Type Tip #2: Script Fonts

Formal script fonts, sometimes thought of as the divas of fonts, can convey a visual effect like none other, but they don’t take kindly to being “modified” like one might do with one of their sturdier sans-serifed cousins. Not all script fonts are formal — in fact, some can give a design an extremely casual look — but for elegance and charm, nothing beats a beautiful script font. But as I said, they can easily be misused by overeager designers. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Avoid all caps
Most scripts have decorative capital letters that are designed to be read with their less decorative lowercase letters. These caps are much too ornate to be easily read together so setting scripts in all caps should be avoided.

Don’t set on a curve
Scripts usually have a right-handed tilt, which, when set on a curve, is exaggerated as the word progresses around the curve. Symmetry is lost. Additionally, most scripts have connecting strokes that join each letter to the next and, if set on a curve, distort this connection and break the letters apart so they no longer read as a single word but as a series of floating letters with little tails. You can compensate for this by decreasing the tracking but a better design solution should be explored.

No tracking
Along the same line, you should not change the tracking or kerning of scripts with connecting strokes. This will break apart the carefully designed letterspace joiners and look like a series of floating letters with little tails. Very amateurish. With non-connecting scripts, proceed with care, keeping in mind that each letterform has been painstakingly designed to fit together visually.

Go easy on the swashes
Many formal scripts have alternate swash characters that are even more ornate than the original letters. Nothing beats a well-chosen swash for that special flourish but a little goes a long way. Less is more.

Let them shine
You picked a script for a reason… it’s a big personality and needs to be the star of the show without any competition. Don’t combine different script fonts, they’ll clash, and when choosing non-script fonts (serif or sans-serif) to accompany, choose something more neutral—you don’t want the divas pitching a fit and ruining your design.

Look professional and avoid committing type crimes by using script fonts properly. Remember, if it’s not good type, it’s not good design.

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