The startup web dev shop I work for is maturing and all the design/branding decisions that were thrown together early on are being reconsidered (logo, typeface, colors, ect...) for a big rebranding. One of the things I'm dealing with now is choosing a new typeface. Does anyone have tips on how to present this to the team for meaningful discussion?

In this day and age the options are so endless it is really tough to focus. I understand enough about typography to realize I'm not an expert by any means but in a company full of developers I'm the most experienced designer.

I understand a typeface with many weights is important and choosing the right character for the type of business ect... But even if we decided on a San Serif Humanist typeface the options are so vast. Going the route of popularity is an easy solution (i.e. Open Sans) but how do you present multiple examples to the team and create meaningful feedback and discussion without overwhelming them? Thank you in advance.

7 Answers 7


Limit their options. Lots of people like to think they are knowledgable in design, or typography, because 'anyone can judge whether something looks good or not, right?'—while they aren't. Don't let them do your work for you.

My advice would be to do your research and deliver three options (possibly four), and present those to them, nothing more. Do present each option in a separate slide before jumbling them all together in one for side-by-side comparison. As chris hampshire notes, present the typography in the way (and colours!) it will be used, not just a pangram or two in black and white.

It would help matters a lot if you'd have some options to present that are distinctly different. If you present, say, Akdeniz Grotesk, Frutiger, and Open Sans, lots of laymen likely won't see the difference. You can fine-tune decisions like those for yourself. That's why you're the designer and they aren't.

Don't forget that it's often wise to go for two typefaces in an identity: typically a sans or a classic serif for bodytext, and any type for header text and titles. Do present combinations of those two, but don't present more than four combinations at most. And don't let them do the mixing and matching for you.


how do you present multiple examples to the team

I agree with Vincent, but will be a bit more emphastic:

You don't

Your job is to present the best option and then back up that decision as you see fit. Avoid too many options if you can. One, maybe two is ideal.

  • I should have been clearer. By Multiple I meant three tops. But I'm a firm believer in the one option rule. The other part of my question that, I think, hasn't been covered is how do you make a choice given the vast amount of typefaces that are available to us now. It's an embarrassment of riches and I like working within constraints. I was finding myself overwhelmed with choices. Nov 18, 2014 at 19:54
  • @lustandfury well, it's like picking colors. There's an infinite amount of them, but at some point you just have to start making some decisions and see how they work out.
    – DA01
    Nov 18, 2014 at 19:58
  • That's my other problem ;) Nov 18, 2014 at 22:51

The different parts of a corporate identity program can't designed in isolation. They are like the variables, object classes and functions you build into a piece of code, or the parts of an engine: they have to work together as a whole. For that reason, context is everything. A color can appear quite different in different surroundings, as many famous examples demonstrate. A typeface that is elegant in one context might seem merely weak in another. And so on.

It's a rare client who has the visual education and experience to be able to look at a typeface, let's say, and get a clear mental picture of it in use as signage. In fact, it's the rare designer who can do that reliably across all the possible uses in an identity program. Designers, just like programmers, test, test and test again.

For both reasons, an identity presentation is always done using mockups that are as close to the real thing as time, budget and practicalities allow, because the client must see everything in context. If a new identity will appear on vehicles, storefronts and catalogs, it will be shown on photographs of vehicles and storefronts, and on mockups of catalogs, so that the proposed combination of logo, colors, type, white space and proportions are easily grasped. Often, there's a great deal of money involved far beyond the design fees, so getting it right is important.

Your needs aren't so elaborate, but the principle is the same.

There are many websites offering pre-made mockup templates, such as Pixeden. They have high-quality Photoshop images of monitors, stationery sets, brochures, etc., that you can drop your own designs into; or you can create your own if you have the time and the Photoshop skills. The effort is more than worthwhile.

If you look at mockups of all your elements in context, you'll find it much easier to narrow your choice of typefaces. You can also do a bit of research: find some other corporate identities that you feel carry the kind of message you want your company to send to your customers, that have the kind of "look" you're after. They're probably using the typeface you should be using, or one very much like it. (There is nothing wrong with using a design trend to your advantage. If something adds an "instant recognition" factor to your corporate identity, it may be better to use it rather than something that's unfamiliar to your audience.)

When you have two or three complete mockups, any of which you feel comfortable with, then present them together, each one as a package. It may be that elements from one variation end up in another, based on feedback you get. That's all part of the process.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that no part of the identity program is independent of the others. You have to design them together and present them together if you're to have a workable, truly useful end product.


I would start by saying keep an open mind. People don't tend to like change even if they have asked for it. I usually present typography in the way it's going to be used, for example if your company has a heavy typographic leaflet, create a new one and explain the benefits of such typeface. Don't just put the alphabet together and say here we go guys.

Show your process of which font you have chosen and how you got to it.. why..

  • Thanks for the reply. I'm not having an issue with buy in or convincing for that matter. I'm struggling with narrowing down the options even for myself and I guess the weight of the decision since it's company wide. I want to make the best, informed choice. But I think taking an existing piece and reworking it is sound advice. Nov 18, 2014 at 16:52
  • Sorry I must have miss read when you stated 'present'. Nov 18, 2014 at 17:01

Unless you are making a statement by the typeface you choose, you can do far worse then using Times New Roman for body with Helvetica for headlines.

No one will think they are a great choose, but they are everywhere and will not give your company a bad image.

So if the brand does not have a set of values that calls for a distinct choose of typeface, maybe not having a typeface that people notice is the best option.


what better way than to show in the browser? after all, that's where their going to be viewed. i'm a firm believer in building the browser, and this is just another tenet of it.
at the most basic level, you can simply take a page of content you have now and swap the fonts out. this will vary on the font(s) and your methods, but not by much and nothing too technical.
you could also go all out and build a style guide. i think this is more of the route when you already have them selected, because you are branding at that point. however if you want to go that route you'll be creating one regardless, creating two or three by swapping fonts is nothing to fret over.
check out mozilla's typography style guide:

  • And what if the type is also going to be used in printed materials? Or on tv screens, t-shirt prints, or anything else?
    – Vincent
    Nov 19, 2014 at 9:39
  • ah this is web only - i took the speak of devs and designers and thought of web...not an all around solution by any means
    – albert
    Nov 19, 2014 at 19:19
  • 1
    Thanks for the feedback and in fact I have been working at a building a living style guide. The rebranding is mostly web based but does extend to some printed material as well. I am using Brad Frost's patternlab.io boilerplate and it is actually a nice way to work. I 'm liking the idea of defining the smaller pieces and building the UI up from that. It's an interesting exercise at the very least. Nov 20, 2014 at 3:46

Forgive this answer as it doesn't directly address the question, but if you are truly this lost and this rebranding is important I would probably consider bringing in a local designer to at least consult with before you make any decisions. A few billable hours and they could at least give you some feedback and steer you in a good direction. No offense or anything but Open Sans is like a webfont which was designed for screen readability, not really to be decorative in itself. For a proper wordmark you are probably going to want to use a font which you can manipulate to a high degree in photoshop or something by playing with the kerning etc. I know it's tough when there's a seemingly endless amount of options. I would focus on the name of the brand and find typefaces that specifically look good for that name, many sites will let you put in some text and display a huge rendered list of options. Good luck!

  • As far as how to present it, create a fake letter and include it in the letterhead, show what it would look like stuck in a nav bar on an html page, and print it or project it really huge as if it were on some large promotional print material. Have 4 or 5 fairly unique options.
    – user24102
    Nov 19, 2014 at 16:58
  • I may have undersold my ability in being overly humble. I have years of experience in print, web and app design. I'm not feeling lost in that way. I may be a graphic designer and I may know more then the average bear about typography. But I am not a typographer or type designer. The question I had was really in regard to the changing landscape of digital typography and a desire to set a foundation for meaningful critique. Also the typeface is being used in web and digital applications so Open Sans was one obvious choice. It's not for the wordmark or meant to be decorative. Nov 20, 2014 at 4:30

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