Secrets to Artful Lettering | Part II

It’s all about style

When choosing fonts for a project begin by deciding what vibe you want to convey.  It's not enough to just pick a pretty font. Depending on the font(s) you choose you can evoke an emotional response, influence the nature of the message or, with the wrong choice, create a conflicting composition.

Organizing Your Fonts

Look through a range of fonts and decide what theme is conveyed.  How does it make you feel?  What is your instinctive reaction?  Make note of your immediate thoughts in response to each font.  You can then sort your fonts into categories.  Most will fit into more than one.  You can also do this for available fonts that catch your eye but you have not yet purchased.  Following are a few ideas to get you started but are, by no means, exhaustive lists.

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  • Formal
  • Casual
  • Contemporary
  • Traditional
  • Retro
  • Fun, Playful
  • Juvenile
  • Elegant
  • Western
  • Gothic
  • Spooky
  • Professional
  • Rugged
  • Romantic
  • Holiday
  • Vintage


  • Serif 
  • Sans Serif
  • Script
  • Block
  • Heavy
  • Light/Delicate
  • Decorative
  • Eroded
  • Hand Written

The results of this exercise can be a used as a reference when you are ready to create.  It can save considerable time scrolling through an endless listing of fonts trying to find just the right one.  Your reference can be as simple or as complex as desired.  It can be a simple list of fonts under each category, in chart form or a box of index cards with a sample of the font printed on the cards along with style notes.  No matter the format, I suggest sorting by theme/emotion since that is the most likely way you will want to access them. You can then further define them in subcategories based on style/appearance, if the volume is considerable.

Managing Your Font Library

I have over seven hundred fonts installed on my computer along with folders of fonts, not yet installed, bringing the total to well over a thousand fonts in my font library.  On a Mac the app used to install fonts is FontBook.  In the app you can sort the fonts, scroll through and view the full alphabet/characters and also turn fonts on and off.  When I purchase a bundle I select my favorites to install immediately and then move the folder to my external backup to free up space on my hard drive. 

Up Next...

Now that your fonts are classified and sorted it's time to get creative. Part three in this series on the secrets to artful lettering discusses how to select & combine fonts for maximum impact.