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Picture the scene: You open a text document and type your business name. It’s dwarfed by the white background, so you bump up the size to 96. That’s more like it. You say the name out loud again to see how it sounds. It’s the best one from the page-long list scribbled in your notebook. Then you explore the font menu to see how it looks in different letter styles.
Before you know it, twenty minutes slip by and you’re even more indecisive than you were before.
So. Many. Options.
Is your business modern and minimal or traditional and elegant?
Here’s the thing, with thousands of styles to choose from, selecting the typographic style that will define your business for the next few years is quite a daunting challenge. This article will hopefully point you in the right direction.
So, what exactly is a font?
A font is a collection of letter cases and numbers, accents and symbols all produced to a common design. Any versions of the same design, like bold, regular or italic are called the ‘type family’.
The fonts you use on your business cards have two main jobs, to attract attention and to be easy to read.
So, with that in mind, read on to find out more about types of fonts, how to combine different styles and what size you should make the text on your business cards.
Types of fonts
What is a sans-serif font?
In typography, a sans-serif letterform doesn’t have the decorative lines called ‘serifs’ at the end of the strokes. Sans-serif fonts also tend to have less line width variation than serif fonts (more on those in a sec). On printed products, sans serifs work best for business names, headings or call-outs as they’re easy to read at a glance. They’re also a good choice if you want to convey simplicity, modernity or minimalism.
Sans-serif fonts are often used for digital display texts. On lower-resolution displays, fine details like serifs can disappear or appear too large depending on the font. So, consider this as you align your online and offline presence.
And just in case you were wondering, the term comes from the French word ‘sans’, meaning ‘without’ while ‘serif’ is thought to come from the Dutch word ‘schreef’ meaning ‘line’ or pen-stroke.
What is a serif font?
Serifs originated from the carved inscriptions found engraved on historic buildings, bridges and gravestones. This historic association makes serif letterforms ideal if you want to create a well-established and traditional look. Serif typefaces are the most commonly used typestyle in lengthy manuscripts, books, newspapers and most magazines. This is due to tradition, perceived readability and inferior paper quality in the past that made it optimal to print using serif letterforms.
However, the legibility debate is a contentious issue. One camp argues that legibility and the reading speed of long passages of text is improved as serif typefaces help the eye travel across a line. The other camp disputes this, proposing that the letterform style we’re most used to reading (serif text), is easiest to read.
Bear in mind that if you want to add a spot gloss to a serif font on your business card, it’s only advisable to add this to a large text field like your company name.
Where to use script fonts
Script fonts are typefaces that convey a human touch, like flowing cursive strokes and joined-up, handwritten-style calligraphy. Script fonts work great for invitations, greeting cards, headlines or very short, expressive texts with a personal message. Classic, flowing scripts achieve an elegant look, while rounded forms create a sense of fun. They can be effective for catching attention, but take care to ensure legibility, especially if you plan to use a script font for your signage. Don’t use script fonts for long sections of text as they’re difficult to read in smaller font sizes. Instead, opt for a serif or sans-serif letterform for the longer sections of text on your marketing materials.
Some handy tools for finding more information on fonts
WhatFont is a Google Chrome extension that identifies and tells you the name of a font on any website.
Fontsinuse shows you “type in the real world” and is a great resource for ideas on pairing fonts.
FontReach scans the top million sites to show font usage across the web. Great if you want to see who’s using your favourite fonts.
How to combine fonts on your business card
- Narrow your selection to two fonts for your business card
- Try pairing a script or serif font with a sans-serif
- Create a visual hierarchy by deciding which information should be most prominent, like your company name or your full name. Then work out which info can appear in a smaller size below.
- You don’t always have to rely on text size to achieve visual hierarchy. Try using bold treatments on prominent text and light treatments on less prominent text fields.
- Use no more than three font sizes on your business card. Two is ideal.
Create contrast between text and background on your design. You want every text field to stand out. If in doubt, black or dark grey text on a white or yellow background always stands out.
- Avoid pairing fonts that look similar. Try to create some contrast between your company name and the contact details field.
Business Card Font Sizes: Best practices
In typography, point size (pt) is the standard unit of measurement used for measuring letters in a design. For the prominent business card text fields like your company or full name, the font size can be anything between 10pt–16pt depending on how much space you have available. These sizes should show a differentiation between the primary text fields (most prominent) and the secondary ones (less prominent).
The size of your less-prominent text fields like job title, email, web address, street address and phone number is very important in terms of visibility and legibility. The minimum size you should use on our business cards is 8pt, but be aware that certain fonts can appear smaller than others even though both have the same point size. Be careful with script fonts and some serifs at low sizes. If you do have to include small print, use a sans serif font for optimal legibility.
Six font combinations to inspire your next business card
Remember that, above all, the text on your business cards needs to be easy to read. Once you find a font that’s easy to read at a glance, you can start experimenting with colour combinations to make sure your design stands out.