Putting together some marketing material for your business but want it to look professional? Let’s hope that slapping some content onto a Word document and using “fancy” typefaces is not the technique you have adopted. This “slapping” technique can be easy and quick, but it can also play a crucial role in not getting your message across, sending the wrong message and overall negatively affecting your brand. Producing effective marketing material and design collateral can be overwhelming, but it can be easier with a better understanding of typography.

Typography is an art, technique and science — it’s everywhere (you’re looking at it right now). It’s on just about everything we see every day including your phone, product packaging, magazines etc. Typography is all about arranging type (words, letters, paragraphs, headlines), in a way that enables learning, recognition and comprehension. Every word, letter and headline arrangement can dictate how a message will be interpreted. Yes, using good typography can be intimidating, but it is very important to the design process and creating marketing with purpose and understanding.

So let’s just jump in! You are about to create a document, but first things first — you need the content.  Content is not only the written content but the imagery as well. Once you have the content, you need to understand the content and its purpose. Effective marketing is obtained by designing the content, not by designing a fancy border, adding a random image or background to be placed behind your content. Once you understand the content and the content hierarchy (which parts of the content are more important than others), you can finally select a typeface. Wait, what’s a typeface?

Typefaces have their own persona, they convey their own message and tone and have something to say beyond the words on the page. The terms typeface and font are used all the time, but what’s the difference? Well, Helvetica (a family of fonts) would be the typeface and Helvetica Bold (variations of the typeface) would be the font. Sticking to one or two typeface families with variation is the simplest and will help to add variation to any design, while keeping it consistent and uniform.

Think about the message or main point you are trying to communicated and then choose typefaces that fits the tone and audience. There are many different typefaces including serif, sans-serif, display, script, monospaced etc. But as you start, focus on selecting serif or sans-serif fonts.

Serif fonts have little strokes called serifs attached to the main part of the letter.


Sans-serif fonts don’t have strokes that come off of each letter. In the French language, ‘sans’ means “without” – hence the name, sans-serif.

There is a debate between designers as to which fonts are easier to read for print and web. The truth is, everyone will have a different opinion and there is little evidence to support that either one is more legible than the other in print. Some say sans-serif fonts should only be used for titles and headers and serif fonts should be used for body copy, while the same number of people will say the exact opposite. On the other hand, when dealing with fonts on screen, the general consensus is that sans-serif fonts are easier to read. They should be used for the majority of text on screen while serif fonts could be primarily used for larger titles, headers and small sections of text.

I know that you are not a design guru, but let’s make you an apprentice. First, should start with a sketch, laying out what your most important visual elements are, down to your least important element. This will form a hierarchy of importance. It’s easier to the think about how large each visual element should be when you think of it as a hierarchal system. Achieving good hierarchy, doesn’t mean your most important element has have to be on the top of the page – it just needs to be the focal point. What do you want the viewer to read first? It doesn’t need to be larger, but it needs take prominence over the other elements.

Hierarchy isn’t size alone, but has to do with the prominence of your typographic elements relative to each other. This could mean using a different typeface, a contrasting color, size or white space.

Yes, white space can be a good thing! It’s the space between elements in a composition. Content can become too difficult to read if typography and other design elements are dense and too close together. Resist the urge to fill in empty or “white” spaces. White space gives balance to your elements and leads the viewers eye from one part of the page to the next — it is like taking a breath. You can use white space to send certain messages, invoke feelings or even make a point.

Second, think about the space  BETWEEN your headlines or lines of text. When readers don’t have space between lines of type, it becomes hard for them read from one line to next, which in turn makes them lose interest. Of course there will always be instances that the typeface have varying attributes that will call for some adjustments to the line spacing. As a general rule of thumb, for printed materials make the leading 2 points higher than your font size.

Always keep your audience in mind when selecting fonts sizes. If you’re target audience is older adults, make sure to bump up the size accordingly.

I know this is a lot of information for you to think about. If you just focus the goal or key message and apply what you learned here, you can create more effective marketing messages while maintaining a more polished and professional look to your collateral or website.