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Design Short: Keep Your Fonts Consistent

May 13, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has gone well and you have a lovely weekend planned. Today I want to go over a design short: a quick tip that you can easily apply to your design work at your library. This works no matter what you are creating, but is especially important for signage and work with branding. So what are we talking about? Keeping your fonts (well, technically, your typefaces) consistent.

Earlier this week I was walking around Mendocino and taking photographs of all the lovely business signs. (Yes, I do that because I’m a bit of a type and hand-lettering junkie and you never know where you’ll get inspiration for your next design.) I can across this art gallery which had two signs with its name near the sidewalk.

Here’s the first instance of the part of the business name on the flower box:

photo of panache name on flowerbox

And here’s the second instance of the business name on the sign just to the left of where the flower box is located:

Panache Gallery sign

Now, neither font choice is bad. I quite like both, but they evoke very different feelings and don’t match at all. The font of the flower box looks inspired by uncial (you can also see a similar take on the font on the “Closed” sign near the front door). The font used for “Panache” on the sign is a beautiful, elegant script, but it is definitely not uncial-inspired and neither is the font chosen for the rest of the sign.

So why is this an issue?

Because if you are a business, or an organization, or a library, or really anything that wants to have a brand or visual identity, you need consistency.

One of the easiest ways to be consistent in your visual identity is through the use of the same fonts for all your written material, especially when it comes to your organization’s name.

For this business, because it is a fine arts gallery, I would probably choose to use the elegant script font for the name–wherever the name is placed. The same font should be used for the name on the sign, letterhead, business cards, newspaper ads, exhibition promotional materials. I’d even put it on the flower box. You can imagine that lovely script drawn by hand on the box, highlighted with metallic gold paint to play off the vertical sign and creating a lovely, cohesive look to the front of the gallery’s building.

So what does this have to do with libraries?

Look around at the printed material that your library creates and uses. Look at everything–your letterhead, your website banner, the sign that’s taped up on the wall that everyone’s forgotten about–and check to see if the same font is used on all your materials. Is it?

If your library is like most, there is probably a hodgepodge of fonts used and not a coherent visual identity. Is there a way to fix this? Of course, or we wouldn’t be talking about it.

Create a mini-branding guideline for your typography and stick to it. Easiest way?

Create some templates.

Make a template for signs, for flyers, etc. and stick to using it. You can create these in Word or Publisher, you don’t need InDesign or something fancy. Use what you know people in your library will use. Templates are great for when you don’t have a graphic designer (and really, how many libraries have an in-house graphic designer?). Templates will enable you to create a consistent visual identity and save time once you’ve created the templates. They don’t have to be fancy; they just need to be legible, consistent, and used.

Remember, when it comes to graphic design, and design in general, it’s the little details that matter. Actually, it’s all about the details. So get your typography together and you’ll have a first step to creating a coherent visual identity for your library. Really. It’s a great step and will put you head and shoulders above many other organizations.

I hope this design short provided some inspiration and you have a lovely weekend. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

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