For what it’s worth, I can sum up my typographic advice to most people and small organizations (such as churches) in two principles.
- Select one serif body-copy typeface family and one sans-serif headline face family for normal use. Stick with them. Choose something that’s not the most common packaged-with-your-OS typeface; if you can’t afford to buy a typeface, download Frantisek Storm’s Lido STF family. It’s free, and professional, and it’s distinguishable from Times Roman.
- Use other decorative typefaces sparingly, and use them deliberately to mean something visually — don’t just scatter them around ornamentally. Where you need to use several different typefaces, use type that harmonizes with the other typeface(s) in use.
For a while when I was a kid, I thought that the idea was to wear as many different colors at once as was possible. The more different typefaces you use at once, the more likely it is that you’ll look as absurd as I did.
That’s it. If you use type sparingly, consistently, carefully, deliberately, you will avoid many of the most painful design errors that amateur typographers commit.
Of course there are situations that defy these rules of thumb. Sometimes one wants a garish patchwork of type thrown together higgledy-piggledy, or an eye-searing contrast between one’s blackletter body copy and Art Deco headers. But really, how often? Never, if you’re putting together business correspondence or a church bulletin. Not often enough to worry about, unless you’re doing graphic design for a rock band or an avant garde arts center.