Understand design principles that are important for both paper and Web documents.

Font selection matters. Even the font you display your documents in can have powerful consequences. Some fonts can distract readers from your message while others draw in the reader's eye, bringing the reader's focus to your text.

  1. What are the Font Families?
  2. What is the Difference between Serif and Sans Serif Fonts?
  3. How Should You Mix Different Font Families?
  4. Strategies

What are the Font Families?

"Fontophiles" tend to have different names for font families. Below are some of the more commonly defined "font families" (see left column) and a discussion of their uses.

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What is the Difference Between Serif and Sans Serif Fonts?

Serif Fonts

Serif fonts have little tails (serifs) at the ends of each letter. Serif fonts include Times New Roman, Courier New, New York, New Century Schoolbook, and Palatino.

Serif fonts provide a more traditional, conservative appearance. Readers prefer Serif fonts when large text blocks are displayed. Times New Roman is one of the most popular Serif fonts because it is very legible on the computer screen and prints very well.

Sans Serif

In French, "sans" means without. Sans Serif fonts lack little tails at the ends of each letter. Sans Serif fonts include Arial, Geneva, Helvetica, and Comic Sans MS.text

Readers find Sans Serif fonts to be less readable than Serif fonts, so writers seldom use them to set long blocks of texts. Used in contrast to Serif fonts, Sans Serif fonts can catch a reader's eye. Knowing this, advertisers use Sans Serif fonts to set headlines and call out text.

How Should You Mix Different Font Families?

Mixing font families can be tricky. If you include too many disparate fonts, the page will appear to lack focus (see example below). Readers may tell you your document reads like a puzzle. It's giving mixed messages:

How Should You Mix Different Font Families?

Mixing font families can be tricky. If you include too many disparate fonts, the page will appear to lack focus (see example below). Readers may tell you your document reads like a puzzle. It's giving mixed messages:

Strategies

Designers typically advise that you should use no more than one Serif and not more than one Sans Serif font for each page. Even when you limit yourself to two fonts, you can create considerable variation by bold face, underlining, italicizing, or adjusting the size of a font.


"Typography" was written by Joseph Moxley, University of South Florida