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Plagued by Pick-a-Font Paralysis?

By Jessica Albon

Izzy at the lake
Does this look like the face of a dog who’s obsessing over font choice? (This photo of Izzy has nothing to do with today’s article, I just wanted to share it.)

Pamela can’t decide which font says “professional, efficient, and responsible” for her brand new newsletter nameplate design. Robert isn’t sure if his selected font is “rugged” enough for his new blog. And Joan struggles to find a font that’s retro and friendly but not an attention-hog.

Do these challenges sound familiar?

In the last month, about 50% of our WordPress design clients are launching new projects and they each want the “perfect” font to build an identity on. If you’re creating something new–a new service, a new blog, a new brand–you’re probably seeking the perfect font for your brand design, too.

As you browse font catalogs, you’re likely overwhelmed by all the choices. You want something unique, but not distractingly so. Something that says exactly what you want it to say to your target market, but not in a rude, pushy way. Something people will like, notice, and compliment you on, but not at the expense of your message.

Is it starting to feel impossible? Then it’s time to reframe the challenge and start using the right tools.

Step One: Pick Three Words

Start your font search by deciding on three words. (By the way, I go into much more detail with this exercise in Sales Page Play Dates where I teach you how to write your own sales copy.)

  1. Make a list of 20 characteristics/qualities you most want your business to have.
  2. Make a list of 20 characteristics, qualities, or interests that you have separate from your business.
  3. From the first list, narrow it down to your top two.
  4. From your second, choose the one that is *least* related to your business.

That’s your list of three words.

Step Two: Search With Those Words

Many font galleries let you search by keyword. Start your search by using the three words you selected above. (You might also want to use any synonyms you can think of to broaden your results.)

If that doesn’t turn up enough results, start browsing by category (most sites break fonts down into groups like “retro” or “handwriting”) and see which fonts catch your eye as suiting at least one of your three words.

Try sites like Fonts.com, or MyFonts.com. You might also try individual designers.

Step Three: Organize Your Favorites

Keep your favorites in one place on your computer so you can compare them. (Personally, I like to print my top choices.) Consider how well they align with your three words. Which seem to best fit what you’re looking for? Which seem more unexpected?

Which do you simply like for reasons you can’t quite put your finger on?

Step Four: Test Drive Your Top Three Choices

Once you’ve decided which you like, create your layout using those top choices. If you already have your text, use the actual text for your mockups, but if not, use the Lipsum Generator to create dummy text.

Viewing your favorite fonts with your text, is there a clear winner? Do none of them quite work for your business brand design? Are you still choosing between two options?

If you need to go back to the drawing board, return to your folder of favorites and try out a second set of three. If you can’t decide on one from your three choices, ask for votes from friends or colleagues.

Step Five: You Can Always Change Your Mind Later

Especially when you’re creating something new, it can feel like you must choose the right font, right away. That’s simply not the case. As you explore and splash around with this new project, it’s likely to change. And, after some big changes, you might find the font you originally selected isn’t the best fit anymore. This initial choice doesn’t have to be permanent.

By seeing it as a decision for now as opposed to being a decision *forever*, you’ll take some of the pressure off to make the perfect choice right away. Once you’ve gotten clear on what you’re looking for, done your research on what’s out there, and narrowed it down to the three best choices, it’s more important to decide and move forward than it is to decide perfectly. Business brand design evolves over time, and that’s exactly how it should be.

The next time you’re trying to pick the perfect font for a project, follow these five steps and watch what a difference they make, both during the decision-making process itself, and after the fact in how much more confident you feel about your selection.

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Comments

Clark Aug 2, 2009

Love the photo of izzy