Sunday, October 16, 2011

Choosing fonts for your Etsy banner

Fonts. People get emotional over them and people get overwhelmed by them. There are so many to choose from, so where do you start? Here are a few questions to ask yourself before jumping into pages and pages of font browsing:

1. What kind of shop do I own?
2. Who is my target audience?
3. Will my Etsy banner have large or small text or both?

When trying to decide on a font for your shop, if you don't already have a logo for your "brand" just think in terms of how you want text to display on your Etsy banner. Your shop banner on Etsy is limited to 760 pixels (width) by 100 pixels (height) — that's really not a lot of space, but it is enough to get the job done.
It's ok to have more than one font in your banner (I'd recommend sticking to one or two only), but how do you know if they match or clash? Below are some basic design rules 
when trying to choose "font pairs".

Have two fonts that look alike? Most people either won't care about the difference between Helvetica and Arial or won't even notice if you use them right next to each other or one on top of the other. There is no point in using two separate items that do the same job unless you are intentionally trying to annoy a designer that gets picky about that kind of minor detail (in that case, don't sacrifice your Etsy banner for that and get mixed up in the font mumbo jumbo — you're there to sell your work!)
This rule also includes mixing two fonts that are similar but you can still tell the difference between them — don't, they'll clash. Sibling rivalry is no fun.

There's an easy way to avoid looking for more than one font. Use a typeface. People often mix-up the two terms, so here's some clarification: a typeface is a "family" of fonts, while a font is one set of letters, numbers, and other glyphs or characters (sometimes just referred to as one "weight" of a typeface). For example, Helvetica is a typeface; it may include three (or more) different weights such as Light, Regular, and Bold. However, if you say "Helvetica Bold", then you are referring to a font. When you want to have two different fonts in your Etsy banner — one for your shop name and another for a brief description underneath — it's easy to use two fonts from the same typeface. When you keep your fonts in the same family, it makes the design of your banner look clean and professional. And it makes life simpler.

Serifs are a little "brackets" or "feet" at the ends of the letters (e.g. Garamond is a serif font) and a sans-serif font is one without these little feet and hands (e.g. Helvetica or Gill Sans are sans-serif fonts). If you're going to be matchmaking these two types of fonts, go ahead and experiment.

Keep in mind that there are fonts that work well at bigger sizes, but not so well at smaller sizes. If you're planning on using a script or cursive font for your shop name, and you see that it looks great at a big display size on your banner, don't think that you'll get away with that elegance when writing a small shop description beneath your name in the same font. The readability decreases with size for some fonts, such as scripts or decorative fonts. In these cases, if you're planning on having a brief description in your banner, pair your script font with a serif or sans serif font.

Have questions? Looking forward to next Sunday's Design Tips and want to know or learn something specific? Comment!

Cheese & butter,
Mayene Design

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :


  1. This is very helpful, thanks so much. I always struggle with fonts.

  2. Great points! Thanks for these posts!

  3. This is a more elaborate and detailed article for those who wish to dive more into the subject of typography:

    These practices for combining fonts are a good thing to keep in mind for larger bodies of text as well (like in books, brochures, pamphlets) where you have paragraphs of copy and headers/headlines to go along.

  4. Thank you for a great post, Mayene! I'm definitely one of those who get "get emotional" about them. Some make me *swoon* and some shiver (I'm lookin' at you, Curlz!).

    Have you all seen this post on McSweeny's
    I'm Comic Sans, Asshole.
    So funny!


Comments, feedback, or suggestions? Let us know here: