Avoid These 5 Mistakes When Mixing Fonts

By on May 2, 2016 in How To
Avoid These 5 Mistakes When Mixing Fonts

It’s easy to get caught up in some simple typography mistakes at any stage in the graphic design game. Some of the easiest traps to get stuck in occur when mixing your fonts together in a single design. Making careful choices about which fonts to use for different sections of text or headings is absolutely critical for any design, but it can be tricky. Here are five of the most common errors designers make when mixing fonts.

1. Changing Fonts Too Frequently

Mixing and matching different fonts can help segment a document. It can also change the reader’s attitude toward the content in a subtle but effective way. If you do it too often though, it can make the reader feel very disoriented as their goal becomes less about receiving the information you are conveying and more about figuring out what’s the point in all the changes. It also makes your publication look cluttered.

2. Inappropriately Sizing Fonts

Believe or not, fonts have optimal sizes where the designer thinks that they look their best. Fonts that are better when they’re larger are heading fonts, and ones that are better smaller are body fonts. You can definitely interchange some of them, but there are others that just do not work. It has a lot to do with the space between the lines that create the characters, the kerning (the space between characters), and most importantly, the letter shapes themselves. Consider the following example, which uses Dealers and Metrisch.

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Here we see how a perfect headline font can be less than ideal when used as a body font. Never forsake readability in your quest for typographic flair.

3. Misusing Fonts

While there are a lot of typefaces that are notable for their versatility (I’m looking at you, Helvetica,) some fonts evoke a very tangible response from the reader. If you don’t take this into consideration when choosing your type, the publication will most likely suffer.

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Consider this example from another recent article on type. Here, the visuals and purpose of the ice cream ad don't at all match with dark, gothic style of the typography. Occasionally, someone can pull off typographic irony for a great effect, but more often than not, examples like this are the result of lazy designers who don't consider the implications of a typeface.

4. Using Similar Fonts

There’s a fine line between a subtle difference and barely indistinguishable. There has to be a considerable difference between the two fonts or you can’t tell them apart. If there isn’t a marked difference, it will be very confusing for the reader. Similar to the changing-fonts-too-frequently problem, readers can become distracted by the font. They start to focus on telling the difference between the fonts rather than reading the text.

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Here the left example uses Brave, Native, and Gentlemen's Poison. It's really tempting to cram these all together because they all fit a similar theme, but in practice, it could get messy if you created an entire site that constantly shifted between the three. Compare this to the example on the right, which uses Brite Script and Libertad, two clearly different typefaces that can be assigned more definitive hierarchy and purpose.

5. Using Clashing Styles

When mixing fonts, you have to be detail oriented. While slight differences or bold statements between styles can look unified, much like in fashion, it’s easy to make a font faux pas. Try to keep your fonts to the same family if you’re looking for subtlety. If you want to mess around with bigger changes, try to choose fonts that are proportional to each other, and for a really eye-catching look, try fonts in two almost opposite styles like a block sans serif with an elegant script underneath it. But be careful, the stronger the contrast, the higher risk of clashing.

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Here the top example mixes Native, Eveleth, and Goodfy, which are all awesome fonts that can really clash when viewed all together. Compare this with the bottom example where we just stuck with different weights of Eveleth for a much more cohesive look.

How Do You Mix Fonts?

Now that you've read my advice for mixing fonts, leave a comment with the rules that you live by. What mistakes do you try to avoid? What goals do you keep in mind when crafting your typography? I'd love to hear your insight.

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  1. Whoa great article. I need to step my typography game up. Some amazing fonts on here that I need to try out.

  2. Nice helpful article. By the way, what fonts are being used for the headline text and body text on Creative Market?

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