Typography does more than just communicate messages with words. While the actual content of the copy is the main means of communication, the typography of the copy can be just as significant. Typefaces, fonts, and positioning of letters and words are important elements of typography that allow you to convey emotional messages.
Sans Serif & Serif Typefaces
Typefaces are especially important. Choosing an appropriate typeface can be challenging, but worthwhile. Sans serifs, typically seen on websites and street signage, are easy to read from a distance and are considered clean and modern. Serifs are typically found in print design because the serifs guide the eye, which makes it easier to read heavy copy. Serif typefaces are typically considered to have a more handwritten aesthetic and create a more personal vibe.
Gotham (sans serif). Designed by Hoefler & Frere-Jones, 2000.
Chronicle Display (serif). Designed by Hoefler & Frere-Jones, 2002.
Weight, Positioning, & Scale
Typography allows you to convey messages without words. By using positioning, for example, you can visually convey the definition of a word without using other words to define it. This can also be done with different weights (the heaviness or lightness of a typeface) and scale (the size of type). These elements are also important because they also create hierarchy, what elements are seen first and last. Typically headers are bolded or in all caps and larger because those are noticed before the smaller body copy. On posters, the title of an event or movie is largest because that’s what is most important, it’s what draws the viewer in to read the smaller copy.
Ultimately, typography can be as expressive as imagery and evoke emotional responses. We notice this in the difference between wedding invitations and typical business cards. Your message and target audience determine what the appropriate typeface will be. The cursive type on invitations would not be effective on business cards because the message would be unclear due to emotional responses. Invitations are personal and therefore the warm, “handwritten” typography reflects an intimate message, while business cards are strictly professional and do not carry the same heartfelt response.