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November 30, 2021

Step-by-step guide to choosing great font pairs quick and easy

Step-by-step guide to choosing great font pairs quick and easy

How to choose the pair of fonts?

A first-page result recommends pairings no experienced designer would touch with a 10-foot pole. Google Fonts hilariously recommends you pair literally everything with Open Sans and Roboto 🙄

In the article, I’m going to cut through the crap and give you a step-by-step plan for creating beautiful, professional-quality font pairings.

Determine your brand (because brand drives typography)

A font pairing that works great on one site may look ridiculous on another.

pairing fonts brand comparison

The reason is because different sites and apps have different brands.

Simply put, your brand is just a list of adjectives (or short phrases) that describe what you want your users to think of you.

Some sites need a brand that’s “clean, simple, and modern”, others want to be “luxurious, modern, and classy”.

But whatever your brand is, being able to list specific adjectives and phrases will make the process of choosing fonts easier.

I’ve released a video on YouTube that goes over brand adjectives – how to find them, and how they influence a design.

But whatever your design is, take the time to think of a few adjectives or short phrases that describe them. Actually writing them out will make the rest of this process much easier.

Brainstorm fonts that subtly convey your brand

Two of the biggest beginner mistakes in choosing typefaces are:

  1. Choosing a font that doesn’t match your brand
  2. Choosing a font that matches your brand in an over-the-top way (i.e. a novelty font)

The key to picking good fonts is to find something that conveys your brand – but subtly.

I’m big on examples, so here’s one. Let’s say you’re designing a small site/app about Egyptian history. We want a brand that’s professional, clean, and informative, but about a topic that’s ancient, grand, and a bit mysterious. (Did you catch those? Those are our brand adjectives)

Here are 3 takes:

font comparison by brand in UI design

If you’ve piddled around with your computer’s font list, you may know there is a tragically popular font called Papyrus that, in some sense, feels perfect to finally be used in an actual honest-to-goodness Egypt-related site (versus some suburban Tae Kwan-Do school whose sensei dabbled in graphic design for 15 minutes too long…

The net effect is great – definitely quirky and creative, but the angular DIN, backed up by photography of complex systems (like nebulae and traffic flows), adds a technical vibe.

Add an additional font to fill out another aspect of the brand

In starting to define different styles for your fonts, you may notice that (a) you’re still not hitting some important part of your brand or (b) in your experimental usage of the fonts you’ve picked out, none of them can solve a typographical problem you have.

In that case, the answer is simple: repeat steps 4 (choose an accent font) and 5 (define your usage) as many times as needed.

And that’s all there is to it… sort of.

In all honesty, this is just the beginning. Even in the limited topic of pairing fonts, we still could talk more about…

  • What types of fonts give off different types of brand vibes
  • Strategies for pairing clean/simple/modern fonts that don’t have a strong brand
  • How the heavy-handedness of the brand affects what fonts you’ll pair

And that’s all covered in Learn UI Design, my video course with 24+ hours of content on designing beautiful, pro-quality user interfaces.

It’s a paid course, but if you’re looking for more free material, I suggest reading up on 6 ways to justify font decisions in your designs, how to style text in responsive websites, and my top font recommendations for beginning designers.

Any questions or comments on pairing fonts? Leave ‘em below! I’ll be responding to every question 😎

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