Online vs Print: What Font Designs Will Work Best for My Marketing Campaign?

When you are designing a marketing campaign, it is important to select the right type of font for use in the ads. You want the ads to be easy to read, but also to convey the right style and message to your target audience. These are things that your choice of font can enhance — or hurt. This holds true for online and print marketing campaigns: a font that works for print ads won't necessarily be as successful for online ads.

Readability Is The Most Important

This should go without saying, but the golden rule for picking a font is that your target audience MUST be able to read the words in your advertisement. However, this doesn't just mean you can pick any font that isn't obviously illegible and call it a day — you also want to make sure that the font is EASY to read, because it makes it less likely that the customer gives up and ignores the ad before completely digesting its message. Be extremely wary of highly stylized, flowing or cursive fonts.

When it comes to online vs print ads, you should pick a sans serif font for online ads and website designs and a serif font for print ads and materials. This is a rule because the serifs make it easier to read fonts on printed material. Online, pixelated fonts are actually more difficult. This is why you see so many tech companies, such as Microsoft, Panasonic, or PayPal, use clean and easy-to-use sans serif fonts such as Helvetica, Verdana, or Century Gothic for their main branding and logos. If you see a printed ad that is more heavy on text, especially smaller text, you will usually find the best print ads use serif fonts such as Garamond, Palatino Linotype, Bodoni, or even the classic Times New Roman.

However, this is a general rule with plenty of exceptions. If your print ads are not as heavy on text, if they only have big and bold sized text, and/or the print ads will use high quality paper and ink, we recommend considering sans serif fonts. Similarly, if your online ads have more text in a paragraph structure, rather than just short headlines or headings, serif fonts can still help for easier reading flow.

Your Font Choice Can Reflect Your Branding

The other important thing about your font choice is how it can subtly convey a message about who you are to the people who view your ads. In other words, you can establish some important branding points for your most desired audiences and demographics.

Think about some of the most successful branding efforts among the world's biggest companies, and then take a look at the fonts they use in their advertising. from their logos down to their brochures, you’ll see some consistencies. Crate & Barrel and Facebook all use simple, clean and sleek fonts — and simple, clean and sleek seem like the exact values they want to display to their customers, doesn't it? Crate & Barrel for the types of clean and sleek products they want to sell, and Facebook to convey that their technology and interface are simple and easy to use.

Meanwhile, companies such as Walt Disney, Home Depot, Olive Garden, and Monster Energy Drink all have more stylized fonts:

  • Walt Disney — flowing but legible, it evokes the idea of creativity and elegance that they are known for in their classic animated movies
  • Home Depot —styled to look like a stencil, it looks sturdy and is easily connected to the idea of construction and hardware
  • Monster Energy Drink — very bold, sharp and rigid that can evoke feelings of beasts and savagery

All three of those brands have fonts that evoke exactly the sorts of ideas and values they want people to visualize. Keeping readability in mind, because this is exactly what you want to consider if you use more stylized fonts in your ads. If you want to be bold and exciting, use font styles that are big, bold, and have stylizations that stand out. Or if you want something more elegant, formal and luxurious you can use something that is flowing and cursive. Whatever you choose, just remember that the font is still readable by your audience.

What font should I use?

We can help you find the right font for your marketing campaign.

Sarah Perry

With a passion for helping people learn, she is the lead writer of The Weekly Angle email that helps small businesses learn marketing hacks to excel their business. A lover of movies, tournament paintball, and design, you can often find Sarah either on the couch watching a new great flick or at a paintball field.