5 Tips For a Great Body Font

By on May 2, 2016 in How To
5 Tips For a Great Body Font

For any given text, there are many typographical solutions that will enhance the look of the content while reinforcing the meaning. Headline fonts are often designed to be decorative and attention-getting, but you want the opposite from a body font–it needs to avoid attracting attention to itself.

Using a font that was designed specifically for body text will go a long way towards making your document engaging and more professional. So, how do you choose the right font? There is no one-size-fits-all solution as what works better on screen doesn’t necessarily translate well to paper. But following some simple guidelines will go a long way towards helping you pick a typeface suited for your business image and readability.

1. Does It Match Your Purpose?

The first rule of choosing any font is knowing how it will be used. The font you pick should complement the content, whether it’s a short headline or lengthy body text. Selecting a typeface for an established company with old-school formality? You might use a classic serif font. Picking a font for a fresh and modern start-up? Opt for a lightweight sans-serif. Serif or sans-serif? For print, tradition dictates you use a serif font, but it's not mandatory. For the web, either a serif or sans-serif is acceptable, but when in doubt, try a sans-serif first for a more modern look.

We have a ton of fonts, both serif and sans, for all different styles, so keeping these principles in mind while you search through our archives will make your decision a lot easier.

Meddle, for example, is a great rounded sans-serif font that’s readable at multiple zoom levels, although you might want to increase the spacing a bit.

It’s best for uses where you need to convey a lot of information, but you don’t want to look like you’re taking yourself too seriously. And Gauthier is a well-balanced serif with a high x-height and small caps that don’t detract from the text.

2. Shape and Rendering

Make sure you choose a font where the letters are easily identifiable from one another, since–unlike in a headline–the reader will have to instantly know if a letter is an “o” or an “e” in order to keep their eyes flowing through the text. One quick way to do this is via the “I-l-1 Test.” As the name suggests, type a capital I, a lowercase l, and the number 1 next to each other. Is there a visible difference between them? This is a good litmus test for how much attention the designers put into letter differences in general.

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The next thing to consider is show it renders on screen. Test it in every size variation you need, as well as with italics, in bold, and with small caps, if you plan to use them. Is your font hand-hinted, meaning the letterforms are re-shaped for optimal on-screen viewing at various sizes? If not, than can you get multiple optical sizes? An optical size is a version of a font that’s tailored specifically for use at a different size. Many fonts will have both a “display” and a “caption” version.

A font with different “optical sizes” has different styles for different types of output. For example, many fonts are thicker in their caption form than in the display form. Some serif fonts round off the corners and pointy edges so they don’t disappear at smaller sizes.

Stroke contrast–the amount of variation in the thicknesses in the lines and curves that make up each letter–should be much lower in caption fonts than display fonts. In other words, they’ll be less elegant, but they’ll more than make up for it in readability.

3. X-Height

X-height, named for the height of a lowercase “x” in any given font, is the height a lowercase letter with no ascendants or descendants will reach on a particular font. High x-heights, meaning the lowercase letters extend further over the font’s horizontal halfway line, tend to make fonts more legible at smaller sizes or from greater distances. There are plenty of individual fonts that have been optimized for readability in ways that make up for their relatively low x-heights.

4. Spacing

A comfortable amount of space between letters is crucial to your readers being able to move through the document naturally. Letters that are too close together impact legibility and readability at any size. A good body font will have optimized letter spacing and have built-in adjustments for awkward letter relationships, like “kw” and “ve”–known as “kerning pairs.”

5. Sizing

In print, the most comfortable size for a body font is 10-12 point, with 12-14 point leading–the distance between each line of text on page or screen. On the web, font size can vary from 15 to 25 pixels. Certain fonts are designed so that they can stay legible down to a smaller point size. For older readers, larger point sizes–often 14-18 point–are recommended for better readability.

In Summary

Good design is crucial to your document’s readability and the overall “atmosphere” of your piece. Go beyond the call in picking a font, and you’ll be rewarded with an engaging document that will boost the reader’s interest in your content and your brand.

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6 Comments

  1. Great article and font recommendations! Usually I'd pick a body font based on the impression it has on the audience (formal vs. modern) and on what my gut tells me to go for. Now I have basic guidelines when choosing a body font next time around.

  2. Great article. Will keep these in mind for future preview images and promotional designs. :)

  3. Some of these points were really interesting, love the article overall, one of my favorites so far!

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