10 Effective Tips for Using Multiple Typefaces in Website Design

by Keval Padia on September 19, 2016

This article is more than six months old, and some specifics have likely changed.

Multiple Typefaces in Website Design

One of the more prominent design trait these days is the variation of typefaces. We can easily refer to countless contents with diverse typefaces. The variation of typefaces in website content can have both positive and negative implications. To utilize this variation effectively you need to know the rules and make sure that the content readability gets priority over anything else.

Importance of multi typefaces in design

Using several typefaces on a single page can easily grab attention if accompanied by sophisticated colors and distinct layouts. Some of the reasons why using a variety of typefaces in website design can be effective include the following.

  • Typefaces typically complement the feeling of a sentence. While the serious fonts are for serious meanings and atmosphere the funny fonts are used to infuse some fun elements. There are also formal and casual fonts to be used as per the context.
  • In a long text, a separate typeface can be useful to offer a break between paragraphs.
  • The role played by images in creating visual variation can be offered by visually grabbing fonts between text paragraphs.
  • Different fonts positioned differently on a page can really work great to grab attention.
  • Designers also can choose designs based on the mix of multiple typefaces to make the design visually attractive.
  • Designers can design a website with fonts that create the perfect mood for that website or app. For instance, fonts used for an educational institution requires a more traditional approach while the fonts of a fashion website tend to be more stylish and trendy.
  • Fonts carry the personality of the website or app and accordingly it should be given a special treatment as per the domain.
  • Finally, fonts are the only way to look natural and enhance visual elements.

Multiple typefaces in design: pros and cons

All of us can cite ineffective lousy designs that are made with excessively used typefaces. The deficiency and shortcomings in design cannot be addressed by using too many typefaces. It is the need, context, and readability of the published contents that should determine whether we can use multiple typefaces and if yes, to what extent. Obviously, there are too many other design considerations for using the typeface.

Fonts are subject to visual interests for designers and naturally using them diligently one can ensure optimum usability along with a chic smart design. Haphazard and inconsiderate use of different font types actually lead to visual clutter.

1. Choose fonts that complement design

There are fonts with distinct aura or moods. They can be casual, serious, sporting, playful, elegant, cool, dynamic, simple, slender and so many. Does the typeface perfectly go with your design? That is what you need to ensure with the choice of typeface. The font for a newsletter and for the dropdown menu will be different and coupled up with user contexts there are too many font types. You can also make a combination of opposite type of fonts, respectively loud fonts and cool introvert fonts.

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2. Using different fonts as per visual hierarchy

Publications like newspapers and magazines use fonts to create a visual hierarchy between title and content, between caption and headline, etc. In websites also to make certain texts prominent several fonts are used. In a visual hierarchy, the title and body copy generally have different fonts and font sizes. Moreover, for making form fields different and for separate landing pages there can be different fonts arranged as per the hierarchy.

3. Make it contextual

The web interface where the design is supposed to appear should be considered above all for deciding on the type of fonts. First of all, you have to ensure optimum readability of the text at the chosen size. The gap between letters, at-a-glance visibility and clarity are some of the important considerations for this. The spacing of letters and the ease of seeing each letter are two most important factors that you need to ensure while determining the fonts and the respective sizes.

Besides size, style of fonts also determines readability to a great extent. The style of the used fonts must correspond to the intended message. For instance, a funny looking chaotic typeface is a strict ‘no-no’ with a serious and professional message.

While some font types are characteristically used for display, there are others that are neutral in character. Making the perfect balance with the two will be crucial. But always remember that the fonts should not distract the attention from the content. They should rather help the contents grabbing attention. Typically a typeface should always tell ‘look at this’ rather than telling ‘look at me’.

4. A mix of fonts that work together best

All fonts do not work together well. Certain fonts easily complement each other and boost the readability to a great extent. Well while there can be myriad of such suggestions for the kind of fonts that go well together, we can safely name a few. You can always try two fonts from serif family, preferably a serif font and one sans serif font. They complement each other well, especially at different sizes. Another out of the box choice is pairing Josefin Slab slim font with any regular clear typeface like Arial or say, Times New Roman.

5. Optimize with contrast

Some fonts go well together well while others don’t. This happens primarily because of the balance and visual contrast they ensure together. Contrast again evokes several considerations including the hierarchy, contrast between lower and uppercase and accompanying design and color elements. Ideal contrast is achieved in several different ways that include considerations on style, size, depth, spacing, color, etc.

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6. Avoid visual conflict

While perfect contrast and balance is the most desired thing in design with multiple typefaces, any kind of conflict or disharmony among them should be avoided. Pairing fonts that together breaks all sense of proportion and balance and seem to create too many distractions can make your design suffer terribly. Some fonts going together actually hinder smooth reading of the text and distracts attention here and there. So, always make sure the typefaces do not cause a visual clash and make readability suffer.

7. Do not use similar fonts

While using fonts that share some qualities between them is a good choice for a complementing multi-typeface design, one should always avoid fonts that are too much similar. By using too similar fonts you cannot establish a hierarchy, ensure a contrast and actually the design gains nothing from different typefaces.  Very similar fonts are perceived more as mistakes rather than a conscious choice.

8. Consider diversity and unity

Multi-typeface design should incorporate the right balance between diversity and unity. This can be achieved by fonts that share some quality while always offering distinct identity. This is why typefaces that belong to the same family is the best bet as they have been originally created to work together. The fonts from the same family offer the diverse look and feel while deep down maintain a consistency.

9. Do not use too many

The multi-typeface design may allow freedom to choose several font for your design but using too many of them for a project may actually lose the advantage. The thumb of the rule in this respect is to restrict yourself with maximum two or three fonts for a design endeavor. Well, as per the demands of the design you can stretch a little more and use one or two more but in that case, always remain cautious of the visual clutter caused by too many typefaces. Try to limit yourself with two fonts for display and other two or three for text.

10. Test different fonts

Finally, it is extremely important to evaluate the effectiveness of your fonts within the design layout. Before incorporating fonts in your design it is advised to test those fonts in different sizes and with the kind of texts they are going to represent. A trial-and-error run is invaluable for picking the right fonts as it is with any skills.

Keval Padia is a Founder & CEO of Nimblechapps, a fast-growing mobile game development and website development company. The current innovation and updates of the field lure him to express his views and thoughts on certain topics.