V2 Marketing Communications Blog

5 Things to Remember When Setting Copy

Written by Deb Strout on Wed, Feb 20, 2013

typesettingBeautiful fonts and creative typesetting contributes to good graphic design that enhances a brand. In a previous blog we discussed typeface mistakes to avoid. Here are five things to remember when setting copy:

1. Do not sacrifice legibility for creativity

The goal of your text is to be read. Don’t let your font, size, color, and contrast choices get in the way of that. Save some of that creativity for the art gallery.

2. Make your font match your message.

Font choices send non-verbal messages. Pay attention to what underlying message you’re sending. Subliminal man.

3. Just ’cuz you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Your newest application (Word, Indesign, Corel, Quark) can give you all sorts of options for fills, effects, shadows, reflections, shapes, and angles. Use restraint, please.

4. If you have a lot of text to read, help the reader read it.

Get out of the way of the reader and get simple when it comes to paragraphs of copy. Well-spaced subheads help break up large amounts of copy. No one wants walls of “gray” to read, but your eye should follow the message in a straight-forward manner. This is where a serif font can come in.

5. One to three fonts, please.

“Unity with variety” is one of the design rules. It will look more professional with fewer fonts and less like a Circus Poster (unless, of course, you’re designing a Circus Poster.) A good rule of thumb is to work with the following three font types.

Body copy:  Readable. Can be sans serif like Arial or Helvetica, but if you have many paragraphs of copy, use a serif font to help the eye move through the sentences. Go for Garamond, Times Roman, Goudy.

Emphasis: Use a font with visual weight for emphasis, such as headings.  A bold, simple font works well here.  The bold version of the body copy is an easy choice. You can also use a condensed version, if the headlines and subheads are wordy.
A more sophisticated approach is to use a font for your headlines that would be “opposite” of the body copy—so, if you have serif body, go for sans serif heads and visa versa.

Accent: The accent font is optional and should be used sparingly.  It might be a handwriting font used for special instructions, a playful font that fits in with the theme (such as a western font for a rodeo playbill), or something just designed to stand out. Here you can have a little fun, if you want. Caution, though: Use it sparingly and only for a few words. Please don’t break this rule.

Graphics professionals can get away with breaking any of these rules (just like some people can pull off stripes and paisley). But even though they can, they aren’t likely to.

At the end of the day, it’s not about the fonts—it’s about the project and the message. Fonts should support your message, not upstage it.

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Topics: graphic design, Advertising, typesetting

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