Mixing too many different font families ruins a design

Photo of Gordon Ramsay Courtesy of Fox

When cooking, seasonings are used to enhance the flavor of foods. The right amount complements the dish, creating a final product that’s a treat to eat.

But mixing wildly different seasonings together, or using them in the wrong proportions, is a recipe for disaster. Can you imagine the string of expletives from “Hell’s Kitchen” host Gordon Ramsay if a contestant put cinnamon, chili powder and oregano in crème brûlée?

For designers, fonts are like seasonings. Using them well can spice up a design. But just like an overly seasoned dish, mixing too many different font families ruins a design and leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

Here’s our not-so-secret recipe for using fonts as subtle seasoning to make your designs even more delicious:

  • DO stick to just two font families (aka typefaces): one for body text (such as Garamond) and one for headlines and other display type. You can sprinkle in a third as an accent — but use it sparingly.
  • DO choose an un-fussy, easy-to-read font family for body type. Script fonts don’t qualify.
  • DON’T choose two display font families that fight each other as they scream for attention. If one font is a wild child, the other should be the quiet one.
  • DO create emphasis by mixing in various fonts in the same font family, such as Garamond italic, bold or condensed.
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