Should you follow your typographic taste or conventions?

One of the amazing subscribers to the Pimp my Type Newsletter sent in this question:

“What do you think is better: to follow your taste or stick to conventions? I love sans-serif more than serif, and because of that, I prefer reading a long body text set in sans-serif. But most articles on the internet are using serif type. What should I do?”

The short answer: Find out what are the specific conventions in the field of your project, and then what fits best to it. Your personal preferences will naturally shine through. If you can’t fight it, embrace it, you still have a lot of room in the details.

The long answer: Everybody develops a certain taste, which will naturally influence your type choice. This is neither good nor bad, as long as it fits your project and its goals. But what does this mean?

Checking out your project’s competition first, is always a wise move. This way you’ll get a feeling for the conventions. I’m not sure if most sites really use serif type for long reading text. What really counts are the sites that operate in the same space as your project. Depending on the goals of your project, it might make sense to fit into that typographic convention or to stand out:

  • Fitting in can be beneficial if it’s a quite new brand. This way it will appear more established. It also tells your project’s audience that it is part of something familiar. If you design a website for a hip coffee shop, and you use some retro type for your headings, it tells a story right away.
  • Standing out is the right thing to do if the competition is very big, or if your project is really different from the others.

But if you can’t help it, and you have to follow your personal preference, the divine is always in the details. A sans-serif could be very technical, like Futura, seem rather understated, like Helvetica, more restrained, like Arpona Sans, but it also super friendly, like Inria Sans. So there is plenty of room to navigate, and the same goes for serif, slab-serif and other categories.

Do you have a typographic question? Send it in, I might answer it on the blog or the YouTube Channel.

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  1. You haven’t left a lot of room to add Oliver. I would say, don’t follow the convention except for the convention in the environment of the brand for who you-re working. Do the proper research of a brand you are working for, and then balance these two – your preference with the market investigations. The answer is in the personality of that particular brand. Are they nobles to be presented with refined elegant lines of serifs or are they architecture buro for construction and the bolds are the foundations in San Serifs? What’s the brand’s character, translate it into the visual assets.

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