How can you paint a picture using only letters, or stir emotions with a typewriter? It can be accomplished with words, or a series of characters displayed in a logical series. Often referred to as “typography,” the art or process of printing with type is a major part of the graphic design world. As the church communicates across multiple mediums including print, web, social media, phone, and the myriad new methods that are sure to develop in future days, a proper understanding of typography and fonts will be very helpful.

Let’s take a look at a few terms you may have heard of and define the differences between them:

Font VS Typeface

In the graphic design and typesetting world, their are differet “fonts” and there are also “font families” or “typefaces.” Basically a typeface is a collection of fonts that are unified in style. For example, one of the most common typefaces in use is called “Times New Roman.” However, within the Times New Roman family there are several variations or fonts associated with this typeface.


Serif VS Sans Serif

If you have spent any time searching for fonts to use in your projects, you’ve probably come across the terms “serif” and “sans serif.” The word serif officially means “a slight projection finishing off a stroke of a letter in certain typefaces.” In simple terms, it refers to the little “feet” or “embellishments” protruding from the legs of certain font characters. The fonts that have these embellishments are classified as serif, and those that do not have them are classified as “sans serif,” which literally means “without serifs.” For instance, Times New Roman is a serif typeface, while the popular Arial typeface is sans serif.


Script VS Decorative

In additions to serif and sans serif font families, there are two other styles known as “script” and “decorative.” Script fonts are typically derived from a calligraphic or handwritten style, often times using characters that are connected together with strokes. Decorative fonts include a wide variety of styles ranging from grunge to cartoonish and anywhere in between. Basically, any font that would not fall into the serif, sans serif, or script categories ends up being labeled as “decorative.”


Dos and Dont’s

Here are some practical guidelines to follow when working with fonts in your design projects:

  • DO use serif fonts for long paragraphs of text. Their construction makes it much easier for the eyes to follow and lessens the strain of the reader.
  • DO use proper size and font contrast for titling and body texts. Larger scripts and decoratives make great titles while smaller serifs and sans serifs make better subtitles and body text.
  • DO use effects sparingly. Just because you can add bevels and drop shadows to everything doesn’t mean you should. As a general rule, cleaner is better, so if in doubt … don’t!
  • DON’T use all caps with a script font. Script capitals are not built to flow together, and the text ends up looking confusing.
  • DON’T use a script or decorative font for paragraph or body text. It will diminish readability and could detract from your message.
  • DON’T use more than three different fonts in a design. There are exceptions to this rule, but as a general principle more than three fonts can start to introduce confusion and an amateur feel to your design.

ProChurch Power Tip

Google Fonts is a great place to find free open source fonts to use in your project. Not only are there hundreds to choose from, but Google also has a live inline editor where you can immediately see what your text will look like rendered in any given font. Check out this free tool at