Visual Literacy: Fonts Part I of II

logic of font usage

Ha! Bet you didn’t know that fonts are part of visual literacy too right?

That’s because text has become a visual language in itself too. The use of fonts in our daily lives is of utmost importance, because where pictures cannot be used, fonts can be used to convey meaning between the lines.

This is not a simplistic blog post on whether Comic Sans is better than Times Roman.

Or whether Arial is better than Century Schoolbook.

I won’t go into deep technical details over serifs, leading, kerning and the like. You only learn those terms if you’re earning dough doing designs! And also because I’m a lazy dog, I’m not going to name any fonts from here.

Instead, this course in visual literacy is meant to educate readers on how to better appreciate and use visual elements. In other words, how to tell someone to use a better font if he can afford to.

Font 101 : The above use of the font is poor.

Why so?

– Firstly, recognise the usefulness of a font and how long a sentence it can possibly endure existing in. Such stylistic fonts are better used where there is very little text.

– The black and red color scheme look cool, but LEGIBILITY is key when using fonts. If you find it hard to read at first glance, it’s a poor use of fonts. I deliberately put the lines of text closer together to reduce legibility too.

– The use of fonts reflects the type of person you are. Or perhaps, just how emphatic you are when you create documents for your audiences. If you have no idea who your audience is, you’ll probably safer sticking to Arial or Times Roman.

Now see a better version way to use the font and how to maximise its impact:


Like visual elements, some fonts need more space to breathe, others don’t.

The trick is to first ask yourself, how pleasing is the font to my eyes?

et tu brutus

It’s pretty obvious which font most people will choose to read here. The deluge of fonts available today just spoils designers who have no basic foundation in legibility.


Don’t listen to people who tell you which fonts are best for your document. The most important thing is to print out your document, take a long hard look at it, and ask yourself if your font conveys your basic intentions.

Like all visual literacy lessons, learning to understand fonts is something that takes time, trial and error.

But here are some examples anyway.

suitable fonts

You might think all this is pretty common sense right?

But trust me, there are lots of disgraceful uses of fonts out there in public. Fonts ought to be respected for the role they play on paper or on the screen, and few people even realise that fonts are painstakingly created for specific purposes.

BTW, you can actually download some cool free fonts from but be careful not to abuse them ok?

Interestingly, according to some dude whom I largely agree with, here are five fonts you should never use.

Finally, a few more things for you to chew on – how colors, fonts, font sizes and placement affect the visual meaning of your text. Yes, please remember that text is not just text, but are visual elements too.


shut up


goodbye for now

4 Replies to “Visual Literacy: Fonts Part I of II”

  1. Nice one.

    I bloody hate that handwriting font, and comic sans. People who use comic sans in print design should be drawn and quartered. Even if it’s specifically a comic font you’re after, there are a bajillion attractive ones on dafont!

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