What Makes a Quality Font

Since thousands of varied quality fonts readily available for download from free font sites, it’s important to be able to spot andunderstand the difference between a ‘professional quality’ font and those of ‘lower grade’ and less quality.

Take into account that I’m not stating that you should stop using “free” fonts all together, but rather become aware of how a professionally created fonts can positively effect your designs and how to distinguish one when you see it.

Consistency

‘Professional quality’ fonts have consistency between letterforms, which can create great a better sense of unity between characters. The relationship between glyphs help the letters ‘sit’ better together; improving its readability. Also attributes such as x-height, serifs, descenders, etc, should have a consistent relationship and not vary. The letterforms should appear as if they were made to work together rather than as single characters — they should flow.

Readability

A professional-grade font should also be able to be read clearly and consistently — especially at varied sizes. The consistency of the letterforms contribute to the readability when the characters are next to each other.

Font Families

While some type programs allow you to force bold, italicize or create small caps from any ol’ font, this is not the same as having a series of the same font with various sizes, weights and slants. A font should at the very least have a bold, oblique, and possibly a few weights. What’s the difference between oblique and italic?

Versatility

Many lower quality fonts don’t work necessarily as well with a wide range of other fonts. Lower grade fonts are usually less versatile because they lack planning when designed. You’d be amazed by the outcome of learning how to work with a few high quality font families as opposed to having thousands of poor quality fonts at your fingertips will make.

Ten Type Foundries you should know

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Discussion and Comments

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  1. David Link says:

    Nice post, homie. I think you forgot “Flavor”. There’s a certain element that goes along with a typeface. It’s called Flavor. It’s just got that special something.

  2. Totally rad article. I think these things also make a quality font:
    -Ligatures
    -Complete character sets, a font that knows the difference between ‘ and ’.
    -Good Kearning

    Probably missing something. Again, rad article.

  3. Brian says:

    Corey,
    Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the read. And yes, kerning was a great add-on. Sort of goes with consistency, but could also use its own category as well.

  4. david has a good point here… type has a very important role in designing so one should really know how to choose a professional type… once read a book 10 professional serif and sans-serif fonts, it really helped me alot

  5. Graham Smith says:

    Nicely written article Brian.

    Personally I try to use ‘non-free’ fonts for ‘most’ logo designs etc. Obviously depends on the client and the actual end use the logo will be used for.

    So this means having to be pretty resourceful when looking to buy new fonts. The Adobe, Monotype range of professional fonts are still extremely pricey for lone freelancers to be able to afford. Hence sites like T26 bridge that gap. I have purchased many fonts from T26 and similar and am very happy with the results.

    Graham

  6. Stephen says:

    I think you mean typeface, not font.

  7. very nice and very true. Some fonts are so similar that its hard to find the difference but that doesn’t mean they are all quality. Thanks for the post.

  8. I’d add ‘payment’ – most of the best fonts are commercial types, and you need to pay for these. I don’t mind as long as the price is reasonable.

  9. it’s important to be able to spot and understand the difference between a ‘professional quality’ font and those of ‘lower grade’ and less quality

  10. [...]      A website can never have enough Unicorns and Rainbows, get your fill here. 19/  What Makes A Quality Font? (thedesigncubicle.com)      Go there to find out. 20/  Eight Forms Of Social Networking [...]

  11. Tim Ngwena says:

    Getting the right look with fonts is key. Readability and consistency in the font are prerequisites to a good font. Great post Brian !

  12. Thorne says:

    Readability has to do with which words are used and how they’re arranged. Typesetting has no effect on it. Readability Legibility. They’re two very different critters.

  13. it’s hard to define what really makes quality font, since it’s determinant of skills, taste and need. however usability always takes important place. thanks :)

  14. I agree with your statements. Commercial fonts usually ensure that those technical matters have been taken care by their designers. On the other hand, on many occasions customers do some research and ask you to use some terrible free fonts that they found somewhere. Sometimes they understand why it’s a bad idea to use them, sometimes, they don’t.

  15. [...] Quality typefaces have been carefully crafted and strategically designed so why distort them by stretching, squashing, etc? Doing so without purpose, not only takes away from legibility but also eliminates the reasoning of why the typeface was designed the way it was. Typefaces are typically designed with a purpose. Whether its for headlines, body copy, or very small print, know your types intended purpose. [...]

  16. [...] off I am not stating that all “free” fonts are immediately poor quality, but a quality typeface is carefully crafted and articulated for a specific purpose and medium. Quality typefaces have consistency between letterforms, can be [...]

  17. logo designs says:

    Well i usually find free on’es but if the font is real worthy then i dont mind bying any goodo thing!

  18. Hey,,,
    Thanks for your great discussion about what makes a quality font. I agree this statement and confirm that i will tell someone guys about this….

    Thanks.

  19. These are some really useful tips to remember. Great post!!!!

  20. Thanks for the great post Brian. Those are important issues folks should consider when it comes to selecting type. Fonts are software. And so from my perspective as a type designer, a definition of quality should also include more technical issues like outline integrity, hinting, and naming (among other things). I will concede: the average user will have no way or means to evaluate those elements. Commercial fonts from most foundries (even small ones like mine) are tested for quality assurance. I’m not knocking free fonts at all–there are lots of great ones out there. Just choose wisely; since they are software, a poorly made font can cause problems.

  21. Jeff says:

    Great post Brian; there are a few good free fonts out there, but I agree that they can be hard to find amongst the piles of poorly designed ones. These tips can help people understand the difference (myself included).

  22. [...] of focusing this article on choosing a typeface or what makes a quality font, I thought it would be better to focus on something indirectly related, yet thought about, but [...]

  23. keinen says:

    wow, as a first year desgin student this has helped a lot in researching what to think about when designing my font.

    thanks =P

  24. Great post! Thanks for shearing usefully tips

  25. Great post Brian! I try to use non free fonts for logo design projects

  26. Awesome article you share thanks for the informative sharing

Brian Hoff
About Brian Hoff: Designer, Writer and Speaker

I’m a graphic designer living in Brooklyn, New York who loves creating compelling and useful websites and memorable interactions across the web. When I’m not designing I can be found writing, speaking and occasionally part-time teaching at colleges — all on the subject of design. I started this blog to share my passion and experiences with designers and clients. I'm most active on Twitter; say hello:


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