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29th Jan 2017

Font of All Wisdom

Secret messages of the printed word

What’s in a font? Actually, more than you may think. There exist implicit impressions and subtleties in the plethora of fonts available to us. Your choice of typeface can communicate to your reader anything from your industry to your corporate values to an entire rebrand. As readable as handwriting analysis, the shape of text on a page or screen can indicate things that are not overtly obvious from your words alone.

The popularity of Helvetica

Helvetica is one of the most frequently used typefaces in modern times. Its popularity has been attributed to its incorporation into the Apple operating system, although it was widely adopted even before the age of computing. Most designers will either love or hate this font and international brands often adopt Helvetica in their logos due to its safe and reliable nuance.  Using it will not, however, differentiate your brand. By understanding the key differences in typefaces, you can choose an alternative that is right for your business.

Serif Fonts

In typography, a serif is a small line attached to the end of a stroke in a letter or symbol. A typeface with serifs is, naturally, called a serif typeface, alternatively known as Roman. These fonts project a more traditional impression. At best and used correctly, they can suggest the upmarket and established, at worst they can appear old fashioned and out of touch.

Sans Serif Fonts

These fonts do not feature serifs, hence the use of ‘sans’ and are sometimes referred to as Grotesque. Sans-serif fonts have become ubiquitous as text on computer screens as fine details like serifs may appear visually distorted and affect the reader. Using sans serif fonts suggests a certain degree of modernity and the more unusual fonts within this type help to build an impression of the trendy and cutting edge.


Script typefaces are based on the varied and often fluid strokes created by handwriting. They are generally used for display rather than lengthy sections of text. Script fonts traditionally suggest either the high end or historical, the later especially intimated by the calligraphy styles within Antiqua typefaces. The more modern script styles can convey the crafty homemade feel of shabby chic.

Comic Sans

This sans-serif casual script typeface was initially intended for informal documents and children's materials.  Since its introduction within Windows 95, it has proved very popular. However its widespread use to denote informality has been criticised as unimaginative and designers are often keen to seek out alternatives, meaning that the use of this font professionally can suggest inexperience.


Moving to the post modern, fonts in this family are clear and suggest simplicity and efficiency. Letters form simple geometric forms: perfect circles, triangles and squares. The concept is based on strokes of even weight which are low in contrast. It exists within the realms of sans serif typefaces but lends itself more to stencilled or outlined styles. A distinct retro feel finds these fonts often conveying the notion of hipster or vintage businesses.


Seemingly pointless in today's digital world, so full of stylised graphics and embedded animations, the Wingdings fonts were once key to including graphical representations within a word document. Created in the 1990’s, it enabled both practical and representative symbols to be easily included in a document, such as a check box or arrow. Nowadays it seems superfluous when an image can be inserted directly from Google, but nostalgics amongst us still have a soft spot for these fonts.

With new alternative fonts being delivered every year, there is no reason not to choose something fresh for your text or print. Identifying the mood that you wish to convey is key before you narrow down the font style that you intend to choose from. From that point, you can let your instinct guide you and get adventurous!