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With so many fonts out in the world ranging from scripts to grunge, it can be almost impossible to choose a “good” font if you don’t have design experience. So that is the question of the day, what makes a good font?

1. Legibility

Is the font legible is by far one of the biggest concerns anyone should have when choosing a font. If words cannot be read, the message is lost, and from there bad things can happen, clients can be lost.

It was just last night that I was watching a show on TV when a descriptive paragraph came on about what was going on in the show. The paragraph used a very grungy font which made it almost impossible to read, aka the legibility was horrible! Please note that legibility is different from readability. Readability deals with the organization of whole bodies of text.

It has often been debated on whether or not a serif font is more legible than a sans serif font. Many designers believe that the finishing points on a serif font help the brain to follow the forms of a letter better, therefore, the brain can quickly comprehend a letterform. We’ll save serifs vs. sans serifs for another blog post.

2. Kerning

Does that word sound like a foreign language? It’s simple, kerning refers to the space between letters. If too tight of a kerning has been applied to a word it can make a word appear to be very scrunched. When a word is too scrunched, the brain runs letters together because of improper spacing. On the other hand, if a word has too much kerning applied to it (this is sometimes done for subtitles in logos) it can cause a person to read the word slower because of improper flow. The brain will stop at those white spaces instead of seamlessly flowing along. A lot of fonts have kerning issues that require manually correcting.

3. Consistent Characteristics

A well-designed font will have characteristics that stay true to the entire font set. This means that the widths of the letters should be consistent to avoid some letters that are too wide and some that are too thin. This also applies to the height of the letters as well. Make sure to look at any ascenders (top half of a “t” or “f”) or descenders (tail of a “y”) and the height of all capital letters. The “x” heights (from baseline to horizontal middle of a letter).

What about decorative typefaces?

Good question! Decorative typefaces have their place and time. A decorative typeface should be used only on titles or subtitles and not for body copy, especially when the body copy is around 12pt. Think of display type as enhancing the intended message, not confusing the viewer by improper legibility. Plain and simple!

Michele Allen

With over 30 years of design and marketing experience, I founded Crux in 2005, a 360° Creative and Marketing Agency, catering to Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, and non-profits. Specializing in experiential spaces, museums, brand development, and digital marketing, I excel in crafting memorable experiences while emphasizing the significance of authentic brand communication. I offer expertise in Brand Development, Trade Show Exhibits, Museums, Corporate Spaces, Interactives & VR/AR, and Digital Marketing, committed to tailored support and guidance.