Fonts for digital signage is part of our How to Design for Digital Signage series that provides tips and ideas on how you can design better, more effective and beautiful screens.
#3: Fonts For Digital Signage
Some of your digital signage content will most likely contain text. Images might be more engaging, but it’s text that often allows us to understand complex ideas in a more precise manner.
In this post we’re going to focus on three main categories of fonts and how they apply to digital signage.
Serif fonts have small lines (sometimes also called “feet”) at the ends of each letter. They tend to be thought of as more classic, serious or traditional. Some common serif fonts include Times New Roman, Garamond and Baskerville.
Sans-serif fonts are – you guessed it – fonts that don’t have those extra lines at the ends of letters. Because of that, they’re generally thought to look cleaner and more modern. Common sans-serif fonts include Arial, Helvetica and Verdana.
SCRIPT (SOMETIMES ALSO KNOWN AS DECORATIVE)
Scripts are based on the fluid stroke created by handwriting. The cursive fonts you’ve seen before that have connecting letters (written in a flowing style) – those are script fonts! Script fonts carry with them more of a personal touch, but also vary in style; some may look like casual handwriting, while some look more like elegant calligraphy.
SERIF v.s. SANS-SERIF v.s. SCRIPT
There’s a reason why a lot of your printed books use serif fonts. Many feel that serif fonts make long paragraphs of running text in print easier to read and navigate.
This changes however when we make the shift to web or pixel based screens. There, sans-serif fonts dominate. The fine, delicate and small details of serifs don’t display as well on big screens (especially those with low resolutions) and can end up looking distorted, so designers tend to favour sans-serif fonts for digital signage and other digital displays. Sans serif fonts are easier to read, especially when you take into account that people may be viewing your screens from a distance.
For similar reasons, script fonts aren’t great for large bodies of text.
Instead, they’re great for headlines, or situations that call for a personal touch. Say, wedding invitations or holiday greetings.
When designing and using fonts for digital signage, you’ll also want to consider hierarchy. It indicates where a user should start reading and how to proceed. By changing up the font and size, you can easily highlight a piece of text as a main headline.
Examples of establishing a hierarchy and playing with different font pairings. Left – large serif font for the headline, small sans-serif font for the body text. Right – Two sans-serif fonts go well together, but the difference in size tells the viewer what to look at first.
Main things to remember when choosing fonts for digital signage
- Make it readable. Sans-serif is the safest way to go. Serif is for long paragraphs of text (which you should avoid on your digital signage in the first place!) or for short headlines. Script fonts are also ok if text is minimal.
- Use no more than 2 fonts. The more fonts you use, the busier and “noisier” your design can appear. This may affect readability.
- Establish a hierarchy. The text with the biggest font size should be the main message you want viewers to notice. This is often the headline. Less important text should be smaller in size. This shows viewers where to look and what’s important.
Struggling to find the perfect font pairing or want some new typefaces in your arsenal?
The following tools are a great resource: