You Don’t Really Strike Me as an Arial: Selecting Font and Color for Your Words

Font, Color, Size – these are not decisions that should be taken lightly if you are interested in the full spectrum of meaning, innuendo, and even subliminal messages of your words on your website or blog. First and foremost, however, if readers can’t see your words properly the message you are sending is not being received at all, so the over-riding principle of font, color, and size selection must always be readability. Beyond that primary goal, it’s a worthwhile exercise to analyze the psychological meanings we send based on the font, color, and size of our copy and think about styling our words with our intended message in mind.



My copywriter friend writes résumés for people on the side. Whenever we’re out she loves to watch people at the bar and determine what font their résumé should use. For Wall-Street-type women she goes for Didot and Wall Street guys Palatino with the headings in small caps. For the creatives it’s the suave Gil Sans, and computer geeks get Optima. For the purpose of her game she bases her choices on what she can tell by the look of the person, but she rarely meets her clients and sometimes never even speaks to them on the phone. In those cases she chooses the font based on the job the client wants to get.

For example, for a female client applying for both engineering and management jobs she went with Tahoma for the engineering res and the sophisticated Garamond for the other. For risk-takers she likes Verdana, but warns it takes up a lot of room so words must be chosen carefully and used sparingly. According to my friend only once has someone asked for a different font, so she feels strongly that there is an art to matching font with the message you’re sending potential employers or any other important reader. So do think twice before you send a project proposal in Chalkboard or Curlz.


Pity the black screen with the rainbow-colored words. It just about breaks my heart. Not only is it virtually unreadable, but you half-expect a pixelated unicorn to come prancing across the screen. The concept of colors on your website is not that different from furnishing your favorite room in your house. If you’d like it to feel warm, inviting, and cheerful try yellows, reds, and orangesóas if your reader will want to cozy up to your fireplace and read your lively website or blog for hours. Dark purple and blues can lend a depth and seriousness to the mood. Greens are fresh, invigorating. Straw and tans convey earthiness. A deep hot pink grabs attention. For the words themselves, black text on a white background makes for the easiest reading. The brighter colors can always frame the writing or can be striking in smaller pops of color in logos or other graphics. For colored backgrounds and fonts, make sure the font color contrasts with the background color or the message you send is dazed and confused.


Lots and lots of tiny print sends the message that you’re a crazy caffeinated blogger who has no filter on his thoughts and is trying to cram as much information and paranoid rants as possible in the available space. Or the message that this is a technical manual of some sort rather than information with a friendly and entertaining sensibility. Keep your words large and un-crowded enough to read clearly. If you have lots and lots of information to make room for, then take the opportunity to revise your copy until you can get your information down to more concise and reader-friendly nuggets. Leave enough white space on your page so readers can scan for main points. An engaged reader is best, but even a light scan is better than a quick click away from the page because of uninviting tiny crowded text.

Your aim is to present your message in a way that attracts the right reader for your site or blog. People spend a lot of time online, and they have a lot of choices. Font, color, and size can go a long way in creating the sort of online presence that is an attractive haven for your “type” of reader, whether she be Wall Street, fashionista, or computer geek. So think about what your message is, and style your words accordingly.

Bill Post is a Small Business Research Analyst and has been providing research on issues of concern to small businesses for Business Card Design for three years. A former business owner prior to his involvement with 123Print Custom Business Cards, Bill spent several years after receiving his degree in the fast-paced corporate world before going out on his own to provide marketing and branding services to other small businesses in the Washington, DC metro area. In his work for 123Print Business Cards Online, Bill works to help small businesses get ahead and assist the little guy to prosper.


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