This is the first in a series of posts about designing specifically for promotional products. Printing on a 3D object can be much different than printing on paper. Special consideration needs to be made for the type of printing and the surface the imprint is going on.
Fonts for Promotional Products
1. The first thing to consider when choosing a font for any application is the way it reflects your business. Your promotional product may be the method your prospective customer first learns of your business, and you want to give the proper impression. Professional businesses usually use more serious fonts, while informal businesses may have a use for whimsical fonts. There are 4 fonts that are widely used in design that already have a stigma attached to them:
When Comic Sans was created, the developer intended it to be used for comic strips. This font is generally considered to be an unprofessional font and is best for applications that are related to comics or children.
When you're looking for a feel of ink written with a quill pen on parchment, Papyrus may be the font you're looking for. This font also is a whimsical font that may not be suitable for a professional business.
Times is best used for body copy on your printed materials. Many designers avoid using this font in a logo in fear of making it "boring" due to its wide use.
Designers either love Helvetica for its versatility or hate it for its overuse and lack of interesting features. It works well as a font for sub-lines, such as phone numbers or websites.
Keep all font sizes above 7 point. Even on the best paper imprint, text smaller than 7 point is hard to read. Due to the different surfaces of promotional products, typically printing on them is not as precise. Often, small text "fills in", where the ink from one letter bleeds into the next. Sometimes, to keep with this rule on smaller items (such as pens), you'll have to simplify your information.
3. Serif vs. Sans Serif
(A serif font has decoration on the letters, where a sans serif font does not.)
Whether to use a serif or sans serif font usually depends on the feel you're looking for to coordinate with your brand. But, when the type size is reduced to fit on the item, serif fonts generally come out less crisp as sans serif fonts. The serifs can become weak or non-existent, or they can be over-accentuated, making the type hard to read.
4. Weight and character spacing
Bold fonts can be great for promotional products. Due to the imprecision of some imprint methods, making a font bold may increase its readability.
But, as the line thickness increases, the space between the letters decrease, making "fill in" more likely. Sometimes, it may be necessary to add more space between your characters to prevent them from running together.
If you're not sure if your design will work well on the promotional product you've chosen, I can take a look at your design and advise improvements as needed at no charge. Or, I'd be happy to set your information up with your provided vector logo based on the imprint area of the item you've chosen for a small fee. (Usually $25 for most designs.) Finally, if you need a logo or further design help, we offer full graphic design services at $50 per hour.