Typeface: a single style in a type family

What’s the difference between Typeface and Font?
Font actually refers to both typeface and font size. Historically speaking, since each size had to be manually re-drawn causing it to look slightly different at different sizes, it actually becomes a different font at a different font size. If you get confused, it’s safer to use the term ‘typeface’.

Within the type family, you usually have italic, bold, bold italic and regular.

How does one choose a typeface?

Consider the characteristics:
1) Serif/Sans Serif;
Serif & Sans Serif: used to aid reading, but now, with us getting used to reading both over time, the deciding factor becomes how we feel. Sans Serif feels cleaner, maybe more geometric. Serif feels a little more classic and old-fashioned and that serves well for certain purposes.

Serif: Old Style, Transitional, Modern, Egyptian
Sans Serif: Grotesque, Geometric, Humanist

2) Width;
3) Weight;
4) Darkness/Lightness;
5) Condensed-ness vs Extended-ness;

Consider Function & Feeling (or Denotative & Connotative) to derive the above. Another way to look at it is: Do you read FORM?

what do you Read and how do you feel? (Credit: Fundamentals of Graphic Design by Calarts)

what do you Read and how do you Feel? (Credit: Fundamentals of Graphic Design by Calarts)

Most of these tips are taken from ‘Fundamentals of Graphic Design‘ (Coursera). If you would like more details to improve your posters and banners, this free basic course is highly recommended.

With direct intent to help a fellow singer-songwriter/musician and student whose music direction and material are quite ready, these are my personal tips with reference to a few brand examples. I stress that the product, ie the music itself should be ready. It just isn’t very useful if you spent a lot of time on this stuff when you aren’t sure about the music that you make, or where you would like to focus on. In this case, I would suggest finding a vocal coach, or simply talk to anyone who has done similar work, is familiar with the industry, and is willing to give you honest advice on developing you as an artiste.

I find that considering the following factors help me decide on the typography (and images) to use:

– Era/Time
– Music/Genre
– Artiste style
– Purpose: Event, Poster, Merchandise
– Space (Poster sizes vs CD album size)

For example, singer-songwriter, folk/pop artist Taylor Swift’s latest 1989 album (screenshot from her website)

Taylor Swift's 1989 Album

Taylor Swift’s 1989 Album

Notice the font is generally Sans Serif with a usage of both italic and regular typeface. It looks simple, feels minimalistic, has a sort of boldness to it. But notice the strokes are thin and it’s probably in a light to ultra-light in terms of weight and width, softening its overall look. Coupled with the faded, yellowing of the image on a polaroid, it does bring you back to the 80s which essentially is the title of the album. Not quite in the 90s, and away from the Madonna/Cyndi Lauperish early 80s, thus making room for Taylor’s target market/audience.

The typeface communicates the context in terms of time, Taylor’s personality (in music and her stage persona) at once.

If you explore her site, and the various merchandise related to ‘1989’, you would see the minor to major differences in terms of picking the particular typeface even under the same theme depending on its ‘canvas’ size(s).

Finally but not least, notice that as an artiste, she has a consistent signature to her name ‘Taylor Swift’ throughout her albums. A singer-songwriter friend of mine once had a conversation with me. I mentioned to her that i liked how they gave her artiste persona more clarity with deciding on the font for her name as did for Taylor. She asked me how did i know? Apparently they had meetings over this. I guess if you have had to make any posters for yourself before, you’d have picked up a few tips and tricks to getting people to remember your own trademark. So yes, identify your music genre, your stage persona, your intent and determine a font that you feel could carry you through at least a good length of time. To change it would sort of be changing your brand. Try to recall when Kentucky Fried Chicken dropped its name to KFC and how to font choices when with it. Or how Pepsi or Coke changed its name and typefaces as well as logo over time. Those were major marketing strategy shifts which you don’t want to have to make unless you saw its necessity for the next decade or so.

Evolution of Coca-Cola's Logo Through History (credit: Bing images)

Evolution of Coca-Cola’s Logo Through History (credit: Bing images)

Another example i’d like to share is my ukulele/bass duo project Polkadot + Moonbeam. For the music that we play, in the style falling in the 50s, I would want to maintain its classic touch with a serif font. I do vary it from time to time but only italicising, dropping the weight or playing with the type-space. Largely, i stick with Garamond as its main signature for this classic acoustic duo.

Now, with all these tips and toys, have fun!


Juliet is a singer, songwriter, educator and also the ukulele-tinkling half of Polkadot + Moonbeam, acoustic duo with husband Didi Mudigdo in Perth, Australia.