Font choices can make or break a brand identity. A great font can cause a passerby to stop in their tracks, or a scroller on social media to pause. Fonts convey personality, meaning, history, and character. Essentially, fonts make a brand come alive.
But with millions of fonts available online, it's hard to decide which ones to use when building a brand.
While it’s easy to get overwhelmed, the truth is most fonts are just variations of four main types of fonts out there. If you start by understanding the distinction between those four font categories, you’ll have a much easier time making your selection.
Let’s go through the four main font types, what they say about your brand, and look at some specific examples.
Serif fonts were the first typefaces to be used en-masse in printing. Dating back to the 1400’s, serif fonts have decorative flicks at the ends of each stroke, mimicking a quill or pen.
Designed by William Caslon in 1734, Old Style was arguably the first mainstream serif font to hit the market. Didot and Bodini followed soon after and remain popular serif choices for brands today.
What do serif fonts say about a brand?
Given their history, these fonts lend a sense of timelessness and tradition to a brand. Brands like Rolex, Mercedes, Prada, and Dior use serif fonts in their logos.
Examples of Serif Fonts
There are thousands of serif fonts out there, but some of the most popular ones are:
- Times New Roman
Things to Consider When Using a Serif Typeface
When choosing a font for your brand, you want to consider the perception you’re trying to create amongst your target audience. If you’re hoping to recall a sense of old-world class, a serif font is the right choice.
What businesses should use serif fonts?
Serif fonts are an elegant choice for all businesses, but those rooted in a long-standing practice will reap the benefits of a serif font. Here are a few business categories that frequently use serif fonts in their branding:
- Jewelry making
- Furniture making
- Wellness services
2. Sans Serif
Sans serifs are the sharp, modern alternative to a serif typeface.
Sans serifs are known for their clarity and legibility. Use them whenever you want to share information easily, in a clear and direct way. They can be used in lighter weights for airy looks or heavier weights for bolder looks.
What do sans serifs say about a brand?
While the first sans serif was designed in 1816, these typefaces are often used by companies aiming to look futuristic, like technology companies. Businesses like Google, Facebook, and Netflix use sans serifs in their logos.
Examples of Sans Serif Fonts
Sans serifs are known for their crisp lines. Some popular serif fonts include:
- Proxima Nova
- Open Sans
Things to Consider When Using a Sans Serif Typeface
A great way to create visual interest when using sans serif fonts is to mix different weights of the same font family. This keeps your branding refined while adding a sense of depth.
What businesses should use sans serif fonts?
Sans serif fonts are a great choice for businesses looking for a clean and modern look. Their versatility lends to an array of different business categories like:
Script, or cursive, fonts are characterized by curvy, wispy elements that mimic handwriting.
These fonts tend to be divided between more formal or casual-looking options. You’ll often see formal script fonts used for black-tie events, while casual script fonts can be used to dress-up just about any type of brand.
What do script fonts say about a brand?
While some script fonts can be highly decorative and more feminine, others can look more loose and retro. Brands like Ray-Ban, Kellog’s, Sharpie, and Kleenex use cursive fonts in their logos.
Examples of Script Fonts
Cursive fonts range from calligraphic styles to more edgy, handwritten looks. Some popular options are:
Things to Consider When Using a Script Typeface
Using a script font for your brand is a great way to add a luxurious or retro flair to brand identity. As they are highly decorative, they can be hard to read so we recommend only using them for short words and phrases.
Script fonts are generally best suited to larger sizes. The smaller they are, the less legible they become.
What businesses should use script fonts?
Using a script font adds a sense of class and elegance to your brand’s personality, making it a good fit for the following business categories:
- Health and wellness
- Tattoo and piercing
- Retro brands (e.g. barbershops)
Decorative, or display, fonts come packed with personality. These fonts are highly decorated versions of sans serif, serif, script, and other font styles. The point of using a decorative font is to grab attention with a really unique look. Decorative fonts come in many varieties and are often used in logos, billboards, posters, book covers, and headers to distinguish a brand.
What do decorative fonts say about a brand?
Given the variety in decorative font options, the impact they can have on a brand differs. Decorative fonts can take inspiration from many aesthetics, be it a vintage stenciled font, an elegant calligraphic font, or a chunky slab-serif.
The best move when working with a decorative font is to choose the feeling you’re trying to create and select your font from there. If you’re opting for something elegant, you’re unlikely to choose a high-tech chunky decorative font.
Brands like Sega, Baskin Robbins, and Tesla use decorative fonts in their logos and brand materials.
Examples of Decorative Fonts
- Cooper Black
- Bourton font
- Abril Fatface
Things to Consider When Using a Decorative Typeface
Decorative fonts offer a customized look to a brand and are reserved for large, stand-alone formats. Use them when designing a logo, in headers, or printed phrases (on a t-shirt, for example). Avoid using decorative fonts in the body text as their details are often lost.
What businesses should use decorative fonts?
Decorative fonts can truly be used by every type of business. We often see them used in creative businesses, like:
- Food and beverage
- Children and baby goods
Choosing Your Font Type
Fonts are a powerful part of designing a brand. They convey energy, emotion, and personality. While there are thousands of different fonts to choose from online, it’s easiest to understand the four main types of font and go from there.
You’ll want to consider what your font choice says about your brand before making your final selection. Remember:
- Serif fonts offer a timeless and traditional look to a brand.
- Sans serif fonts show off a brand’s modern edge.
- Script fonts bring a sense of elegance to a brand.
- Decorative fonts are full of personality and convey a custom-designed look.