Until I took a typography class I had no idea that typography existed. I knew that there were fonts on my computer, and that my font choice for AOL Instant Messenger said a lot about my personality, but other than that I had never really thought about it. Thankfully this class opened my eyes to a whole new world. No longer would I use Comic Sans or Gigi to try to communicate anything except maybe a decorative title (what was I thinking try to carry on a conversation in Gigi?).
There are different rules for printed and digital typography. Generally, usins sans serif typefaces online for body copy is best, because they are easier for your eyes to process on a screen. It’s the exact opposite for print media. A serif font in print will help your eyes follow the lines on the page, and help you keep track of where you’re reading so you don’t end up reading the same line over and over again. Unfortunately, if you’re reading a large body of text on a screen, a serif font tends to make the page feel a little cluttered and heavy. Since we will be talking about typography on the web, most of the typefaces below are sans serif.
Just as a quick refresher: sans serif typefaces are the ones that don’t have feet or hooks at the base/top of each letter, and serif typefaces are the ones that do.
This is not a comprehensive list; the following are just a few of my favorites:
Verdana is naturally a large typeface, meaning that even at smaller sizes it is comparatively larger than a different typeface at the same size. It is round and consistent, which makes it easier for your eyes to handle on a screen for longer amounts of time.
Trebuchet is a little more condensed than the other typefaces, which you would think might put it at a disadvantage, but the fact that it’s condensed makes it seem taller, which makes for easier reading.
I can’t explain why I like Tahoma. It’s tall with wide letters, so it’s easy to read. Facebook uses it because of that and the way I see it, if Facebook is using it, then it’s probably worth mentioning.
Helvetica is often times the “go to” font. From everything I’ve heard about it, you either really love it, or really hate it. In school we watched a documentary entitled Helvetica, where some of the great typographers either said, “Yeah, use Helvetica, it’s great, easy to read, and gets your message across instantly,” while others said it lacked personality and should not ever be used. I wouldn’t use it for novels on a tablet or anything like that, but I think it’s great to use for articles and things of that nature.
Georgia is like Times New Roman with a little bit more personality. It’s a little bit wider, and a little bit thicker, which helps make it easy to read.
6. Times New Roman
I have a love/hate relationship with Times New Roman. It’s dull. It’s a default, and can show that you aren’t worried about how your content would look, but about what your content is. It is very easy to read, which is why it has been chosen as a default. I would say that use of it should completely depend on the audience. If you’re focusing on designers, it’s probably best to stay away from it. If you’re focusing on anyone else, it’s probably just fine to use.
I know that most of these reasons are rather repetitive, but the number one priority of web content is readability. If the typeface you choose is difficult to read, it’s simply best to avoid using it. Just remember that type choice is directly related to its purpose. It’s simple: if you want your web page to be readable, use a readable font. If you want it to be decorative and conceptual, use display fonts.
Here are all the fonts next to each other, so you have a bit of a better reference point:
*Each of the type samples is at size 20 to make it easier for you to see their characteristics.