Put on Your Best Face: Designers Discuss Typefaces

With thousands of free fonts available from various sources scattered throughout the web, it’s easy for designers (and non-designers) to build their computer’s font libraries with hundreds and thousands of free fonts with just a few clicks. But is it really worth it to have access to this many?

First 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 clearly read, versatile, and have large families – to name a few.

Now I know what you are thinking – most quality faces are much too expensive to buy, especially to purchase frequently. Instead, try saving up once or twice a year to buy a beautifully crafted, versatile typeface and use it to it’s best advantage. You’d be surprised by how much a quality typeface can do for your work. Taking a few quality faces, perfecting them and understanding them will take you further in your career than a library of 10,000 fonts.

For fun, I asked my friends on Twitter, If you could purchase one quality typeface what would it be and why? Below are their responses.

@siahdesign: I’ve always wanted to purchase the Archer font family. It’s such a class and charming.

@NovaStyle: Mostly because I’ve been lusting after Requiem for awhile now, and if I were a font I would be this font!

@nikibrown: I would buy Archer – quirky, sophisticated and playful. Lots of weights as well.

@VM_DesigNut: Univers because it is modern, classy, simple, and goes with a lot of things. It also works for body copy when a sans serif is needed.

@anakahn: Sentinel by Hoefler & Frere-Jones – approachable and welcoming. Love it!

@doggdaze: Helvetica – I know people have their issues with that font but its such a nice clean straightforward font to me

@tomlewek: Mercury Text from Hoefler & Frere Jones. Because it’s rare that I find a serif font so beautiful with a great small caps.

@imaneesha: Zapfino – very professional, yet cursive with an edge.

@davidtrang: Avenir – it’s clean and looks great big or small.

@andymangold: Soho – it’s beautiful, unique, contemporary slab. Stands out in the slab pack with versatile character and personality.

@scottishsimon: Bliss Pro – the care and thought that went into it, and the history behind it. It’s classic and modern at the same time, with a nod to the legibility of roadsigns and The London Underground typography.

@enquiredesign: Fertigo Pro (free but well worth the inclusion) – it’s fresh and well designed. I particularly like the nice blend of modern precision and organic flow.

@iamkhayyam: Neutraface – The dexterity and punch. All across the board with lovely variations that can fit a myriad of identity and layout needs. However, Avenir is my stand by.. oh wait… and Trade Gothic. Those two are great, but if I could one pick one, again… it’s the House Industries Neutraface.

@tareqsamman: Friz Quadrata Regular – elegant, easy to read and most important… no one use it

@gariphic: Gotham – assertive, yet friendly. Clean, modern and easy on the eye.

@bluenabi: Champion Script Pro – I love the flow and the details of this font. I don’t even have the words to describe how much I love this font.

@cgdezign: Scout – nice, clean and legible.

@DanThink: Zurich – clean and well stacked. It makes an impact.

@LogoMotives: Theorem – Had I answered this question two days ago my response would have been Federal from LettError Type. However, I found a need for the font – actually for a pro bono project – and allowed myself permission to purchase it. Next on my list would be Theorem – from Umbrella Type and sold through Veer. Every once in a while I check out the type selections on Veer’s site and Theorem keeps jumping out at me. It would be a great identity type selection for retail, a restaurant or product packaging. The font would also be complemented by a wide variety of type – serif and sans serif – making it potentially very versatile in all the marketing/advertising collateral for a business.

Discussion and Comments

+ Add to the discussion
  1. Brian – Thanks for the inclusion in this very interesting post. It’s great to see the choices of others. – J.

  2. Anthony Smith says:

    I would love to have Simple by Norm and Router from vllg.com.
    I’m on a rounded san-serif kick lately, don’t know why.

  3. It’s really hard to pick just one – and for me, the types HAVE to fit the project; so … I’m just going to give a quick list (for anyone who’s looking to expand their library):

    First off, I’ll admit, I am biased – mainly because the fonts I design are actually created for my own use (and I’d buy any of them in a heartbeat):

    However, beyond that I love a well-drawn classic:

    A great Garamond is George Abrams’ Augereau:

    Sabon is another wonderful interpretation by Tschichold:

    I love a great Goudy revival and Truesdell is WONDERful:

    Neue Helvetica is great, but I’ve been eying making a jump to URW’s Nimbus Sans. Just for a change:

    More than 140 characters, yeah. Humans should not be limited to one type alone! (and Brian: thanks for the great type posts you’ve been doing)

  4. Rhian says:

    Adios Script http://www.sudtipos.com/fonts/123 very elegant, readable, feminine, and swooooshy!

  5. @gariphic says:

    Brian, interesting post, thanks for including me. I was amazed that each designer chose a different typfeface and relived to see no Papyrus mention.

  6. Jillian says:

    @davidtrang: Avenir – it’s clean and looks great big or small.

    Is another one I would definitely use!!! Though I still love Requiem! I use Avenir every chance I get! So crisp!

  7. Vonnie says:

    First off I have to say that I’m honored to be one of the designers in this article. Thanks so much Brian!

    I have to agree with the others who say it is really hard to pick just one. Every typeface has it’s place, purpose, and beauty in it’s own way. So it was kind of hard to pick.

    They way I chose only one is to think of what I love, always go back to, and would work for a good variety of uses in projects. Univers is one of those. I also love Adriane Frutigers typefaces, he has some good ones.

    As we all know the selection is vast, and there are many many awesome fonts out there. This was a hard question! lol

    I’m thoroughly enjoying seeing what others have chosen. There are some awesome ones on the list.

    Another typeface I would love to buy is Sabon Next. It has a lot of class, and would be lovely in body copy.

  8. Ella says:

    Altough it’s free, the font I love is Bimini – http://www.coolfonts.info/font-507-bimini.php
    I tend to use it too many times :))
    Thanks, I found some other great fonts while looking through those from your post

  9. scottishsimon says:

    Thanks for the inclusion Brian. It’s good to see so many different and intelligent views from talented people, and a good deal of further research is needed to check out some fonts that I’ve obviously overlooked!

  10. What a great list, these guys know what they’re talking about.

    Archer seems to be an up-and-coming typeface that even big, national businesses are starting to use (possibly to get that: “we’re human too” look).

    Has anyone else noticed the rising popularity of blended fun/elegant typefaces?

  11. David Trang says:

    Brian, thanks for including me on the list. +1 for Archer as well, seems to be all the rage recently…and I can certainly see why.

    @Jillian – I agree. I use Avenir any chance I get (even just for comps), and it never fails.

  12. Cool post – big fan of Avenir – I can’t stop using Myriad Pro for everything though!

  13. oliver says:

    If you are looking for free fonts, check http://www.fonts2u.com. Discovered it just few days ago. Their
    character map search is awesome! Saved some time when looking for specific character maps supported.

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: