Making the right font selection is like choosing the right outfit. Whether you do it consciously or casually, it says a lot about your style and taste. Just like your everyday outfit won’t work for every occasion, different fonts serve different purposes.

A bubbly font is perfect for a kid’s birthday party, but try using it in corporate collateral—you’d never be asked to design for that company again! In this article we’ll go through the rules of font selection to ensure you and your designs always look good.

handwritten font selection
A handwritten font blends easily with this light-hearted illustration by Shwin.

Every typeface has its own character and personality. Some are playful and casual while others are more conventional. It’s the designer’s responsibility to find the right fit for each project.

Poor font selection can interrupt communication, prevent mass appeal and ruin the purpose of the visual. Keep reading for some effective tips on how to make the right font selection for your next project.

1. What are you trying to say?

minimal font selection
A Scandinavian-inspired magazine template by designbybella balances white space and feminine typography for a clean, modern look.

Font selection varies greatly from project to project—and for good reason! A business presentation requires a very different typographic style than a bold promotion or an artsy magazine. Before you jump in, think about the intention of your design project. What is the message you’re trying to convey? And which font echoes a similar feeling?

Once you’ve settled on a particular style, it’s important to double-check legibility. Thin fonts don’t usually shrink down as well as thicker ones do. Cursive is often harder to read. It’s always a good idea to test out fonts in varying sizes to ensure your message is decipherable. If you have your heart set on a font with legibility issues, keep it at a larger scale (think: headers and titles) and add plenty of white space.

2. Establish a visual order

font selection helps establish visual hierarchy
This typographic illustration by Bramanto Setyaki is an excellent example of how to organize text-heavy content.

Creating visual hierarchy is imperative to design. Before starting, you’ll need to think about where you want viewers to look first. Segregate the essential information—such as offers, headlines and the company name— with large, bold fonts to give optimum importance to the most important textual elements.

Boldness, size and spacing determine how the eyes navigate through the design and which areas will attract the most attention. A great trick for font selection is to read about the fonts’ history. How fonts have been used in the past can help you determine where they can fit best (Fonts in Use is a great resource for this).

Dig deeper into visual hierarchy with the following articles:

3. Find fonts that complement each other

beer can font selection
Wise Man Brewing’s crowler cans use a variety of fonts that, when combined, give the label design an authentic, vintage personality. By Wooden Horse.

Using a number of fonts, regardless of copy length, can create confusion for viewers, directing their attention to too many places at once. Such a visual does not communicate it’s intended message and instead looks conflicted and cluttered.

Most of the projects benefit from a thoughtful assortment of fonts. If at all your project demands the usage of multiple fonts, make sure to make numerous alterations and combinations until the various fonts complement each other and render the desired rich and warm feel the visual intends to evoke.

If fonts are combined appropriately, they can bring about an aesthetic visual appeal. For example if you match a bold spaced font with a slender one, each of the font type brings it’s respective personalities to the table and retains their individual importance. As a result, the texts printed in both these fonts are clear, distinguishable and equally appealing when contrasted. Refrain from pairing fonts which are similar in their visual appeal.

Read more about font pairing in these articles:

4. Practice is key!

script logo
This logo by austinminded masterfully entwines letters together for a classical, cohesive look.

Like every skill, practice makes perfect. If you want to improve your typography without any professional training, you need to experiment with typefaces and font selection. Becoming an expert requires a whole lot of trial and error.

Since there’s no strict formula for which fonts go well together (minus some guiding principles), you’ll need to use your intuition and take some risks. The more you practice, the sharper your eye will become and your creativity is bound to swell far and wide.

What principles guide your font selection choices? Share your tips in the  comments.

This article was written by Lisa Smith. Lisa is a designer by profession and writer by choice. She writes for almost all topics (design and fashion are her favorites) and is a contributor to Design Trends. Apart from these, she also volunteers at few animal rescue centers.