5 Things Every Graphic Designer Should Know About Colors, Fonts, and Typography

As Internet usage rises, the need for graphic designers who know about color, font, and typography becomes paramount to making messages stand out to an ever-more distracted audience. Color choice, font style, and typography form the basis of effective design. Whether working professionally or making fliers for a lemonade stand, graphic designers should know these five things about color, font, and typography.

1. Colors Associations

Humans have strong associations with colors. In the comic book world, primary colors often denote heros. Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, and Spider-Man all use combinations of red, blue, and yellow, whereas villains, like the Joker and Green Goblin, often wear the secondary colors purple, green, and orange.

Many popular fast food chains sport red and yellow in their logos, such as McDonald’s, Burger King, and Hardee’s. They choose those colors because red stimulates appetite and yellow grabs attention. The color blue carries associations of calm, intellect, and communication, making it ideal for social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

Every graphic designer should have a good grasp of color associations.

2. The Importance of Readability

Blue is also easy to read, which may help explain its prevalence on the Internet. How well a design reads will impact how the audience feels. For instance, yellow on red might attract attention, but those colors together cause eye strain, which could make an audience uhappy.

Font styles impact readability, too. Serif fonts, those with strokes at the top and bottom of letters such as Times New Roman, cause words to flow together, a benefit for print designs with paragraphs. Conversely, on the Web, serif fonts jumble together, causing eye strain. Sans serif fonts, those without the extra strokes such as Arial or Helvetica, are easier to read.

Graphic designers should know how to choose colors and fonts for ideal readability!

3. Typography & Font Choice

While serif or sans serif may help a graphic designer choose their font, many other factors should be considered. Humans associate different font styles, like colors, with different traits. Big and bold may stand out; delicate strokes may strike the audience as feminine. Certain fonts, such as Papyrus and Comic Sans, are notorious for being overused, poor design choices, although they do have their place. Picking the right typography relies on knowing the audience and their associations.

4. Spacing & Kerning

If a design leaves a lot of blank space either on the page or between words or letters, it may look unbalanced or difficult to read. Spacing refers to the spaces between words and lines, while kerning is the space between letters. On some fonts, the kerning changes depending on the letters, with some letters snug together and others taking more space. This looks and reads better. Other fonts have a standard kerning between each letter, making reading more difficult, but word-to-line ratios more precise. Several programs, including basics like Word, allow designers to change the spacing and kerning.

5. Hierarchy

Knowing how to present information from most to least important makes a huge impact on how the audience will receive the message. Every designer should know how to prioritize their design. For example, the title of a book or movie is usually bigger, bolder, and more stylized than the author’s name. Designers break this rule when the author’s fame supersedes the title. For fliers or infographics, headers and subheaders break apart and put information in order. Returning to font, sans serif fonts cause readers to pause, making them better headers. Sticking to two fonts is preferable, even with several subheaders.

Graphic design encompasses many variables. A lot of it boils down to style, preferences, and the specific task. Intent is more valuable than following rules, though a good graphic designer knows the rules before breaking them. At the very least, knowing these five things about colors, fonts, and typography will help any graphic designer succeed.

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