Are you overwhelmed by the sheer volume of fonts available? To try to get through the muddle, let's take at some of the tradition behind fonts.

Except for fonts provided with professional software or sold in professional collections, most fonts these days are fairly straightforward. Most have exactly 3 options: bold, italic, or bold-italic (I didn't count underlined as an informed reader like yourself knows that underlining your text, except occasionally in titles with all-caps, is a cardinal sin in the design world).

Traditionally, fonts were not adjusted for bold and italic, but were used as parts of a font "family," which included various versions of the font. A font family such as Garamond might include versions such as Garamond light, book, semi-bold, bold and ultra, often with condensed and italic versions of each specific version. In this instance, instead of bolding your font, italicizing it, you might instead choose "Garamond semi-bold italic."

The beauty of the traditional system is the flexibility that a designer has over typography. You can choose a variety of versions of a font for specific uses on a page, with the peace of mind that they will be in harmony (which is not the case if you choose fonts from different families to try to accomplish the same thing). If typography is a passion for you and you want this sort of flexibility, consider purchasing a cd or software package that includes professional fonts. Conversely, if you follow some simple rules you can accomplish most projects using the simple bold and italic options available with most current fonts.

The bottom line on font selection is that you want to strive to accomplish your project while using a minimum of different fonts. While the availability of thousands of fonts makes it tempting to use a lot of fonts, resist this urge as using more than two or three font families on the same page is the true mark of an amateur (except in the case of certain well-planned exceptions).

If you want your publication to be as readable as possible, consider following tradition and using a serif font for your body copy and a sans-serif font for your headlines. Again, resist the temptation to get too wild with your fonts (which hurts readability) and rely instead on images and color to provide energy in your projects. There are many valid exceptions to this, but if you study ads and marketing materials put together by top agencies for the world's most successful companies, you'll find that top professionals adhere quite faithfully to these rules.

We strive to be as accurate and current with our information as possible. Due to the infinite number of scenarios that occur in print & desktop publishing, we can not guarantee that the above information will be correct in all situations.