Fonts in Email … Am I Still Stuck With Arial and Times?
Start With the Status Quo: Web-Safe Fonts
You already know these. They're the play-it-safe fonts that come installed on your computer: Arial, Courier, Trebuchet and, of course, the infamous Times New Roman. These are Web-safe, cross-platform fonts and come as part of the operating system.
Email programs are happy to display these fonts found on your computer because Web-safe fonts exist on every computer. Using these fonts will always allow proper rendering of the text in your email. So that 24-pt headline in Arial Bold looks correct as your email application searches your computer for Arial Bold, finds it, then renders and displays the headline properly. It's that simple.
Using Web-safe fonts allows you to feel confident that your email will look as it was designed. But what if you want your headline to appear in a fun, or more playful, font to better convey your message? Or you simply need to use your corporate typeface, and it's not on the Web-safe list?
Can't my Creative Team Use any Font I Want and Simply Make It a Graphic?
Yes, designers do it all the time. They design a fancy headline in a font, convert it to a graphic, and place it in the email wherever it's needed. This makes for very dynamic designs, but causes a couple of potential problems for your email message:
- Images turned off: If the recipient of your email has images turned off, that pretty type treatment shows up as an "X" in the layout. What they see then depends on your designer giving the graphic proper "alt text." Alt Text is text assigned to the image that will display, in simple unformatted text, when images do not display.
- SPAM filters dislike images: Spam filters look for certain "spammy criteria" in your emails. One of the top, if not THE top criteria is low ratio of text to image area. If your email has too much area being used by images and not enough by live text (text you can cut and paste in an email) your email may be flagged as SPAM. That's why it's important to have as much of your email as "live text" as possible.
I'm not saying you can't convert your copy into well-designed type into images. You just need to be very conscious of how much of your email is image vs. live type. And, be aware that these days many people have images turned off in their email clients.
Can't I Use Web Fonts Like Google Fonts?
Web fonts are fonts hosted online by companies like TypeKit, Webtype, WebINK or Google Fonts that can be used to display text in your email. Designers use special coding that tells your email application where to find the fonts online instead of on the email recipient's computer. These fonts can then be displayed in your email message on any computer.
Patrick Fultz is the President/CCO of DM Creative Group, a creative marketing firm producing work across all media. He’s an art-side creative, marketing strategist, designer and lover of all things type. His credentials include a degree from Parsons School of Design with 15 years of teaching at his alma mater, over 40 industry creative awards, and he previously served as President of the John Caples International Awards. Always an innovator, Fultz was credited with creating the first 4-color variable data direct mail piece ever produced. He continues to look for innovative ways to tap the powerful synergy of direct mail, the web, digital and social media.