Tips for Choosing Fonts for Printed Marketing Materials

No matter the size of your campaign, fonts help you integrate printed material, which may include print advertising as well as e-brochures, websites, and much more, into your business’s marketing plan. Even if you’re a very small business, you can make an impact on customers (both current and potential) with professional-looking printed communications that reinforce your brand image and overall marketing message.

Selecting a point size

When designers and printers talk about font sizes, they’re referring to a traditional measure of the height of the letters (based on the highest and lowest parts of the biggest letters). One point equals about 1/72 of an inch, so a 10-point type is 10/72 of an inch high, at the most.

You have probably never measured a character with a ruler. You just know that if the letters seem too small for easy reading, then you need to bump the typeface up a couple points. Ten-point type is the smallest size you can use for body copy, but you may want to use 11- or 12-point for brochures, especially if your readers are middle-aged or older.

Your eye can’t distinguish easily between fonts that are only one or two sizes apart, so specify a larger jump than that to distinguish between body copy and subhead or subhead and headline.

For example, if your body copy is set in 10-point Times New Roman, you need to set subheads at least two steps up (steps being defined by standard point sizes: 9, 12, 14, 16, 18, 24, 36, and 48, although in-between sizes can also be used).

Using (not abusing!) free fonts

You can find a variety of sources of free fonts, the biggest being, by far, Google Fonts. Free fonts arose because using proprietary ones, such as Times New Roman and Helvetica, includes a (fairly modest) cost. If you want to avoid all unnecessary costs, go ahead and set your printed matter or web banners with a free typeface, but don’t just pick some novelty and think it will read well.

Following are a few Google fonts that are quite plausible:

  • Open Sans

  • Old Standard TT

  • Volkorn

Red Hat, Inc., introduced a line of open-source fonts under the brand name Liberation that are quite superior options for anyone concerned with fees and restrictions associated with traditional purchased fonts.

The Liberation line of fonts includes Sans (sub in for Arial and Helvetica), Serif (a good substitute for Times New Roman), and Mono (similar to Courier). You can use these fonts on the web or in print, without restriction (downloadable at fedorahosted.org/liberation-fonts).

More recently, some designers are enthused about the Google Croscore fonts. See what your printer or web designer recommends if you’re not sure what the best font product is for your needs, but know that, even with all the new (and sometimes free) options, the basic font designs still matter, and fonts that mimic Times New Roman, Arial, and Helvetica are still considered excellent choices for their classic readability.

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