4 Tips on Typography in Ad Design

I work with ads all the time, and want to highlight an aspect of good ad design that is sometimes overlooked. Apart from the copy and the image, the type also dictates the personality, tone and overall effectiveness of the design. Here are a few simple tips to get started.

Selecting the Font

With literally thousands of fonts to choose from, how do you know which one is best?

The answer is simple (but of course, never easy). Experiment.

I never create an ad without sampling at least ten different font styles. Sampling fonts is as simple as highlighting the copy, scrolling though your fonts and choosing various options. This is an important step that should never be overlooked.

Ad Sample - Art in Headline

In this ad, I wanted a look that reflected the concept of art in the headline. I contrasted that with a more straight-forward font for the body copy.


Along with the perfect font, kerning separates a good design from a bad one and, for that matter, a good designer from a poor one. Kerning is the manipulation of the space between each letter as well as space between lines of copy. This is also referred to as leading.

Ad Sample - Unkerned Headline

The headline in this ad hasn’t been kerned.

Ad Sample - Kerned Headline

Here’s the same ad after kerning – looks much better and is easier to read, don’t you think?

When you type in your headline or copy, the computer does not kern the type. To the eye of a good designer, the spaces between the letters have to be kerned. The space between an “o” and an “e” is different from that of an “s” and “n.” The designer looks at the space between each letter and closes it up or opens it up one letter at a time. The more a designer focuses on kerning the faster and more efficient they become. Kerning doesn’t take a lot of time, but it can separate a professional design from an amateur one.

Keeping It Coherent

It is also important to keep in mind that type can be the binding factor between individual ads in a campaign. Using the same font, in the same color with the same special effects is one of the first signals to the viewer that an ad is part of a larger campaign when they have been exposed to more than one piece. The type is one of the elements that give the campaign individuality and coherence.

Getting Inspiration

Typography is an art, so remember to continually check out the work of other typographers and see what you can learn from them. For example, look at this site to see what a real artist can do with typography.

Have you got any tips you want to add?  What about examples of bad typography?

About Jim McCabe
Creative Campaign Manager at Affinity Express, Jim is constantly creating and collaborating—meeting with sales, dreaming up concepts and directing production. He also enjoys interfacing with other designers to get feedback and inspiration. Jim loves to paint and hopes to have a gallery showing one day.

6 Responses to 4 Tips on Typography in Ad Design

  1. Tim says:

    Thanks for sharing your tips on typography! I found them very helpful! Having worked together for almost five years and knowing what a great job you do, I’m glad to see you formalizing some of the elements to creating great advertising. I hope you post more tips!

    • Unmana Datta says:

      Glad Jim’s co-workers are reading! I personally think Jim makes some great points (but then I know next to nothing about typography or ad design). Yes, let’s get Jim to share more tips!

  2. Jonathan says:

    Great article and could agree more with leading (kerning).

    I was taught to really look at the headlines whether in print or online at the spacing of letters. I completely agree this is so overlooked so often even at major companies.

    Great article and keep up the tips and insights from the design industry.

  3. Pingback: 100th Blog Post « Affinity Express Blog

  4. Pingback: Happy World Graphic Design Day! « Affinity Express Blog

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