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This is where I share occasional musings on all things type, design, and business.
Hi, I’m Jen Wagner

Typography plays a crucial role in graphic design and can absolutely make or break the overall impact of your visuals. Properly pairing fonts is an art that every designer should master (and one of the questions I’m asked the most!). In this quick guide, we’ll explore the importance of font pairing and get you some valuable tips on how to do it effectively, so you can create visually stunning and harmonious designs that leave a lasting impression.

Why Proper Font Pairing Matters

Before we dive into “how,” it’s essential to understand the “why” (“why” informs “how”, after all!). Proper font pairing is critical for the following reasons:

  1. Enhanced Readability: Well-paired fonts improve readability, ensuring your message is clear and easily understood. You don’t want your readers to be distracted by the fonts – the content is the important part!
  2. Visual Hierarchy: Fonts help establish a visual hierarchy, guiding the viewer’s eye and emphasizing key information.
  3. Brand Consistency: Consistent font pairing is vital for maintaining a cohesive brand identity across various materials.
  4. Aesthetic Appeal: Effective font pairing elevates the overall aesthetics of your design, making it more attractive and engaging. Have you ever bounced off a page because you hated the font?? Just me?

Choosing the Right Font Pairing

  1. Contrast is Key: Start by selecting fonts with contrasting characteristics. Pairing a bold, sans-serif (like Neue Swiss) with a delicate, serif body font (like Ethic), for example, creates a visually appealing contrast that draws attention.
  2. Consider Font Families: Fonts within the same family often pair well together. Mixing weights and styles from a single typeface family can provide subtle contrast while maintaining cohesion (Editor’s Note is great for this!).
  3. Focus on Readability: Prioritize readability, especially for body text. Ensure that the chosen fonts are legible, even at different sizes and on various devices. Editor’s Note Text and Neue Swiss are my current favorites for body copy.
  4. Limit the Number of Fonts: Stick to two or three fonts per design to avoid overwhelming the viewer. Using too many fonts can create chaos rather than harmony.
  5. Test for Harmony: Experiment with different pairings. Create sample layouts to see how fonts interact before finalizing your choices.

Best Practices for Font Pairing

  1. Hierarchy with Scale: Use font size and weight to establish a hierarchy. Larger, bolder fonts for headings and smaller, lighter fonts for body text create clear distinctions.
  2. Complementary Styles: Pair fonts with complementary styles. For instance, a modern sans-serif font might pair well with a traditional serif font (like Essential Sans and Editor’s Note!).
  3. Color Consistency: Maintain color consistency. Ensure that font colors align with your overall design palette for a harmonious look.
  4. Alignment and Spacing: Pay attention to alignment and spacing. Properly align text elements, and adjust letter and line spacing for readability.
  5. Use Online Tools: Leverage font-pairing tools and websites that provide recommendations based on typeface characteristics (TypeWolf is an amazing resource for this!).

Properly pairing fonts is a fundamental skill for graphic designers that significantly influences the visual appeal and effectiveness of your designs. By considering contrast, readability, and complementary styles, and by adhering to best practices, you can create visually stunning and harmonious designs that resonate with your audience. Mastering font pairing is a key step towards becoming a skilled and impactful designer in the world of typography. Start experimenting and watch your design skills flourish!

And if you need a little extra help? Download my free font pairing guide here (I’ve also included 9 of my favorite pairings so you can get creating right away!)

Jen Wagner Co Font Pairing Guide

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In this 13-page PDF, you'll learn the basic principles I follow in my font pairings, plus discover 9 pre-made font combinations (both free and paid) you can start using today!

How to Pair Fonts

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