Home Business Insights & Advice Understanding fonts: basics for marketers

From the writing on the box of cereal sitting on your breakfast table to the text on your favorite website, you see fonts everywhere. If you’re like many marketing professionals, though, you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about font design when helping clients develop their website, packaging, or ad campaigns. By failing to understand and consider the basics of font usage, you could be doing your clients a huge disservice, since font choice can impact how consumers process and perceive messaging just as much as a brand logo or company slogan.

If you don’t know your Helvetica from your Times New Roman, the advertising and marketing professionals at MDG Advertising can help. Our new infographic for marketers answers questions that you may have about effectively using fonts in your marketing materials, such as:

  • What is a font?
  • Are “font” and “typeface” the same thing?
  • What are the elements of a font?
  • Does font choice really matter for my brand?
  • How can I determine the best font to use for my business?

What are fonts?

Fonts are collections of characters that share common design elements. The word font is a throwback to the days when printed text was created by grouping together characters in wood or metal blocks that were movable. Originally, the term typeface referred to the general design characteristics of the letters, while font referred to the size, style, and other attributes of the text. An example would be:

Typeface: Courier New

Font: Courier New 12-point Bold

Today’s digital printing tools have largely eliminated that distinction, so the terms have essentially become synonymous.

What are the different traits of a font?

A number of large and small components combine to make up a font and to separate one font from another, including:

  • The various curved and straight lines of the character, which are known as strokes.
  • The negative space inside a character, such as a lowercase g, which is known as the counter.
  • The horizontal lines contained within a character, such as an uppercase H, which are known as bars or crossbars.
  • Combinations of characters can be combined into one through the use of ligatures. An example would be two lowercase “f”s combined by a single crossbar.

It’s also possible to have multiple versions of the same font, which are defined by stylistic features, such as the weight or thickness of the characters or the slant of the characters.

Are there different font categories?

Most fonts fall into one of the following three categories based on look and intended use:

  1. Serif fonts are characterized by additional strokes known as serifs at the ends of the characters (called “feet”). Courier New and Times New Roman are examples of common serif fonts. The serifs tend to make the text look more traditional, formal, and elegant.
  2. Sans-serif fonts, such as Ubuntu and Arial, lack the strokes at the end of the characters. This gives the text a clean, minimalistic look that suggests modernity and innovation.
  3. Decorative fonts are used primarily for effect and to attract attention. They suggest creativity and can be used to evoke a certain time, place, or emotion. Examples of decorative fonts include Amatic and Pacifico.

Does font choice really matter?

Yes, font choice is a big deal. Just like logo design, slogans, and color schemes, fonts are a way to convey your brand’s attributes to your consumers. If you’re not convinced about the importance of choosing the right font, maybe these statistics will change your mindf

  • Seventy-two percent of consumers state that their purchasing decisions are influenced by packaging design.
  • Seventy-five percent of consumers judge businesses and brands by their website design.

What is the best font for my brand or business?

Ultimately, there is no universal best font since consumer preferences can vary based on age, culture, and geographic location. You should, however, ask yourself the following questions when trying to select the best font for your brand:

  • Is the font readable across various platforms?
  • Is the font consistent with my goals and brand image?
  • Will the font appeal to my target audience?

To learn more, be sure to check out MDG’s enlightening infographic, Fonts 101: What Marketers Need to Know.


Anthony Del Gigante, Chief Creative Officer at MDG Advertising

Anthony Del Gigante is chief creative officer at MDG Advertising, a full-service ad agency in Brooklyn, New York and Boca Raton, Florida. Over the years, his unique talents in brand strategy, visual identity development, and brand activation have consistently delivered measurable results for a wide range of world-renowned clients, including American Express, Verizon, AbbVie, and Cushman Wakefield. A brand specialist, Anthony leads MDG’s creative development, working with clients to develop creative, strategic, and functional solutions for their brands.

Leave a Comment


Sign up to our daily news alerts

[ms-form id=1]