How to Choose the Right Fonts for Infographics

By Justin Beegel, MBA, The Infographic World Team

In the early days of infographic design, artists sometimes got a bit carried away by all the exciting possibilities for illustrating the news. Much of the work was drawn by hand, including headlines. Many people used the fonts they saw in magazines, on album covers, or on billboards. Those fonts looked great at the time, but now make the same graphics look as dated as a 1950s magazine.

Today, technology offers designers many more options (so it’s highly unlikely you’ll be crafting any headlines by hand) that add elegance and consistency to prevent your work from looking dated in another 20 years.

Adobe Creative Suite offers hundreds of font faces. Regular, Medium, and Bold-faced fonts have given way to Light, Light Extended, and Light Condensed. The number of fonts has multiplied dramatically, and if your software doesn’t offer a font you want, thousands more are at your digital fingertips, available for download. Here are some tips on choosing a font that will work for your project:

  • Take stock of the fonts you have in your personal library. It pays to look around and get a feel for what you have in your computer’s font library. You will be surprised at the variations and styles that are at your disposal.

  • Keep a font favorites list. When designing a graphic, you might like to have a list of go-to fonts you love to work with. Some fonts lend themselves better to headlines; others are great for body text. Keep track of a few headline and body-text pairs as go-to choices for any infographics project. This figure shows some great choices.

    Maintain a list of favorite fonts for your infographics.

    Maintain a list of favorite fonts for your infographics.
  • Consider your preference for sans fonts or serif fonts. Sans fonts — also known as sans serif fonts — are typefaces that do not have a little toe or spike on the ends of the letters. Serif fonts have a toe or spike on the ends. For instance, Times is a serif font.

    Helvetica is a sans font. In general, body text tends to use sans fonts, but sometimes a headline just works with a serif font. If the headline is a serif font, then make the body text a sans font.

  • Decide whether your projects call for bold, light, or regular fonts. This is normally an easy choice. Bold fonts are most often used in headlines and portions of the graphic you would like to call attention to. Regular or light fonts tend to be body text and labels that need to be played back in a design.

  • Remember to read the branding guidelines to see whether the client insists on using a specific font. Brand guidelines will spell out font usage and many times, include the font with the guideline package.

  • Experiment with fonts that are unfamiliar. Take a moment to try out a font that you may not have run across, but remember to strike the right chord with the tone of your graphic.

    For example, a Black Extended font may not work with a story or project about yoga. It may look too leaden and heavy; whereas, a lighter but equally elegant script font may help illustrate the theme. (See this figure.)

    A stylized font looks right at home in a yoga-themed graphic.

    A stylized font looks right at home in a yoga-themed graphic.
  • Don’t overdo it: Sometimes in an attempt to add visual excitement, a graphic’s design can fall short because of bad font uses, overly busy sections, or odd font alignments. In this figure, a skewed effect to the headline, a 3D tilt, and contrasting angles make the information hard to read.

    This infographic fizzles because of an over-attempt to dazzle.

    This infographic fizzles because of an over-attempt to dazzle.

Take a tour of some font sites on the web. Just searching for fonts will generally be enough to peek at what’s out there. While looking, keep a wish list of fonts you would like to work with. When times are tough and you’re tired of the same-old look and feel, consult the list.

When searching for the right font for your theme, try several font websites. Many sites will let you try the font out by typing it and seeing how your headline looks in that font. You can then take it to your graphic and see how it plays with your design before buying.