Typography for small business: How to choose the best brand fonts

Typography for small business: How to choose the best brand fonts

Great brands tell great stories, and great stories depend on great composition. As small business owners, we must take advantage of every tool available to make our brand messaging strong, appealing, consistent and easily recognizable. Typography is one of the best tools your brand can use to tell your story. This article will help you determine which typography tactics are best for your business.

Woman using laptop with 'Font' displayed on screen

What Is Typography?

Simply put, typography is the art of arranging type to make the written word readable and visually pleasing on the page. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, typography is actually a very nuanced and multifaceted art form. In order to simplify the vastness of this age-old discipline, here are some (broad) definitions of the most commonly used terms:

Font — A set of characters (letters, numerals and symbols) sharing similar aspects. Think Times New Roman and Arial as separate fonts.

Font Family — A group of fonts sharing similar aspects with variations applied. Think Times New Roman Bold, Times New Roman Medium, Times New Roman Italic.

Serif Font — Serif fonts have small lines attached to the stroke of a character – like Times New Roman or Garamond. Serif fonts are considered more traditional and are heavily used in printed materials such as books, newspapers and magazines because they purportedly have a higher legibility than sans-serif fonts. That being the case, traditional business such as banks, law offices, financial institutions and real estate firms use serifs frequently. Think Liberty Mutual or Santander.

Sans-Serif Fonts — These fonts do not feature the small lines attached to the character. Popular examples include Arial and Helvetica. Sans-serif fonts are considered to be more modern, simpler, cleaner and generally cooler than serif fonts. They are more widely used in logos and headlines and have become the most popular fonts for body copy online due to their simplified strokes that display better on monitors. Sans-serif fonts are extremely popular with style-based brands, including apparel manufacturers and tech companies. Think eBay or HP.

Script Fonts — Fonts that mimic elegant handwriting. Think Coca-Cola or Instagram.

Decorative Fonts — Highly stylized fonts often used for decoration or logo treatments. Think Disney’s logo.

Weight — Thickness of character lines – regular, semi-bold and bold.

For more in-depth typography definitions, creativebloq.com created this outstanding guide as well as this list of the top free web fonts.

Embossed black letters in different fonts

How Can My Brand Use Typography?

Now that you know some of the basic terminology, let’s start thinking about how you can use typography to bolster your brand.

Know Your Brand

In order to successfully implement any marketing tool, you must know your brand inside and out. Ask yourself: What are my brand’s goals? Who is my desired consumer? In which marketing channels do my desired consumers participate? What is my brand’s culture?

If you are a traditional law firm catering to an older clientele that reads print media, using a traditional serif font could be the right choice. However, if you are a cutting edge video game developer that sells to young adults who spend hours online, a nice sans-serif font may be perfect. If you are a boutique that furnishes street art to millennial hipsters, well, the font world is your oyster. In the end, we must remember that this is all very subjective, and there is no “right answer.” As long as you do your research, and the fonts fit your message, you are on the right path.

Know Your Competition

Study your competitors’ marketing materials and collateral. Visit their website and read their blogs. The better you know your direct competition, the easier it will be to choose typographic elements that create separation from the pack.

Don’t Break the Bank

There are loads of free fonts and tools out there to help you get started on your path to typographical brand establishment. Here are a few tools to get you started:

  • Dafont.com — DaFont offers thousands of free and paid fonts for your business or personal needs.
  • Google fonts — Google provides a vast selection of free open-source, web-optimized fonts.
  • WhatFont — Ever wonder what font a certain website is using? WhatFont integrates with your dashboard and identifies the font, size and color code of any text.

Future Thinking

When choosing fonts for your brand, make sure to look at trends within and outside of your industry. Like any other art form, typography goes through phases, and being ahead of the trend is always beneficial—especially if your consumer is young and susceptible to cultural and social shifts. Focus on finding a font that will last in order to maintain consistency throughout your communications.

Create a Visual Hierarchy

When creating your layouts, you will want to establish a visual hierarchy that guides your readers’ eyes down the page. A headline font and a body font will do the trick. You can use different weights within the same font family to establish the difference (bold and regular for example), or two different fonts altogether.

When using different fonts, make sure they are contrasting enough to create a visual break; this is perhaps most easily done by mixing sans-serif and serif fonts. This effect can also be established by using different colors of the same font. Make sure these are your brand colors and stay consistent with how you use them.

What Is the Best Font for You?

When it comes to font selection, it all boils down to what feels right for your brand. While there are some generally accepted “rules,” there is no definitive answer to any given marketing problem. Remember: It’s your story. Now go tell it!


What font do you use for your business? Which are your favorite brand logos? Share in the comments.


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