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What Bad Fonts Mean For Your Business

By | October 14, 2015

Your business has a message, and it’s a darn good one too. Does the font you use really matter? Yes, my friend, Yes it does. Remember, your prospective customers will visually register the font you use before they even decide to read the text.

There are two things every customer sees when they see anything written, regardless of the font choice.

1. They see everything they’ve ever seen written before in that font.

Script styles are memorable. For example, even though the image below says “The Hunger Games,” you’re still thinking “Harry Potter.” This is because the font used is an iconically Harry Potter font.

You can also see this effect with the Coca-Cola script. You can write just about anything in it, but you’ll still see Coca-Cola.

 

This is a powerful example of how a well chosen and consistently used font can enhance brand recognition beyond a company’s logo.

The Takeaway

Distinctive fonts can be awesome if chosen wisely and consistently used. One factor to keep in mind when choosing wisely is, “Where else has this font been used in the past, and am I okay with my business being associated with their image?”

2. They see your value proposition.

That may sound like an overstatement, but I promise you, it’s not.

Open Sans is a great example of a “clean” font. It’s a perfect fit if “clean” is a feeling you want to convey to your customers about your business. If the appeal of your company is its whimsical side, go with a font that could be described as “whimsical”! (Just please, please, not Comic Sans… unless your business deals in comic books, in which case, no. Still no.)

The font you choose represents you just as much as the words you write using the font. A restaurant menu written in Comic Sans says, “Don’t take my food seriously — I certainly don’t.” Write that same menu in Papyrus, and it must be Egyptian food prepared by someone who doesn’t have great taste (in typefaces, anyway). Whether they verbalize it or not, a customer does find a difficult-to-read font a negative mark against the service that business provides.

The Takeaway

Take a close look at your business’s values, and the answer to what you are looking for in a font will be right in front of you. Also, don’t use Papyrus or Comic Sans.

Then there are two things customers see specifically when a font choice misses the mark

 

1. They see a basic or system font, which translates roughly as, “This person is too lazy to make their information resonate with me, the customer.”

Of course they only see this if you font choice is basic, and we don’t mean it sips Pumpkin Spice Lattes while watching Friends. System fonts (fonts that come standard on most machines) like Times New Roman, Verdana, and Arial hearken back to the days of very limited web-safe fonts people could use. Many people still choose them because, well, they feel safe and are also widely available. And they are safe… but safe is also boring, expected, and easy to overlook. Ultimately you want your message to look like you put time and energy into it, and while using Arial for a “wet paint” or “printer broken” sign is fine, you don’t want your advertising to look quite as slapped together.

Even if it hasn’t completely turned them off, your choice (or lack thereof) puts the seed of thought in their minds that the appearance of your brand isn’t a priority for you. And if you don’t care about the appearance of your brand, what else don’t you care about?

The Takeaway

Don’t use that font that feels safe! Do your homework, and see what else is out there. If you must go with something that feels safe, we recommend Helvetica: it’s the only font we know of with it’s own documentary, after all.

 

2. They see a business that wasn’t willing to invest time, money, or effort in itself. Which means, your customer will be wondering, “Why should I invest my time, money, or effort in this business?”

It’s an ugly truth but a truth nonetheless: a poor quality font choice communicates to your customers that your business, its services, and its products are likely to be poor quality as well. When you use a readily available, overused, and/or just plain tacky font like Lucida Handwriting, Curlz MT, Papyrus, or Comic Sans, you’re saying, “Hey! I threw this together myself and have not put much thought into my business aesthetic (or my business in general) at all!” Which is not going to win over customers, no matter how great your product is.

The Takeaway

Think through your font choices, and make sure they are quality ones!

The above covered fonts that everyone complains about, but I wanted to include a little case study (psa, really) for less well known “bad fonts.” The goal here, really, is to make font choices be as considered and well researched as any other part of a business.

Lobster: The Rise and Fall of a Free Font

Lobster was a nice font, once. It technically still is a nice font: it has a lot of ligature options, and a lot of detail was put into the creation of it. However, once it became available on Google Fonts, it grew to large popular proportions, being called by some “the New Comic Sans.” It was intended to be a clean, vintage-feeling design, but its popularity has turned it into the go-to legible script font to make anything look good, even if it stylistically has no connection (see also: Wisdom Script.)  This is a common pattern with many good-quality free fonts: accessibility means inevitable market saturation. The non-designers among us don’t notice these patterns as quickly, probably because they’re not staring at Dribbble all day. We’re not knocking all free fonts, either: Lost Type has a bunch of great free typefaces, you can snag some good stuff on Creative Market in their weekly newsletter, etc. It pays to do a little digging to download free fonts that aren’t quite as easy to find, lest your design end up in the next Lobster graveyard.

(If you’re looking for a way for your business to stand out (and you were thinking of using Lobster), we suggest you try Oleo Script, Leckerli One, or Courgette. All are script-y and whimsical, without looking like someone used an online image editor to add some words.)

So what have we learned?

Having your logo or advertising in a terrible font will not, by itself, kill your business. There are plenty of other factors in play that can make or break a company. But if you want to see your business grow and last, quality design can go a very long way to make you stand out, look credible, and begin building a lasting impression in the minds of your customers. So take the time, do some research, and for the love of typography put away the bad fonts!

If reading this has made you realize that your brand could use some TLC (and possible Comic Sans-removal) contact us today to see how we can help!