Okay, you DIY-ers, this one's for you. The fastest way to make a design look unprofessional is to mess up your typography. I'm here to help you avoid that.
In this post, I'll be going over basic typography terms, and some rules of thumb for typography use. This post is intended to be a starting post for those who don't know anything about typography.
Types of fonts
Serif fonts have serifs. Helpful, right? Serifs are the little feet on your letters. (Illustrated above.)
San means without, so san serif fonts are those that don't have little feet. The text in this post is all san serif.
Script font looks hand-drawn, often in a style that mimics cursive.
Leading is the space between lines of text. For example, there is more leading between "Basic Terms" and "Leading" than between "Leading" and the beginning of this paragraph.
Tracking is the overall space between letters. "Basic Terms" above has more tracking than "Tracking." Using a lot of tracking can make your typography light and airy: but refrain from using it for large bodies of text; it can make it difficult to read.
Kerning is the individual space between letters. Tracking is the uniform space between a group of letters, and kerning is the space between two specific letters. Well-designed fonts have nuanced kerning. Let's look at an example: AV - the two letters overlap each other's space so that there's not a huge gap between them - other letters in this same font don't overlap, depending on their shape, such as NM.
For Fun: Typeface vs. Font
Most people (including myself) use typeface and font interchangeably, but if you want to get technical, they are, in fact, two different things.
Typeface is the specific design of the letters.
Font is the computer program or cast metal pieces that allow you to use that particular typeface.
Typography Rules of Thumb
Art and design are subjective and take a certain level of intuition to do well, but that doesn't mean there aren't any basic rules for creating something beautiful.
Use 1-3 Typefaces
Using more than three typefaces will make your design look cluttered and unorganized - it's also incredibly difficult to make more than three fonts works together cohesively. When in doubt, simplify. You don't have to use three fonts - two or even one are often all you need.
Give Your Type Plenty of Room
Typography is pointless unless you're able to read it. For increased readability, make sure to give your text a lot of breathing room. Focus especially on your leading the space between paragraphs.
Font Families are Your Friend
This entire blog post only uses one typeface; however, that typeface has several different weights. A typeface with several different weights and styles is called a font family. Font families make it really easy to create variety in your copy, without fear of clashing fonts.
Like everything else when it comes to branding, if you want to be memorable, you have to be consistent. This includes your font usage. When creating your brand guidelines, pick one to three fonts or font families, and stick to them for increased impact in your branded materials.