Don't worry, I won't use Comic Sans
July 30, 2011 10:13 AM   Subscribe

I'm having trouble choosing which font(s) to use -- for example, for a flyer or poster. I don't have a graphic design background or much experience with it, but sometimes I have to design simple pieces for my job. Are there any introductory online resources that can help me learn more so that no one will point and laugh when they see a flyer I made? I'll be looking at this thread and this thread, too. My main fear is that I'll put something together and someone will point and laugh and say, "Oh no, you used THAT font?"
posted by trillian to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have a graphics team you could work with? If not, has a typeography for designers course that you could take. This might be a good start in learning.
posted by TheBones at 10:18 AM on July 30, 2011

You don't have to make these choices at all if you don't feel competent to do so. There are a zillion low-cost, professionally designed flyer and poster templates out there. I like the ones at Graphic River; you may prefer the ones from Stock Layouts.

These will often be designed with fonts you don't have, but as long as it's already designed, it is much, much easier for a non-professional to find similar free or low-cost fonts to replace in the layout. Sites like MyFonts will also suggest similar fonts to a given, named typeface.

The only font you 100% must never, ever use is Comic Sans. Seriously.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:40 AM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Even though they are talking about fonts for the web, this talk gives you a little intro to many of the commonly used fonts and some good resources.
posted by hellochula at 10:42 AM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

The only font you 100% must never, ever use is Comic Sans. Seriously.

See also: Papyrus.
posted by elizardbits at 10:48 AM on July 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

You might be searching google for "Fonts" instead the technical term for this is Typography. Typography in Design is a nice google search term for finding some inspiration. From that search I found this which has some really nice examples.

Using the right font/typography with some really simple elements like photos/colors and even simple lines or blocks can really produce some stunning effects.

Here's also 8 rules for effective typography
posted by bitdamaged at 10:58 AM on July 30, 2011

The only font you 100% must never, ever use is Comic Sans. Seriously.

See also: Papyrus.

Unless you're a vaguely Mediterranean restaurant in a college town and you're trying to look fancy, and then you're not allowed to use anything other than Papyrus. Seriously, I'm pretty sure it's a rule.

What these two fonts have in common, though, is that they're widely available, totally over-used, and extremely distinctive. Neither of them is a great font, but they're also fonts that announce themselves to anyone who is paying attention at all because they're so immediately recognizable as the standard "quirky" or "elegant" fonts. So stick with things that are a bit more understated and you should be in good shape.
posted by dizziest at 11:00 AM on July 30, 2011

Oh one other simple photoshop tip, search the web for Free Photoshop Shapes gets you some things like these which can be combined with nice typography to quickly churn out some good looking flyers and posters. Shapes and Brushes are great shortcuts for any weekend designer.
posted by bitdamaged at 11:10 AM on July 30, 2011

elizardbits: See also: Papyrus

I would say 99% never use on that. I would never, ever use it, okay? But there are some not-eyeball-bleeding examples here among the many, many examples of tragedy. I mean, I never picked up a bottle of Green Tea only to be compelled to throw it through the nearest window, whereas I literally will not enter a shop with Comic Sans signage.

trillian, in case you are of an age where you don't have the back story on this, some version of IE (yes, the browser) years ago shipped with a bunch of fonts that every school secretary in America immediately started using in Word for school signs and newsletters and it just spread from there. People actually set entire websites in Papyrus. It was horrific. These became even more widely embraced when every fucking version of Windows ever after shipped with each of those bastards in the font library.

Here is a list of the fonts you should never, ever use for anything ever. There are going to be tiny exceptions to these rules but you should not make any. Just uninstall them to avoid temptation. There will be other fonts people also say you should never use, but those are mostly debateable (for good or for evil) and these are the real Gong Show stars.

As long as you avoid these cardinal sins of typography, while you may not necessarily make great choices (or you might!) you will at least not be mocked by recipients of your flyers.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:16 AM on July 30, 2011

Beyond Comic Sans and probably Papyrus, don't let the font bullies scare you. Set up all the pertinent info in a word or notepad document. Good design is nice, but don't forget what time the event starts. Go to css zen garden or look at great posters that you love, and be inspired by the shapes and sizes of fonts, and ways to add your own graphics. Don't outright steal the exact design, but use it as a pattern for shape. Or decide on a color scheme that you love, or a truly awesome image. The web makes it so easy to find fantastic design to be inspired by and learn from.
search words to include: inspiring awesome poster graphic typography photoshop tutorial

Now you've made me spend a ton of time looking at awesome graphics when I should be working on the yard. But I enjoyed it.
posted by theora55 at 11:36 AM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are a lot of free fonts over at Smashing Magazine you can use in combination with the rest of the good advice in this thread.
posted by pyro979 at 12:26 PM on July 30, 2011

Pretty much what DarlingBri said. Avoid novelty fonts, i.e. anything "fun" or "fancy." If you absolutely must use them, don't use the ones that came pre-installed on your computer, because those are the ones everyone else is misusing.

If you do that, you'll do right by most people. Some type snobs will laugh at anything, so don't worry too much about appeasing them.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:48 PM on July 30, 2011

Read articles on ILoveTypography and discussions on a good typography forum such as typophile. Discussions are especially great because they tell you why a font is good or bad. It's like any sort of art review— you need to learn a bit of theory and read a lot of existing opinions before you can start discussing it intelligently yourself.

And most importantly, have fun!
posted by yaymukund at 12:53 PM on July 30, 2011

The Elements of Typographic Style is a great primer for learning all about fonts and page layout.
posted by Lanark at 2:39 PM on July 30, 2011

The only font you 100% must never, ever use is Comic Sans. Seriously.

See also: Papyrus.

I was excoriated once for using Arial on a poster -- probably another one that's good to avoid
posted by rottytooth at 5:40 PM on July 30, 2011

Arial is one of those fonts people are totally split about. Personally I think it's one of those fonts that type hipsters just get off spitting on because it isn't Helvetica. Whatever. It's very readable, it's well balanced, it can make a perfectly fine poster in the right design.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:44 PM on July 30, 2011

DarlingBri - Ironically, neither of the posters you mention use Arial. It's not only "hipsters" who spit on Arial, most professional type designers do as well — for good reason.
posted by Typographica at 8:17 AM on July 31, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, all -- this is very helpful.
posted by trillian at 7:10 PM on August 2, 2011

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