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Picking the Best Fonts for Your Business Brochures

Business brochures are designed for one of two purposes: attracting attention in a public venue or providing more information to interested parties. While many design rules apply to the effective construction of these versatile business materials, the selection of typeface is the most fundamental. Above all else, your brochure must be visually appealing and readable. Whether you are laying out your own brochure in-house with a desktop publishing program or collaborating with a design professional, there are some primary concepts of type selection and use with which you should be familiar.

Selecting Fonts

Selecting a typeface or font just because you've heard of it or because you use it routinely in your word processing program is not a good idea in brochure design. Before making your final selection, look at the same chunk of text (with an accompanying headline) in several different typefaces and combinations. Readability is the bottom line, but you also want typefaces that reflect the tone of the information you are trying to convey. Some highly legible types include:

Century Schoolbook
Century Expanded.

Times New Roman is common but not necessarily the best selection, especially for desktop publishing projects. When presented as "fake" bold or italic (normal type converted to the given effect by a word processing or desktop publishing program), Times New Roman becomes difficult to read, especially in body text.

Think About Type Families

Many people prefer to select a type "family" and to use its components for different brochure elements (body text, headlines, captions). A type "family" includes specifically executed variations of a single typeface. For instance, the Helvetica family includes:

Helvetica Oblique
Helvetica Bold
Helvetica Bold Oblique

Above all, keep your type selections simple and minimum. Choose something classic, straightforward and readable.

Good Rules to Follow in Selecting Type

There are some standard guidelines for type use in brochures that should influence your selection.

Body Text

Many people prefer to select a type "family" and to use its components for different brochure elements (body text, headlines, captions). A type "family" includes specifically executed variations of a single typeface. For instance, the Helvetica family includes:

set body text in 12 pt. type
a line of body text should never be shorter than the font size or longer than double the font size measured in picas (a range of 12 to 24 picas is 2 to 4 inches)
be sure to give the type adequate leading (line spacing), roughly 120-130% of the type size; 12 pt. text would be set on a leading of 14 to 15 pts.

Headline Text

set headlines in 14 pt. type
headlines should be under 10 words
using overly large type for headings is gaudy and can give the impression that you are "filling" space

Caption Text

set captions in a different typeface
vary the weight of captions rather than making them too small (for instance setting captions in italics rather than 8 pt. type)
next to the cover, captions are the most read portions of a brochure; they must be readable

General Text Guidelines

use graphical dingbats like bullets to break up the text
minimize the use of caps, italics, and bold
consider using color to vary appearance and call attention to specific items
be consistent (set all headlines in one typeface and style, all captions in one typeface and style, and so on)

Things Not to Do in Selecting Type

Most of the "do nots" of brochure typography have to do with actual typefaces.

don't use more than three typefaces in your brochure
avoid round typefaces with overly large x-heights (the size of the type from the baseline to the top of a lowercase x); these types create messy ascenders and descenders and make your lines look pushed together (examples would be ITC Garamond Light, ITC Avant Garde, or Century Gothic)
use a serif typeface but not one that is condensed; this makes the type look mashed together giving the brochure a heavy, illegible appearance
stay away from overly delicate "spidery" typefaces in particular: Goudy Old Style, New Baskerville, New Caledonia, Monotype Baskerville, Centaur, Adobe Garamond
avoid high contrast types like Bodoni or Didot; they require delicate adjustment of spacings not to look cluttered and messy
even though they are common, don't use Helvetica or Arial for brochure copy, at small sizes these types become awkward with letters and numbers blending together

Good Brochures Start with Good Type

In many ways selecting the right typeface for your business brochure is just as difficult as composing effective copy and choosing illustrations and graphics. Type can make or break a brochure. Above all, concentrate on readability and remember:

less is more, stick to three fonts or less for your brochure
don't overwhelm the small space with huge headlines that look like filler
be consistent in your use of typefaces and weights for headlines, body text, and captions
break up the text with bullet points
keep paragraphs short
use adequate leading (line spacing) to make your brochure attractive and legible
don't crowd elements on the page or push type together

Brochures are one of the most versatile of all marketing and promotional materials. Don't waste the document's potential to reach your target audience by off-handedly selecting any old typeface. It has been said that typefaces are the clothes worn by words. Make sure your words are dressed in their best.

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