Why do font choices matter?

Designers (including Erik Spiekermann, Dan Mayer, and Jessica Hische) have been known to compare choosing fonts for design projects to choosing an outfit to wear. And it’s an apt analogy. Think about what your clothes might say about you: based on what you wear, people might rightly or wrongly make assumptions about your style, your personality, your socio-economic background, your age (or the age you wish you were), or the kind of impression you want to make. And different occasions and situations call for different apparel. You wouldn’t wear a bathing suit to a job interview; then again, you wouldn’t want to wear a suit and tie during your vacation on the beach either. There’s an element of appropriateness to consider.

Now, what your clothes do for you, font choices serve the same purpose in a design. Typography often provides that at-a-glance first impression that people gauge and judge the rest of the design by — so your font choices need to be purposeful and appropriate. Is your font saying “beach vacation” when it should be saying “job interview”? Do the elements of your font “outfit” clash, or do they complement each other? Are they effectively communicating the qualities you want to project? These considerations are part of what makes choosing fonts such an important part of the design process, one that should be approached thoughtfully.

Font choices often set the tone for the whole design and can influence viewers’ feelings toward and interactions with your design — just like how if you were to show up at a black-tie party in your favorite threadbare t-shirt and sweatpants, people would judge you on your appearance. Don’t be that guy with your design and give viewers an excuse to make incorrect assumptions about your brand or business; bad typographic choices always distract from your design’s message and intentions.