March 3, 2021
NACA Graphic Designer
Think about how hard it can be to convey emotion or tone in a text. You often need an emoji to let someone know that you’re being sarcastic or making a joke. Printed (and screen) advertising has been dealing with that problem for years, and the solution is often found in font choices.
Fonts and typefaces really do have “voices.” The font you choose for your message speaks in its own distinct style. Written words and letters have character that comes across clearly (if subconsciously), and this should be considered when creating your marketing.
Even capitalization can be a voice. Think of how it looks when someone types in all caps, for example. IT LOOKS LIKE THEY’RE YELLING. In general, normal sentence case is perceived as “friendly.” All-lower-case text, while fine for texting among friends, can appear unprofessional or flippant. this doesn’t look serious lol.
When it comes to typefaces, they can project all sorts of moods and personalities. Think of the much-maligned Comic Sans and Papyrus, which have inspired websites and SNL sketches. And while it’s true that Papyrus is inappropriate for just about any modern use, it was used perfectly for the movie “Avatar” where it conveyed a mood of hand-made, anti-technological naturalism and rainforest idealism. Movie advertising, in fact, has to rely on typography more than ever to instantly hook viewers scrolling through tiny streaming thumbnails:
You can tell immediately what you’re getting from these examples without having to see the cast or read a synopsis. When you’re competing for attention spans, that instant subconscious understanding is critical.
When it came time to redesign the NACA logo, we took these ideas into consideration. Simply updating the colors to a more modern palette would not be enough. The font was very much a product of its time and in desperate need of a 21st century overhaul. We wanted NACA to convey professionalism, so we dropped the lower case. However, we didn’t want to appear old-fashioned or stodgy, so we went with a light sans serif typeface as opposed to a heavy, more traditional serif font.
So, consider what message you’re sending when you’re marketing an event. Is it a formal awards banquet or a casual late-night party? A fundraiser for a serious cause or a wing-eating contest? The right font will let your audience know instantly what you’re offering. Just don’t use Comic Sans.
Jason Jeffers has been the graphic designer at the National Association for Campus Activities since 2001. In addition to designing for NACA, he has produced work for hotels, schools, associations and theater productions, as well as occasionally drawing cartoons.
Related Professional Competency: Marketing & Branding