric Sans Serifs and Geometric Slab Serifs. The geometrical design has been mostly developed during 1920-1930 under a strong influence of constructivism. Several geometric patterns became the basis for all the characters: circle, square, triangle. Usually, these characters belonged to the group of sans fonts, and slabs replaced serifs in them. Today we know them as Geometric Sans Serifs and Geometric Slab Serifs.
New times of scientific revolution brought about Ideas of general standardization, simplification, and this led to the creation of a new type form. A simple drawing can substitute anything written, and even graphemes are not intact anymore. The round letters О, С, D, might be changed into square shapes , and unified models will substitute the whole font. So, it is clear that readability doesn’t depend on the shape of the letters. Now things will be connected with the basic modal shapes: a bow, a polygon, a square. For example, modular fonts of Star Wars, Terminator, and Robocop era use their Not-made-by-hands form to create the feeling or fantastic future full of spaceships, smart machines, and other super technologies that have shaken people since the mid-20th century.
The preferences of a geometric font might look like a time machine, and you can travel to any epoch. Every time has some font features showing its spirit, some basic patterns which were common for the massive culture of that time like rectangles, sticks, triangles from Russia in the its revolutionary times, or rectangles, circles, and bows from interwar Germany, triangles, circles, thin lines from the USA in 30th, and finally squared letters, pixels and matrices from the dawn of computer age.
Geometric Sans Serifs stay relevant today. Have a look at the 2015 Google logo.
Font culture of 2010s re-appeals to a modernist style and we see a return of the trendy geometric fonts, which due to high display resolution and smoothness of paper look perfectly precise, neat, and still readable. Such fonts perfectly solve tasks of global corporations, mass media, and even major politics.
In our present time, we experience certain returning of the modernist style and its reinterpretation. Geometric fonts are returning, and now they are looking even greater thanks to the high resolution of modern displays adding it more preciseness and legibility.
9. Statics and dynamics
The shape of the letter might be static or dynamic. The more horizontals and verticals are present in a text line, the more static the font looks. Meanwhile, bows and lines, which are not parallel to the text line, add dynamics to the text. Dynamics experience the following influence: stress axis slant in letters o, e, c, p, b, d, the slope of the bar of е, stroke endings of letters s, c, a, and serifs shape. The elements might be vertical, diagonal, or curved. Italics or oblique font styles add more dynamics to the drawing.
Static font implies calm and order. Look at static Helvetica, because of squaring ovals, which is a universal neutral font for any possible use. If the font includes a lot of verticals, it creates a feeling of order and industrial discipline. It is perfect for any restricted areas like railroad facilities, power plants, chemical factories.
The dynamic pattern of a straight font brings a lot of visual pleasure; this characteristic creates interest in a line of the text. The sign of mastery here is its complexity in disguise. So, for anything creative and artistic, dynamics are the best choice.
10. Openness of letters
In open letters, like c, it is possible to vary this feature either to full openness or to full closeness. Openness (aperture) influences the shape of letters: c, a, e, s. Wide open symbols are more compact than closed ones; their width mostly determines font capacity. The letters e, a, s, c comprise over 30% of English symbols, as we know from the frequency analysis. Having larger aperture and by slight squaring of oval elements, o, p, d, b, qa you can create quite a compact font, which won’t seem too tight and will retain legibility (like PT Sans, for example).
Moderate aperture doesn’t create any mood by itself. Instead, half-closed letters are very helpful for fast reading, for example on road signs.
Open fonts are showing personal characteristics of a person while working with the short texts. These fonts are preferred by extroverts, which are open to the world. This openness brings about comfort and sincere communication. So these fonts usually associated with ideas of freedom and democracy in case of democratic political campaigns, as well as something practical, elegant, advanced (smart home or latest laptop).
About the closed fonts one can say that their characteristics are also aligned with the aperture. Self-relying introverts stimulate a feeling of trustworthiness, reliability, and security. For this reason, they are often applied for advertisings in conservative campaigns; it is the best choice for anything in connection with protectionism, security, and safety.
Each of the various font characteristic influences a person visually, subconsciously, and culturally. These groups of factors help your design work, but they can create obstacles. So your choice should be proper in connection with the message you need to convey following the strategical values of your company or likes of your target audience.
In this case, it is wiser to focus oneself on several properties of the font, not missing the aim due to endless corrections. If you follow this idea, your design will be comprehensible for people, user-friendly and curious for designers.
Now we present a short list of characteristics, looking like a menu in a Dutch pub:
- Weight influence understanding: from tenderness (Thin) to rudeness (Black).
- Width affects feelings of alertness and urgency: from bright headlines (Extra Condensed) to the presence at the horizon (Extra Expanded).
- The contrast works with the mastery of a message: from speech synthesizer (Monoweight) to Grand Opera actress (Extra high contrast).
- The x-height is connected with a wish to make a deep impression on the viewer: love letter (small x-heights) to neutral “Break” sign (large x-heights).
- Corner rounding influences romantic levels: something like sleeping babies (Rounding) to noisy teenagers (Sharpening).
- Serifs and Slabs bring c cultural contexts: from timeless classics with its idealism (Serifs) the o pragmatic industrial stamping (Slab serifs).
- Italic and Oblique ask for attention: making polite commentary (Italic), or to send an urgent message (Oblique).
- Geometry reflects human values: respect to individuality (Humanist fonts), or the excitement of futuristic machines (Geometric and Modular fonts).
- Statics and dynamics show individual character, and richness of the inner world: from indifferent Helvetica (Static pattern) to Old Style Serifs, expressing pathetic of their time and culture (Dynamic pattern).
- Aperture influence social performance and openness: from libertarian extrovert (Open fonts) to conservative protector (Closed fonts).
In addition to all aforementioned internal qualities, fonts also have external ones. Interaction of letters, words, lines, and paragraphs against each other and space is called typographic composition. We will talk about the influence of topography on the viewer in our next articles.
These qualities we have mentioned, are internal, but there are some external. Letters, symbols, words, lines, paragraphs – all of them are taking part in the development of the space, called typographic composition. The next article will show how the viewer gets influenced by topography.