Fonts – Can’t Live With ’em, Can’t Write Without ’em!

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You and I are knowledge workers. Our value is not measured by how quickly we can do something physical (dig that ditch, there!), but in the knowledge we bring to the project or task at hand.

Which can bring up a dilemma. Clients may not know how important our knowledge can be to the success of their endeavor. They don’t have the experience to understand how they may:
– suffer from substandard results,
– waste time,
– waste energy, and even
– pay much more than they need to …
because they simply, literally, don’t know better.

You know this if you sometimes think
“if only my prospects knew what they didn’t know, it would make my life easier?”

It can be frustrating when someone doesn’t understand a major value-add or underlying principle of a project or a decision. Fonts are a great example. (If you are now frustrated and wondering why I’m wasting time writing about fonts, you may want to skip directly to the P.S.).

Understanding what fonts bring to a project – whether it’s a website, a white paper, or some other graphic, could fill a book.

Some quick thoughts on fonts:

NO MORE FONTS FOR YOU!
When too many font styles, or fonts that are too different, are used in a project, viewers can be left with a feeling of (often unidentifiable) unease. This is similar to using colors that slightly clash, or listening to music in as minor key. Although the untrained eye may not be able to identify what’s wrong – the brain will note it – and it can hurt your results (especially if you are selling something like an intangible, where people need to feel very comfortable with you and your offering).

It’s a good rule of thumb to never use more than 2 different fonts in a piece unless you have a compelling reason to do so.

JUST THE GRAPHICS, NOT SO MUCH ON THE COLOR
When working with fonts (or other design elements, for that matter), best practice is to first do all design in black and white. It allows the eye to judge the DESIGN – without the important emotional context that hits us when color is added. Often, in order to save time, or because some elements of the design have colors that are set in stone – we go straight to color for the initial concept.

THAT’S SO WEIRD!
Some fonts have strange quirks. For example, after an important project was rolled out, we discovered that number nine of the font looked like a lower-case ‘g’. It even hung below the regular text line…making things look even stranger. My takeaway from this was to – before selecting any font – first see all the letters and all the numerals (as well as other characters) beforehand.

FOR THE FONT-EPICUREAN
You can hire a designer to produce a custom font. Many of the most well-known logos include custom fonts for company names. Actually, I hired a designer to use 2 custom fonts for my MARILEEdriscoll company logo (below).

My father was proud of his salaried position at the State of Connecticut (Chief Bank Examiner). I remember him saying “I get paid for what I know, not what I do.” By that, I know he meant that he wasn’t paid by-the-piece, like some of the workers at the factories nearby. The value of a vendor or subcontractor who knows a lot can’t be beat by the typical mediocre solution – even if they are only charging 1/4 the hourly rate of the superior solution!

As I work with graphic design, web, and print vendors, especially those ‘inherited’ on client projects – I am struck by the vast difference in foundational knowledge they have of their crafts. Some are getting by with what I would call a thimble’s worth of knowledge compared to the ocean’s worth I’ve found in my most valued vendor relationships. This usually happens because the people making vendor selection don’t have an ocean’s worth of experience in the area. And that’s when expensive mistakes are made.

You could say that valuable vendors are fonts of knowledge (no groans allowed at my puns).

‘See you’ next week! BTW, you won’t want to miss next week’s issue – which includes a custom video that ties in with the upcoming Kentucky Derby (with a BIG twist).