Posted on Sunday, January 14th, 2024
The typefaces you choose for a sign project have a huge impact on the effectiveness of the sign. The font first must be highly legible and able to be read quickly at the distance the sign is viewed from. Then it has to be appropriate for the task. Usually that means that it has to have an emotional connection to the message—clean and reserved for an accountant, trendy and feminine for a spa, bold and snappy for a sale banner.
Of course finding a font that expresses the character of the client’s business takes time, and not every job warrants that. Like most sign designers, Randy Howe [Getzum Exposure, Port Dover, Ontario, Canada] has a library of favorite fonts that cover most of the bases for everyday design projects.
“I’m always trying to find letter styles for projects that require a certain look for a logo,” says Randy. “For those projects, I want a font that fits the nature of the business or the message of the sign. If I only use a certain display typeface on that layout and never again, so be it. It’s done its job.
“Having said that, I do have my library of ‘go-to’ letter styles for layouts that are more generic. They are a fit when I need to knock out something quickly and there’s no budget for researching the perfect unique typeface. They may not be particularly decorative or ornamental but they are tasteful and super legible.”
Randy shared several of those hard-working fonts in “Font Favorites: Randy Howe” but there are more for you here: Turnpike, Hughes, Eastman, Saira, Workhorse, Franchise, Helvetica Neue Lt93 Black, American Captain. Take a look at how he uses each of them to serve a different purpose in these layouts.
Where does he find them? He often starts with CreativeMarket.com or sometimes DaFont.com. Other font sites that he visits include Font Diner, Font Squirrel, Sign DNA and A&S Fonts.
“There are a lot of typefaces out there that are similar yet slightly different,” says Randy, “and I use a lot of those. I get tired of seeing the exact same letter style too often, and I think viewers appreciate variety, too.
“A lot of the typefaces you see here have a nice traditional look. I like them because they remind me of the sign painter styles that I saw growing up. When I find a typeface that does that, I’m going to grab it. I don’t paint signs anymore, but I still prefer the look of a hand-painted sign over a digital sign.”
“I used American Captain, a condensed typeface that is bold and legible, on the examples above. It’s great when you have a big word or two that have to go into a relatively small space. It also has that older, traditional feel, which I like.”
“The E St. Pizza banner had a lot of text. I wanted to edit it but that wasn’t an option. I knew they wanted to emphasize delivery, though, so I used American Captain for the main message and worked everything else in around it.”
“I love Eastman. When I go looking for something big and bold, this often does the trick. It’s straightforward and clean. It works well for main or secondary copy.”
“Fenice is a serif face that comes in really handy for me. It’s easy to read and the bold weight is great for a headline.”
“Franchise is bold condensed typeface with angled ends on some of the strokes. That makes it just a little different.”
“Helvetica takes a lot of bashing but this version, Helvetica Neue 93 Black, is very versatile. Bold, extended, easy to read—it checks all the boxes. I use it a lot for secondary copy, often extended so it stretches out nicely. But I often use the bold versions for main copy, like I did on Norfolk Electric.”
“Hughes is kind of a fun, semi-formal/casual script hybrid that’s fairly bold and easy to read. It’s strong enough for primary copy and has a lot of energy.”
“Saira is a font family with several weights to choose from. It’s a straightforward style with a squared-off look. It’s great for secondary copy, but I also use it occasionally for bold primary text.”
“Turnpike has the feel of an old time sign painter’s letter style and that’s what attracted me to it. It works great for secondary copy, and I often stretch the spacing out often.
“Workhorse is another typeface inspired by hand-painted lettering. There’s a little flare to the corners of the strokes. I used it on these three examples for the secondary copy. The Hilltop Lodge sign uses three traditional-looking typefaces: Mr. Dafoe for the script, House-A-Rama Kingpin for the primary copy, and Workhorse for the rest.“