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Five Tips for Choosing a Font

written by: Thursday Bram•edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 2/28/2009

When you're working on a desktop publishing project, choosing an appropriate font can be one of the hardest parts. These five tips can make the process easier.

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    Consider the Mood

    While certain fonts may not seem to convey a mood, the truth is that all fonts say something about a project — and it's important to use a font that matches your project. For instance, Comic Sans may match the mood of a poster for an elementary school, but it isn't serious enough to be used for a font for a doctor's office. While a student might want something cheerful, a patient wants to see a sign that sets a mood of authority — that they'll receive serious attention.

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    Look at Legibility

    It's easy to put together a project that looks good to our own eyes, but it's harder to guess how someone else will see it. A good test is to think about how easily an elderly relative might do trying to read your project across the room. The more legible a font you can use, the better the result.

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    Try Multiple Fonts

    One of the benefits of desktop publishing is that you can swap in different fonts in a heart beat. Take advantage of that fact to try out multiple fonts in the same space: you'll likely find that your first pick didn't perfectly fit the space.

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    Pair Fonts Carefully

    There are plenty of fonts available that were intended for titles and headlines — and not much else. That doesn't rule out using those fonts for your projects, though. You'll want to limit them to what they're intended for, but you can pair them with an easy-to-read font for your body text. This tip is best used in moderation, though: while you can add a level of sophistication to a desktop publishing project by using two fonts or even three, using four or more is generally going overboard. That variety of fonts can give your project a ransom note feeling, at best.

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    Print Out Your Projects

    Fonts look differently on your computer screen than they'll look on paper. Before you set your heart on one font in particular for your project, print it out and double check that it looks the way you expect. If you've got multiple versions of your project, print out each one: you'll have a better idea of what fonts actually work and which don't look so great.