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While this is not an uncommon situation for legacy systems to deal with a motley mix of fonts, I have found a situation where dependencies on the different systems resulted in three different fonts to be used as they are the default fonts installed or supported by those systems. In terms of trying to keep a consistent branding/look & feel, how can this conflict in font style be resolved (if it can be resolved), as there will need to be some directions given in the branding guidelines and style guide for working with those different fonts.

Even though the fonts are not completely different, I am sure many will agree that each font has its specific design rationale and usage, so it is a dilemma from a visual style perspective.

My question is, has anyone had experience with working on a project where there are more than two different font families, and how is this conflict in design resolved in the style guide?

  • I'm not sure I see the issue. If you know about these fonts, set guidelines for their use as you would any other font. If you don't know what specific fonts will be used, set general typography guidelines. – Cai Apr 14 '16 at 8:20
  • @CAI I guess what I am trying to work out is if there are other strategies such as the use of colours, layout, etc. that can somehow make the discrepancy in font style less obvious, so as to provide a more consistent look & feel. Or does it accentuate the difference in font because everything else is consistent? – Michael Lai Apr 14 '16 at 22:32
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Most corporate style guides, if well considered, will employ two or more typefaces. If a skilled designer has been responsible for the production of the brand and accompanying style guide, the fonts should be, at the very least, complementary to one another. If well considered, there shouldn't be any conflict between the different typefaces.

It may be that the different typefaces were intended to be used for very different applications, and never meant to exist on the same line of text, in the same paragraph, or even on the same page. The style guide at my workplace includes three different typefaces, two of which we use regularly and a third which, in all my time working here, I've never seen in use. It's intended application is very specific – image captions – but these are not something we really use.

Over time, a set of typefaces with a strict set of usage guidelines easily becomes a bunch of mismatched fonts in a drop-down menu. The real skill in using different typefaces is in recognizing a font's strengths and weaknesses, and understanding that 'conflict' between two typefaces is not always a bad thing when used well.

  • As is often the case, this is not a situation where the corporate style guide (actually there isn't one) is well considered. One can argue how complementary Open Sans, Segoe UI and Myriad Pro might be, but in the end they are different fonts that meet at the cross-roads of an enterprise application so I dare say that they will meet quite often. So given that the font selection train has already left the station, what else can I do? – Michael Lai Apr 14 '16 at 6:25
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I prefer to work with two fonts and several different weights (at least regular, bold and extra-bold), but I think this might apply your situation as well.

If you have a large set of fonts, try to limit the sizes and weights.

What I mean is: If possible, create or define some principles behind your font choices. When do you use font 1, 2 or 3? if you have the rules, then it might be easier to explain them in a Styleguide. There has to be a logic behind them, hopefully. For example:

  • Font 1 can only be used in sizes 40px and more
  • Font 2 is reserved for small or long copy
  • Font 2 should never go below 14px
  • Font 3 is used only in combination with Font 1
  • Font 3 is only allowed in sizes 16, 24 and 48px
  • Font 2 can never be used in red
  • etc!

These can be defined in the SG or not.

I don't necessarily see a huge issue with brand consistency and three different font families, but it really depends on the original design and how those fonts were chosen, for what uses. If the design system is solid, your styleguide should do fine. But if it is not, and you have the possibility, limit the variations. Can't control the font, control the sizes, colors, spacings or uses.

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This situation is similar to app design, as most mobile apps use the system typeface.

Anyway, if you make everything else consistent you'll still be able to have a consistent looking brand. I would suggest a style that doesn't depend on typography. think about using a design that emphasizes color. Differences in typography are more noticeable with minimalist designs.

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Yes, you can use atleast 2 different font family to any corporate designs. I myself working as UX Designer, here they have a brand guidelines and have two font families, Helvetica Neue and Arial.

While creating some thing for emailer we user Helvetica for image texts and headings and for main content we use Arial.

  • The question specifically asked for a strategy when using more than two fonts. – PieBie Apr 14 '16 at 8:14

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