Typefaces are like snowflakes — no two are exactly alike — which is why choosing fonts can feel like an overwhelming task. Even seasoned designers can spend hours in pursuit of the perfect typeface. If you’re feeling intimidated by all the available choices, this typography cheat sheet will guide you through the basic font styles and how to use them effectively so you can create stunning, eye-catching promotional designs.
Fonts are divided into several classifications — serif, slab serif, sans serif, script and display — based on style, tone, usage and visual characteristics. Searching for the right typeface for your new French menu? Look to old-style serif font families. Need to promote a country karaoke night? Check out decorative western-style fonts or slab serif typefaces.
Serif: A true classic, serif typefaces have been around since the 15th century and are used for everything from books to logos. The serifs help create a visual connection between letters, improving word flow and readability. Serif fonts work well at any size but are most effective in smaller point sizes when used for body text and dense copy.
Slab Serif: Originally created in the 19th century as a display font for headlines and posters in Victorian advertisements, the slab serif is often more chunky and blocky than standard serif fonts. A subset of slab serif fonts, including standard typewriter fonts, has been refined for use at smaller sizes.
Sans Serif: Modern and versatile, sans serif fonts are legible at extremely large or extremely small point sizes and can vary in weight from ultra thin to extra bold without sacrificing readability or impact, making this class very attractive for print and digital designs.
Script: Reminiscent of cursive handwriting, script font styles range from simple and casual to ornate and formal. Script typefaces add flair and personality to logos and promotional design, but legibility wanes at smaller point sizes. Use sparingly.
Display: Decorative — or display — fonts offer a wide variety of novelty styles and textures. From stencils and graffiti to scary and grungy, using a specialty display font instantly sets the tone for a themed event. Many display fonts are ornate or feature illustrative detailing that can be lost at small font sizes.
Principles of Typography
Now that you know how to identify type by classification, apply these basic principles of typography for a cohesive and captivating design.
Set the Mood: Specific themes or event locations will inform font choices for your design. If it’s an elegant event, combine formal script with a subtle serif or sans serif. For a masculine audience, opt for slab serifs and heavier display fonts.
Keep It Simple: The traditional rule of thumb is to stick to two or three fonts within a single design. When in doubt — or in a rush — choose a serif and a sans serif typeface or a sans serif font family with multiple weights.
Define Roles: Create a visual hierarchy by giving each font a purpose. Choose an eye-catching display or script font for headlines, a secondary decorative font for supporting information and a sans serif for the “fine print,” and use consistently throughout the design.
Look for Contrast: Designs are more interesting with dynamic typography, so play with colour, proportion, size and style. Combine a bold slab serif with a lightweight sans serif and a playful script for maximum contrast.
Consider Context: It’s tempting to use trendy or fashionable fonts — and some of those script fonts are pretty irresistible — but don’t pick typefaces just because they’re “fun.” Choose fonts that evoke the era of the theme — fonts for an 1880s Victorian tea party would be quite different from a 1980s Madonna dance party. When in doubt, refer to your brand identity.
When using the templates on Easil, you’ll find the hard work’s already done with pre-selected fonts, colours and graphics—simply add your own copy and save, share or print.