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Choosing web fonts to convey meaning

From: Typography for Web Designers

Video: Choosing web fonts to convey meaning

Web fonts are fonts that I linked from another source and load into your web pages. Web fonts are great, because they add variety to the fonts you have at your disposal. They can, however, add loading time to your web pages and even quality, well-designed web fonts are not always designed for the screen. Many started as fonts for print. So their spaces in and around the letters, as well as their strokes, may not result in legibility on the screen. Always look carefully at the quality and legibility of any font you're thinking of using.

Choosing web fonts to convey meaning

Web fonts are fonts that I linked from another source and load into your web pages. Web fonts are great, because they add variety to the fonts you have at your disposal. They can, however, add loading time to your web pages and even quality, well-designed web fonts are not always designed for the screen. Many started as fonts for print. So their spaces in and around the letters, as well as their strokes, may not result in legibility on the screen. Always look carefully at the quality and legibility of any font you're thinking of using.

Do not settle for a font that makes it harder to read the text. There are two kinds of web fonts. Fonts you put in a folder on your server and reference with the @font-face syntax, and fonts you access from someone else's server. In this lesson we're going to be looking at fonts we'd put in a folder and reference with the @font-face syntax. There are free web fonts and web fonts you'll have to pay for. I am going to show you the free options because they're immediately available. You can jump right in and learn how to use them.

However, I highly recommend setting aside a budget to purchase web fonts or access to web fonts. You'll not only get more variety of fonts; you'll get access to higher quality fonts that have been designed for the screen. That is, they'll retain legibility, good spacing, and will have all the styles and what you need. In the meantime, a great place to find free fonts you can link to with the @font-face syntax is fontsquirrel.com. Font Squirrel has a large selection of free fonts that are legal to use for font linking.

Legal use is an important aspect of choosing a web font to link to. Not every font permits web linking. Linking is not the same as embedding a font. Embedding means the font is embedded into a file, like text in an image or a font used in Flash. Web linking means the font is transferred to a browser to be part of a web page. So read the end-user license agreement for any font you purchase or download to use on a web site. If the font does not explicitly state that it allows font linking, you must assume it does not allow it.

There are plenty of good fonts designed for the web or that are approved for font linking. There is no reason to break an end-user license. Font Squirrel provides all the font files we need to link fonts with @font-face. Some fonts don't provide the files because they aren't approved for font linking. Keep an eye out for this icon right here. Most fonts have it. If you see it, it means you are allowed to use it on your site. For this exercise we're going to choose web fonts to create three meaningful versions of the words love and hate.

Since we eventually use the fonts to create meaning for a single word, we don't have to worry about them being legible at small sizes and paragraphs of text. We can go pretty crazy. So let's start with the obvious and look for a nice script font for the word love. Come over here and I'll choose script, and we are going to start with BlackJack. We are going to test it to see how it looks in our word. We can and click on the font, test drive it, and I can type in the word love.

If you're using it smaller, you can do it smaller or bigger. Gives you the sense of what the font looks like in that word. Then what I am going to do is take a screenshot of it and I would do this with multiple fonts to compare them. I always go back and save my screenshots so they have meaningful names. So for instance, I know this is the word love and I've set it in BlackJack. That way when I am comparing the files later, I don't have to remember exactly what font is what. It's in my title.

To the magic of editing, I've already tested a couple of fonts for us. I'll walk you through how I as a typographer would choose which fonts to use. I try to pay attention to spacing, shapes, and then meaning of the word. For example, not every script feels romantic. Some feel old or retro or quirky. If I'm going for cliche romanticism, then I would not to use a font that looks like it would be on a grocery store sign selling milk or something. So BlackJack was fine, but Lobster, which is a personal favorite, I think it's a little too heavy and stylized for this project.

Champagne doesn't work for the project either. I don't care for how the spaces between the letters look. It makes it feel sort of choppy. ChopinScript is great, very elegant. Brock doesn't feel elegant enough for this project. The dark filled in spots feel a little harsh for the word love. Ballpark is too heavy and stylized and Quigley is also too stylized. We might go in a completely different direction and consider something unexpected.

Using a font that conveys the opposite meaning of the word. This is not always appropriate, but sometimes a purposeful mismatch can be strong. It asks readers to reconsider the meaning of the word or headline. Here I've set hate in ChopinScript, one of the fonts I am considering for the word love. Or I could consider using a font with hard edges like Daela for the word love. I might also consider a Grunge font like Boycott. When working with display fonts, I always look carefully at the letters I need to use.

The really broken O in Gesso could work here, but might not work with a different word or for a different project. After considering quality, characters, and meaning, and also trying to create some cliche and some less cliche versions to the word, I've settled on these free fonts: BlackJack, Gesso and Daela. Web fonts offer us more variety, but as web designers we need to be careful about following end-user license agreements, and we need to carefully choose quality fonts that feel like they could work for the words or headlines we need to set.

The font I chose for this lesson wouldn't work in a page of text. They are meant to be used sparingly in a headline.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Typography for Web Designers
Typography for Web Designers

74 video lessons · 14331 viewers

Laura Franz
Author

 
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  1. 6m 18s
    1. Welcome
      1m 9s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 57s
    3. Things to consider before starting this course
      3m 12s
  2. 41m 3s
    1. Understanding how good typography promotes reading
      2m 9s
    2. Understanding legibility
      4m 41s
    3. Understanding how fonts convey meaning
      5m 19s
    4. Choosing web-safe fonts to convey meaning
      6m 13s
    5. Using font size, case, style, letter spacing, weight, and color to convey meaning
      6m 22s
    6. Choosing web fonts to convey meaning
      6m 23s
    7. Downloading web fonts
      4m 9s
    8. Applying web fonts in CSS with @font-face
      5m 47s
  3. 38m 0s
    1. Choosing a web-safe font for use in text
      4m 13s
    2. Applying the web-safe font to the text and the heading
      3m 4s
    3. Setting a class for the resource titles in the text
      3m 45s
    4. Choosing a second web-safe font for the heading
      2m 42s
    5. Applying the second font to the heading
      2m 16s
    6. Choosing a web font from the Google Font API for use in text
      5m 44s
    7. Adding and applying the Google Font API syntax
      4m 29s
    8. Choosing a second web font from the Google Font API for the heading
      2m 56s
    9. Adding and applying the second font to the heading
      4m 52s
    10. Analyzing the fonts on some professional sites
      3m 59s
  4. 55m 31s
    1. Understanding how we read
      4m 34s
    2. Finding and applying a good font size and line height
      4m 50s
    3. Finding and applying a good line length
      8m 6s
    4. Understanding ems
      6m 17s
    5. Using ems to set font size
      6m 9s
    6. Using ems to set line length
      3m 40s
    7. Understanding how color affects readability
      3m 58s
    8. Improving a color palette by improving contrast
      5m 39s
    9. Improving a color palette by reducing optical vibration
      4m 59s
    10. Analyzing text readability on the professional sites
      7m 19s
  5. 1h 11m
    1. Understanding how we "chunk" visual elements
      3m 59s
    2. Developing a system of hierarchy
      2m 17s
    3. Applying hierarchy in HTML and CSS
      7m 16s
    4. Developing a system to help chunk text for readers
      6m 1s
    5. Applying the system in the CSS
      4m 19s
    6. Changing an element by creating and applying a class
      5m 0s
    7. Using multiple columns to create hierarchy
      4m 12s
    8. Building a two-column system in HTML and CSS
      10m 56s
    9. Refining the horizontal space in a two-column layout
      6m 1s
    10. Adding rule lines to improve chunking
      5m 50s
    11. Adding emphasis within a heading
      4m 36s
    12. Analyzing the chunking on the professional sites
      11m 18s
  6. 17m 57s
    1. Understanding classic and modernist typographic pages
      7m 3s
    2. Understanding how to create rhythm and tension
      6m 0s
    3. Applying typography skills when making design decisions
      4m 54s
  7. 55m 47s
    1. Designing typographic links for the traditional page
      5m 54s
    2. Adding a list of links to the traditional page
      8m 44s
    3. Describing the link states in CSS
      6m 30s
    4. Returning links to their original "unvisited" style
      2m 38s
    5. Using different CSS for different kinds of links
      7m 28s
    6. Using CSS notation to organize syntax
      5m 34s
    7. Choosing a background color or image
      4m 0s
    8. Applying a repeating background image
      2m 58s
    9. Shaping the traditional page layout
      6m 38s
    10. Analyzing the traditional typographic elements on the professional sites
      5m 23s
  8. 43m 0s
    1. Designing typographic links for the modernist page
      6m 47s
    2. Making a list of links run across the page
      2m 14s
    3. Adding and removing space between the navigation links
      6m 50s
    4. Styling the inline links on the modernist page
      5m 33s
    5. Choosing a background color or image for the modernist bibliography
      4m 4s
    6. Applying a no-repeat background image
      4m 13s
    7. Shaping the modernist page layout
      6m 58s
    8. Analyzing the modernist typographic elements on the professional sites
      6m 21s
  9. 52m 53s
    1. Fixing quotation marks and apostrophes
      6m 59s
    2. Fixing dashes
      6m 33s
    3. Working with lining figures (numbers) and acronyms
      9m 28s
    4. Fixing characters that don't look right
      8m 19s
    5. Hanging punctuation
      2m 54s
    6. Applying typographic accents
      2m 36s
    7. Vertically centering text
      5m 18s
    8. Creating drop caps
      5m 59s
    9. Analyzing the typographic details on the professional sites
      4m 47s
  10. 3m 9s
    1. Additional resources
      3m 9s

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