You’re looking at one right now.
What a font is, precisely, has varied in meaning over time. In letterpress printing using metal type, a “font” was a complete set of characters in a specific size and style of typeface (a set of characters that share a common design structure). So for a typesetter working with metal type, a typeface would be Times New Roman, a font family within it would be Times New Roman demi-bold, and a font within that would be 12-point Times New Roman demi-bold. Since the advent of digital media, the term “font” has largely taken over, particularly since outline fonts cannote be scaled to any size. Many experts still insist that what most people call a "font" is technically a "typeface".
Modern computer fonts are stored in font description files, which contain the information for rendering the font on the screen (or on a printed page). There are several formats for font description files, with Bitmap, TrueType, OpenType, and PostScript being the most widely used (with TrueDoc, Embedded OpenType, Web Open Font Format and SVGT being variants that can be embedded in web pages). Bitmap fonts have glyphs as bitmaps at different point sizes. Most of these have only one bit to tell the system if a specified pixel is used by the character or not. Most systems will allow you to use bitmap fonts at point sizes other than what the font has, but results aren't pretty. PostScript fonts are the first vector-based font, used by printers that supported the PostScript language. The first iterations of Windows and macOS couldn't actually show them on screen, so a bitmap version of the font was still needed. Adobe Type Manager, available for macOS and Windows, would let you see the fonts and even anti-alias them, but current versions of Windows and macOS do this by themselves. TrueType was made by Apple to compete with PostScript, with Apple granting a royalty-free license to Microsoft to further help TrueType compete with PostScript, and a bitmap font is not needed. (Microsoft and Adobe eventually made the similar OpenType format as a replacement for TrueType.) It also uses a different way of doing curves than PostScript.
Points and Picas and Ems, oh my!
The basic unit of type is the point, which defines the height of a given glyph's bounding box (not the letter itself — a holdover from the days of metal type). The size of a point once varied by country, but the Linotype and Monotype machines helped spread the use of Anglo-American printers' points, which were a hair smaller than 1/72 inch, and modern desktop publishing software now defines a point as exactly 1/72 inch, simplifying the math considerablynote . Depending on the relative height of the lowercase and capitals, the length of the extenders, and the amount of whitespace at the top and bottom of the bounding box, different fonts can appear different sizes at the same point size, so it's not a reliable indicator for apparent size; you'll have to trust your eyes for that.
A related term to the point is the pica, which is defined as 12 points, or ⅙ inch. While not relevant to consumer-grade apps like Microsoft Word, it's used in the publishing industry to define the physical size of the paper, the text block, etc., and so is a standard unit of measurement in professional typesetting software like Adobe InDesign. Dimensions will usually be spelled out in a combination of picas and points, written in the format "XpY" — e.g., a text column with a width of 16p6 is 16 picas and 6 points, or 2¾ inches.
Also pertinent is the em, which is a measure of width equivalent to the height of the bounding box at the specified point size. So, for example, 1 em at 12 pt size has a width of 12 points (1 pica or ⅙ inch), an em at 18 pt has a width of 18 points (1p6 or ¼ inch), and so on. As such, it's useful for specifying dynamic measurements linked to text size, as on websites designed for multiple devices and screen sizes. It's also good for determining the proper indent for a block of text, with 1–3 em being standard.note
Finally, due to quirks in how text is interpreted in web browsers, the most reliable method for getting a specific size of text when designing a website is the pixel unit, or "px" for short. While pixel density has increased exponentially over the decades, a decision by Microsoft eons ago (back in The '90s) to make the assumption of 96 pixels per inch (as opposed to Apple's usual assumption of 72 ppi) means that the px measurement can reliably be used to generate type in units of 1/96 of (what the viewport assumes as equivalent to) an inch, making it useful across platforms and devices. By this assumption, a font on the web set at a given number of pixels is generally the same as the same type displayed in a word processor at ¾ that numerical size in points. So 16 px on the web is generally the same as 12 pt type in a word processor, and so on. Or in more detail...
The space between: Leading, Letterspacing, and Kerning
Type isn't just made up of the letters themselves, but the space that exists between them, between words, and between lines of text. Despite being "invisible" to most readers, they define the overall "feel" of a font just as much as (if not more than) the black parts, and designers agonize over the perfect spacing, down to thousandths of an em. An algorithm now exists to help take some the pain out of this part of font creation, but plenty of designers, whether out of pride, stubbornness or cheapness, insist on doing things the old-fashioned way.
Leading (rhymes with "heading")note refers to the space between two lines in a block of text. Generally speaking, shorter lines need less space between them, while longer lines need more. Having no leading (a.k.a. being "set solid" or single-spacing) means that the lines of text are the same height as the point-size, leaving nothing in between, but unless the lines are very short or the type appears small in general, this is often undesirable.note Leading is usually indicated by the total distance between the top of the bounding box on one line to the top of the next; so "12 on 14" or "12/14" refers to 12-point type with two extra points of line-space, taking up the equivalent vertical space of 14-point type from the top of one line to the next.note With digital type, it is also possible to have "negative" leading (i.e., lines being closer together than their vertical height would normally allow); this can look good in display type and advertising, but you have to be careful that the letters on adjacent lines don't appear to collide, and it's never a good idea for body text.
Letterspacing (defined by the font's metrics, or built-in space parameters set by the designer) determines how far apart any given letter is from its neighbors. It has default values that are attuned to the font's intended size or use, although it can be adjusted through the judicious use of tracking, which increases or decreases the overall spacing between letters in a text. Tight spacing usually benefits large typesnote , but it has a subjective feeling ("fast talking like in advertising") whereas wider spacing increases legibility of small fonts, and creates an association of a more “objective voice”. Used in excess, tracking can make the text look affected.
Kerning, on the other hand, is a special spacing-value between specific pairs of characters in order to correct visually uneven spacing. It adds or subtracts space between just those characters when they appear in sequence, so it doesn't produce a distracting gap (or worse, a collision between letters, which end up overlapping). There can be tens, to hundreds, to thousands of kerning pairs in a given font, depending on the number of glyphs overall and the designer's level of motivation. If kerning fails to resolve an issue satisfactorily, the designer may need to create a ligature (a single glyph of multiple letters together) to get around it; combinations of lowercase "f" and a following letter are common due to its prominent overhang.
The Cutting Edge: OpenType Alternates, Web Fonts, Variable Fonts, Responsive Typography
Digital typography, long encumbered by hard limitations of encoding, screen rendering, and web display, is now reaching a state of relative maturity. Unicode and OpenType have pointed the way toward standardization of character sets and font formats, and CSS on the web at last liberating designers from their reliance on Microsoft’s now quarter-century-old “fonts for the web” package. But that doesn’t mean type designers and developers are standing still.
OpenType Alternates are different versions of particular glyphs that can be substituted in manually or automatically through code. At their most basic level, they can be used to provide common ligatures (fi, fl, etc.) as well as localized forms (such as getting ß for “ss” where appropriate in German), but type designers have also exploited them to allow for different number stylesnote , exuberant swash forms, and even complex joined or interlocking forms for cursive and display fonts.
Web fonts (implemented through CSS), which hit their stride early in The New '10s, allow web designers to specify fonts other than those on the end-user’s device, for display on web pages. This may seem trivial today, but for those who suffered through 20-odd years of Times, Georgia, Verdana and Arial, it was a major sea-change. As a consequence, plenty of new fonts aimed squarely at web display have come to the market, and font-hosting services such as Google Web Fonts and Adobe Fonts (formerly Adobe TypeKit) have carved out a space for themselves. And the possibilities are still growing.
A further outgrowth of OpenType, introduced in 2016, is Variable Fonts. What this means, at its most basic level, is that the user is allowed to control certain parameters set by the type designer (weight and width being the two most common) to an exact degree, all within a single font file. This means that the user (in programs that support the technology, as it’s still relatively new) can easily achieve a custom setting (in between, say, “regular” and “bold”) to achieve just the right look to their layout. As a bonus for web typography, the single file allowing multiple styles means that it’s a lot smaller (and so a lot less of a drag on server calls/loading times) than using multiple static font files to achieve the same thing. This actually has its roots in Adobe’s Multiple Master technology from the 1990s, which stumbled because users had to first generate the actual font file at the desired setting before they could use it, and Apple’s TrueType GX Variable, which never caught on, because, well, it was Apple in The '90s. But for once, with full industry supportnote (including in all major browsers as of 2018) and designers actively experimenting with the format’s possibilities, its future seems bright.
Of course, with the rise of both web typography and variable fonts comes one major upshot: Designers can no longer control exactly how things are going to display on the end-user’s device. The solution that’s shaking out is responsive typography, in which designers (both the web designers encoding pages and the type designers providing the necessary fonts) use tricks such as variable size, boldness, width, and even intended apparent (optical) size to make things work, whatever the size, resolution or viewing distance. Although these techniques have been used piecemeal for years now, with the technological puzzle-pieces falling into place, this seems to be the way forward for screen typography in the future.
Choosing (or making your own) fonts
Just as the number of books in existence continues to increase, so does the number of typefaces to choose from. Choosing the right typeface for the job can be a tricky business, particularly when you're not limited to the styles that come preinstalled on modern PCs. A good knowledge of the history and societal connotations of different typefaces, as well as that of the text itself, is essential. But if you're absolutely stumped for ideas, here's a handy (tongue-in-cheek) flowchart for designers◊. Conversely, if you want to know what that particular font is, try Identifont or WhatTheFont. The success rate is often hit-or-miss, but they're probably the best resources out there nevertheless.
You can, if you wish, make your own fonts; it used to be quite the expensive hobby for those without access to the financial resources of a type foundry, but the availability of free tools like FontForge , Adobe's Font Development Kit for OpenType, and the Web-based FontStruct has made it significantly cheaper. (That's "cheap" as in money, not time — creating a typeface is a very tedious process, especially if you're including multiple character sets or styles; don't say you weren't warned when you're having nightmares about botched kerning and splines stretching like taffy off the screen to strangle you.)
Tropes relating to type and typography:
Types of... type:
To ease identification, serif types are usually broken up into subtypes based on their features. Terminology and the precise number of categories varies, but in general we have:
- Old-Style or Renaissance: The types of the European Renaissance, spanning from the late 1400s to the late 1500s. Generally split into two phases:
- Humanist, Jensonian or Venetian Old-Style: The earliest printed serif fonts, making a break with the earlier Blackletter tradition (e.g. the Gutenberg bible). More-or-less codified by the work of Nicolas Jenson c.1470, it is a close copy of the formal book-hand then in use by scribes in Venice, with mild line contrast as though written with a broadnib pen held at a shallow angle. The crossbar of the lowercase "e" sits at an angle, and the whole thing feels more "written" than "designed". Italic type doesn't exist yet.
- Garalde, Aldine, Mannerist, or French Old Style: Named after printers Aldo Manuzio and the later Claude Garamont, both of whom established models that numerous others followed. First used by the Aldine Press in printing a book by Pietro Bembo about a trip up Mount Aetna around 1500, it features a lowercase "e" with a horizontal bar and overall more regular proportions and details. Line contrast is low-to-moderate. The French old-styles in the manner of Garamont and his contemporaries continue this theme, gradually becoming more formalized and distinct from writing. Italic type exists (also first printed by the Aldine Press), but at the time is completely independent of the upright (roman) style. The major contribution in French old-styles is the use of slanted capitals to flow with the italic lowercase; previously, only upright (roman) capitals were used apart from swash (calligraphic) initials, which were usually written in after printing.
- Transitional: A maddeningly imprecise term that deals with a "transition" from the "old-style" Renaissance typefaces to the so-callednote "Modern" faces of the industrial age. In general, the stroke angle goes from diagonal to upright or nearly upright, under the influence of the handwriting of the period using the pointed pen. There is greater contrast from thick to thin, and a greater influence of geometry. Because the term is so vague, it's often broken down into several subgroups:
- Baroque or Dutch-taste: The types of the Enlightenment, characterized by the work coming out of the Low Countries during the 17th and early 18th century, particularly Amsterdam and Antwerp. The overall style is similar to the 16th-century French models, but is more condensed and has a darker overall impression, influenced by the blackletter styles still prevalent there. These types were brought to England by Dr. John Fell in the early 18th century, influencing the subsequent work of William Caslon. Italic type is starting to be used in combination with the roman, but only tentatively.
- Neoclassical or Réalist: Coming in for a relatively brief period in the late 18th century, these types reflect a growing obsession with geometric puritynote , with types designed with a ruler and compass rather than by eye. Contrast is much more pronounced than before, and italic types more closely resemble their roman counterparts, being more readily intermixed. Key output from this period comes from John Baskerville in England, along with Pierre-Simon Fournier in France and Joan Michael Fleischman in Holland. Technical improvements in ink and punchcutting allow much sharper corners and thinner strokes on type, and in combination with smooth, bright white "wove" paper, there was a belief among critics that reading them for long stretches would cause blindness. Others were more enthusiastic; Benjamin Franklin actually wrote to Baskerville, praising his work. Although in vogue as printing type for only a short time during their heyday, they left a lasting impression on sign-lettering and engraving, where the style is known as “English Vernacular”.
- Scotch Roman or Scotch Modern: Types originating in Scotland at the end of the 18th century, influenced in equal measure by the Neoclassical faces from England and the Didones from France and Italy. The first Scotch faces were cut by Richard Austin for Wilson & Sons in Glasgow and Miller & Richard in Edinburgh, and were closely followed by John Drury for Caslon & Sons in London, who had found it difficult to compete using their existing Baroque inventory. Once the types made it to the U.S., they were widely copied, being seen as a less austere alternative to the continental Didones. A compact version of Scotch, known as Ionic, was the predominant style of newspaper typeface for more than century after its introduction, and it remains popularnote . There's some debate as to whether they should be considered as Transitional or Modern types, however, as Scotch has an overall Didone structure, yet it also has bracketed serifs (sloping smoothly into the body of the letter rather than meeting at a corner) and lower contrast, which it has in common with the late Transitional faces.
- Modern, Didone or Romantic: The quintessential types for fashion magazines, epitomized by the work of Giambattista Bodoni in Italy, the Didot family in France, and (to a somewhat lesser extent) Justus Erich Walbaum in what is now Germany. Everything adheres to strict geometry, with a clear vertical axis to all letters. Serifs are barely-there hairlines, with abrupt transitions between thick and thin strokes. There are ball-shaped doodads on the ends of lowercase "a", "c" and "r", and the capital "R" has a wide bowl and a bendy tail that ends in a vertical curlicue, a feature also present in the exit strokes of the (equally rigid) italic. Bold type also starts to appear during this period, first as the ridiculously bold "fat face"note , and later toned down for more subdued emphasis. By the end of the 19th century, there is a pronounced backlash against these types, with the Arts and Crafts movement and adherents such as William Morris advocating a return to calligraphic roots, and American printer Theodore Low De Vinne commissioning the Century series with lowered contrast and heavier strokes.
- Slab serif or mécane: A style that grew out of the 19th-century "Modern", except with all strokes (including serifs) readjusted to more-or-less equal width in monoline, mechanistic fashion. Subtypes are Clarendon, with smoother transitions between the serifs and the main strokes (akin to Scotch Romans), and Egyptian/Antique, with mechanical, sharp corners (akin to Didone models). Originally conceived as type for headings and ads, they eventually found their way into more traditional roles, and the 20th century saw them following similar trends to sans serifs, giving rise to geometric (e.g. Memphis) and even humanist (e.g. PMN Caecilia) varieties.
- Glyphic, Latin or flared serif: Reminiscent of letters cut into stone, as in the original "Roman capitals" found in monumental inscriptions. The criteria are almost entirely based on the shape of the serif, which leaves it open to interpretation; while Trajan (based on actual Roman inscriptions) is undoubtedly a member, some would put even Optima (traditionally thought of as a sans serif) in here, along with a good number of decorative or titling faces not explicitly based on stonecarving (cf. DeVinne and its many phototype imitations). It's kind of a catch-all category.
Some, such as typographer Robert Bringhurst, invent terms for 20th- and 21st-century styles such as "Lyrical Modern" and "Postmodern", but they encompass such a broad range of influences that it's hard to say whether these will stick in the long term. In general, subsequent styles are defined less by their design elements than by the technologies that enabled a growing and increasingly diverse collection of typefaces, including pantographic engraving, hot-metal typecasting machinery, phototypesetting, and the rise of personal computers and digital fonts.
Keep in mind, of course, that all this goes for the Latin script, which gets the most exposure since it is, after all, where printing with movable type originated. Different scripts have their own rules, which can be adapted to work with serif fonts:
- Greek capitals can have serifs, of course, but the lowercase is more calligraphic (and drawn at a completely different pen angle!), so attempts to give serifs to Greek minuscule or otherwise make it as regular as the Latin lowercase just look bizarre to readers. Usually, type designers are just extra careful to match the level of stroke contrast to the Latin. There’s also no “italic” in Greek, but there are recognizably upright (orthotic) styles and more flowing, cursive styles, which are often (but not always) used to approximate Roman and Italic.
- Cyrillic was overhauled under the Russian Tsar Peter the Great as part of his efforts to “catch up” to contemporary Western Europe, so it has much in common with Latin fonts. That said, the fact that it didn’t evolve organically means that it can look clunky or contrived in Venetian or Garalde humanist styles, as the Modern structure of the letters means it’s really, really hard to escape the logic of writing with a flexible pointed pen. The lowercase also has a lot more serifs than the Latin equivalent, which can give a “picket fence” effect not present in the Latin range of an identical font. Italic is largely derived from Russian cursive, which follows the same logic as Latin but has many more “false friend” lettershapes than even the Roman.
- CJK (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) scripts usually use the Song/Ming stylenote , with its similar “thick vertical / thin horizontal” stroke axisnote and triangular finials on the stroke-ends that resemble serifs. More calligraphic Latin faces may be better suited with a Regular Script companion, however, as this has softer, more calligraphic (but still clear) influenced by writing with a brush and ink. There is no italic, however, and these scripts don’t use slanted letters for emphasisnote , instead relying on boldface, underlining, or dots next to the characters being emphasized. The main challenge is figuring out relative sizing, as without descenders, CJK characters are significantly larger at the same point size as their Latin counterparts, and companion Latin faces specifically for CJK fonts tend to get their descenders mangled. A common compromise is to use separate but complementary fonts, and then adjust the size of one or the other until they look roughly equal next to each other.
- There are far more scripts around the world, each with their own wrinkles. Scripts that are connected or that contain many combining forms by default were for many years difficult to adapt to typography, but that’s changing as digital fonts reach maturity. Consider this space one with room to grow.
OK. So with that out of the way, here are some of the most well-known serif types:
- ITC American Typewriter: A 1974 creation of Joel Kaden and Tony Stan for International Typeface Corporation, mimicking the overall aesthetic of typewriter fonts (despite being neither monospaced nor a typewriter font itself). It’s a slab serif on the thin side, with some blobbiness at the ends of strokes that’s probably meant to evoke the way that typewriter ink spreads. It’s a standard pack-in with macOS/iOS and is probably most famous for its use in the I♡NY logo by Milton Glaser.
- Athelas: A serif font designed to be equally at home both on screen and in print. Designed by José Scaglione and Veronika Burian of TypeTogether and released in 2008, it's one of several fonts included in Apple's suite of iApps (including Keynote, iMovie and iBooks), yet hidden from the user in word-processing applications. And yes, the name is inspired by The Lord of the Rings. (The same designers also have an unrelated sans/slab family called Bree.)
- Baskerville. A late 18th-century face named for its designer, the calligrapher and printer John Baskerville. Baskerville was a master of pointed-pen “copperplate” calligraphy, and it shows in the fine details and pronounced stroke contrast of his typeface. Upon its introduction in the 1750s, it received both acclaim and scorn, with proponents such as Ben Franklin praising its beauty, and critics suggesting prolonged reading of text set in it could cause blindness. Baskerville himself always took care to use plenty of whitespace to offset the fine-lined nature of his type, however, which is not always followed by others who have used his work. The Monotype version bundled with macOS is not especially robust, which makes it especially necessary to handle with care. (Baskerville Old Face, bundled with Windows, isn’t Baskerville’s at all, but based on a copy by Isaac Moore for the Fry Type Foundry of Bristol.note )
- As with other historical revivals, there are multiple versions of “Baskerville”, some better than others. The most usable modern versions include Mrs. Eaves by Zuzana Licko, an elegant display version named for Baskerville’s housekeeper-turned-wife, and Baskerville Original, a direct revival by František Štorm of Baskerville’s original types, available in two optical sizes. A free version geared towards body text, Libre Baskerville by Pablo Impallari, is also available.
- Baskerville’s types were influential among his contemporaries, and they produced designs that were similar to (or outright copies of) his work. As mentioned above, Isaac Moore’s version is widely avaialble as Baskerville Old Face; Big Moore by Matthew Carter is a modern display version intended for large headings. Elsewhere, William Martin, the brother of the chief assistant to Baskerville’s punchcutter, went on to design and cut his own version for the printer William Bulmer around 1790; this was revived in the 20th century under the Bulmer name. Richard Austin cut similar types, but with even greater contrast, for publisher John Bell's British Letter Foundry in 1788, which were revived by Monotype in 1931 as Bell; they were revived again in the 21st century by Commercial Type as Austin, supporting a large character set in a wide variety of styles.
- Bembo Monotype's c.1930 revival of the types used by Aldus Manutius to set De Aetna by Pietro Bembo in 1500. This makes the design basically the "original" Aldine roman, albeit modernized for machine composition.note Much like the later Garamond, it has a classical, readable style with a hint of old-world flair.
- In spite of the pedigree of the roman, the italic is not based on the Aldine italic introduced around the same time, but on the work of Giovanni Antonio Tagliente, whose writing manual was published a quarter-century later. A more authentic Aldine italic, designed by British handwriting reformer Alfred Fairbank, was released separately as Bembo Condensed Italicnote and later digitized as Fairbank.
- As with many early digital fonts converted directly from their phototype predecessors, Bembo is considered too delicate for use at smaller sizes. Monotype recognized this flaw and went back in 2005 to produce Bembo Book, a sturdier cut designed specifically for use in setting body text.
- ITC Benguiat is a decorative "transitional" display typeface designed in 1977 by Ed Benguiat. Inspired by the curvy Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau fonts of the fin de siècle and Edwardian periods as part of a general mid-70s revival of interest in the aesthetics of that period (look at the album covers for Fleetwood Mac's 1975 self-titled album and their 1977 masterpiece Rumoursnote for other examples of this trend), the typeface became inextricably linked in the popular imagination with Speculative Fiction in the 1980s after being prominently used the covers of Stephen King's novels and innumerable science-fiction and fantasy books of the era (e.g. The Hyperion Cantos and 1980s-90s print runs of Isaac Asimov's Robot and Foundation series). Later associated with 1980s nostalgia; not for nothing does Stranger Things use it for all display purposes (to the point that as of the late 2010s, ITC Benguiat is often just called "the Stranger Things font").
- Bodoni. A textbook "Modern" typeface (meaning that its stroke widths run pretty consistently horizontal and vertical; it's also called "Didone" in a portmanteau of Bodoni and the very similar Didot, described below), employed by Giambattista Bodoni in Parma, Italy, in the late 18th century. It's commonly seen on posters, headlines or logos, and seems to be particularly associated with haute couture. The high contrast between thick and thin strokes can lead to a "dazzle" effect, however, where the horizontal strokes seem to disappear and the entire line appears to be a forest of verticals. For this reason, choosing the right style for the intended size is absolutely essential, and the version bundled with most PCs is not suitable for body text.
- The best commercial version is probably ITC Bodoni, which bucks ITC's usual trend of showy display fonts for a thoughtful, historically-accurate revival in three optical sizes. In terms of free/open-source fonts, there's also Bodoni*, which boasts seven optical sizes, although they seem more appropriate for larger point-sizes than their respective names suggest. Bodoni himself also produced a myriad of typefaces for other scripts, including a full complement of Greek and (Russian) Cyrillic in the same style as the roman and italic, although digital Bodoni adaptations unfortunately tend to ignore them.
- Bookman is a loopy, friendly font with a rather baroque history, dating to the 1858 "Old Style Antique". The definitive modern version, however, was created at ITC in 1975, and is closely associated in US pop culture with the late 1970s and early 80s, especially the swash forms used in many TV show titles in that period. Like ITC Souvenir, using Bookman in a document means making a conscious effort to be retro. Unlike Souvenir, it's highly unlikely that people will want to claw their eyes out reading it, though they may sneak a confused look at the copyright date. The "Bookman Old Style" that ships with Microsoft Windows is closely related (essentially an update of its hot-metal version to be metrically compatible with the ITC incarnation), but is a more austere slab serif font with distinctly less loopiness. Bookmania by Mark Simonson attempts to distill the better aspects of the typeface by combining the structure of the original Bookman with the over-the-top loops and swashes of the phototype era; how it's used is up to the discretion (or lack thereof) of the typographer.
- Cambria, designed by Dutch designer Jelle Bosma, is part of Microsoft's ClearType collection along with Calibri and a number of others; it somewhat resembles Bigelow and Holmes' Lucida Bright, but a little narrower and boxier. Cambria Math, its technical symbol extension, is the default, and only shipped, font for the current Equation Editor in Word. Other fonts, such as the Times-like XITS Math, are available for download and sort of compatible with Equation Editor.
- Caslon is a style of type first made by William Caslon I in London in the early 18th century and carried on by his descendants.note His style was heavily influenced by "Dutch-taste" or "Baroque" old-style types, then popular in the Netherlands, which had a taller lowercase and a darker, more condensed appearance on the page, influenced by blackletter. Caslon was eventually eclipsed in popularity by the types of John Baskerville and then by the so-called "Modern" types, but they are still heavily associated with colonial-era America, and modern revivals remain popular in printing. Adobe Caslon is among the most common (because it comes with Adobe software), but others exist; Big Caslon, meant for headings and other large print, comes standard with macOS, while Williams Caslon Text attempts to match the feel of 20th-century metal revivals. ITC Founders Caslon, meanwhile, is meant to capture the look of the type printed letterpress, imperfections and all. Benguiat Caslon is a loopy, swashy take that owes much to the version of Bookman (see above) from the same era, and is particularly associated with Blaxploitation films of The '70snote , as well as the novels of Philip Roth.
- Caslon's types (and their imitators) became so ubiquitous in the British Empire and its colonies in the New World that it was basically the default: "When in doubt, use Caslon" was common conventional wisdom, and the U.S. Declaration of Independence (the printed broadsides colonists actually saw, that is) was set in it. Ironically, the intentionally-distressed "Caslon Antique" used to give posters, books, and other things a "colonial" feel isn't actually a Caslon, although the IM Fell types by Igino Marini are based on Dutch typesnote that were directly ancestral to it and have the same distressed look to them.
- The Century family, especially Century Schoolbook, are Modern-ish fonts dating from the 1890s, with heavier lines and reduced contrast as part of a backlash against "feeble" Didone models, while taking into account some of the first studies regarding legibility. True to its name, Century Schoolbook evokes older books for beginning readers — especially the Dick and Jane series — but today it's more commonly known by lawyers across the United States for being the font the Supreme Court uses—and makes them use if they submit anything to SCOTUS.
- Chaparral: Carol Twombly's last typeface for the Adobe Originals series (released in 1997) before she left the company. Chaparral is a slab serif with moderate line-contrast and vaguely old-style sensibilities. As type classification goes, that's a pretty mixed metaphor, but it's up to Adobe's usual standard of quality and makes a convincing page of text. Good for setting plain-spoken, present-day content, lacking in any old-fashioned literary pretension.
- Chaparral is not the first typeface to try out this style. Electranote and Joannanote , both released in the 1930s, follow a similar line of thinking, attempting to balance "humanity" and "modernity". Both did so quite well in their day, but fell out of fashion in part due to unsatisfactory digital adaptations (although Joanna Nova, released in 2015, rectifies this for the latter).
- Cheltenham was created in 1896 as a display face, although today its best known use may be as the text font for the immensely popular ...For Dummies series of reference and tutorial books, as well as being the main typeface for New York Times headlines, alongside Franklin Gothic.
- Clarendon. Common in wanted posters (like the "REWARDS" text in ◊) of The Wild West, logotypes and old traffic signs.
- French Clarendon. Apart from Clarendon, this reverse-stress note variation was used in wanted posters to highlight a word or phrase. Just like its sister font, it's an archetypal "Wild West" font. Playbill is also based on French Clarendon.
- Cooper Black. Created in 1921 by Oswald "Oz" Cooper for American Type Founders, but generally associated with The '70s due to its popularity in that era. You might also think of it as the Garfield font, from its appearance on comic collections going back to the beginning of the strip. It was technically just the heaviest weight of a typeface that looked decidedly more conventional at the lighter end, but nobody remembers them.
- Computer Modern Roman, the LaTeX font. Is a didone type (horizontal lines are thinner than the vertical parts). (It's part of a whole family; see below.)
- Didot is a style first used by the Didot family in Parisnote , and one of the chief members of the "Modern" (a.k.a. "Didone") genre, along with Bodoni. Most of the tropes that apply to Bodoni also apply here, although the Didot types were generally quirkier, some styles (produced by later generations of Didots and the punchcutters they employed) even including a bizarre reverse-looped "g" that only the most academic of revivals bother with. Once again, the proper optical size for the purpose is absolutely essential, and the version bundled with most PCs is unsuited to body text.
- The most all-around useful digital version of Didot is HTF Didot from Hoefler & Co., which boasts seven optical sizes from small captions to giant headings. Linotype Didot, designed by Adrian Frutiger and released in 2000, is also well-respected, though only appropriate for use in display settings.
- Garamond: Typefaces based on the work of Claude Garamontnote , whose types cut in Paris during the first half of the 16th century set such a high bar that they replaced Aldus Manutius's original types at the Aldine Press in Venice, and were imitated in and out of France well into the next century. There is a more "sculptural" quality to the letterforms compared to Italian predecessors, along with some intentional irregularity in the mix, most noticeable in the varying slant of the italics (designed by Garamont's contemporary, Robert Granjon). Good for setting a classy, readable text with an "old world" flairnote . Note, however, that the name "Garamond" has been applied to a great many typefaces of widely varying quality. You can't go wrong with Adobe Garamond or (more recently) Garamond Premier, however. For those without a budget or access to Adobe software, EB Garamond is a free offering with an extensive character set (including Cyrillic and Greek), which even the famously opinionated Erik Spiekermann has praised as "one of the best open source fonts around".
- There are many Garamonds, of two distinct lineages. The first group is based on Claude Garamont's original work, while the second group comes by way of a later designer, Jean Jannon, who worked many years after Garamont's death but created fonts very much in the Garamond style, with a few tweaks (a little asymmetry here, a little intentional irregularity there...). One particularly famous variant, ITC Garamond note is recognizably of the Jannon lineage, but rendered in the ITC house style with high x-heights, it's almost a completely new font in its own right.
- Georgia. A Scotch Roman font native to the computer screen. It has larger characters than Times New Roman, with old-style (or "lowercase") figures. One of the first outline fonts explicitly designed for screen use, emphasizing legibility through simplified details and extensive hinting. Like Verdana and Comic Sans, was released more or less as free software as part of Microsoft's Core Fonts for the Web initiative, but isn't quite as popular. It might be best known as one of the default fonts on Amazon's Kindle e-readers. Miller, by the same designer, is its sibling designed for print rather than the screen.
- Jenson: Based on the granddaddy of all roman typesnote , cut by Nicolas Jenson around 1470. It's particularly notable for its lowercase "e" with a slanted crossbar, which was done away with by the later Aldine roman used by printer Aldus Manutius. Since italic types didn't exist during Jenson's time, it's usually paired with an italic based on the work of Ludovico degli Arrighi and his influential handwriting manual, published half a century later. Adobe Jenson, though common due to its inclusion in Adobe software, is only one of many Jenson revivals. As a rule, however, the many historical quirks mean there tends to be a very thin line between "masterful interpretation" and "kitschy novelty". Centaur, designed by Bruce Rogers in 1914, is considered among the most elegantnote , while Hightower Text, by Tobias Frere-Jones for Font Bureau, has been included in some versions of Microsoft Office. Adobe's Arno, designed by Robert Slimbach and released in 2007, is a modernized take; Brioso, also by Slimbach, is similar but more closely based on the style of hand-lettering Jenson's types imitated. Another, Catull, was the basis for the old Google logo before it switched to a proprietary font.
- The Doves Type is a fairly obscure Jenson revivalnote , but one marked by a hilariously petty feud between its owners, the principals of an early-20th-century London publishing house called Doves Press. The principals, Emery Walker and Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson, had commissioned a unique type for the press, but when the venture started losing money and Walker left, Cobden-Sanderson decided to deny Walker the ability to use it under an arrangement a mutual friend had brokered, and proceeded over a period of several months to dump all of the type into the River Thames. Modern type designer Robert Green reconstructed the type from Doves books, and in 2014 hired divers to fish a handful of the actual type out of the location in the Thames where Cobden-Sanderson had dumped it.note
- Lexicon: Dutch graphic designer Bram De Does created only two fonts in his lifetime, and they were both masterworks. Lexicon, commissioned for a Dutch dictionary in 1989, is the more famous one, and at nearly US$400 per style, one of the most expensive fonts in the world. If you're a graphic designer and you can get someone to buy it for you, do it.
- Minion: The "boring" book font. Designed by Robert Slimbach for Adobe in 1990, it's meant to be a workhorse book typeface in an updated Garalde style. Think Garamond or Bembo, but without any attention-drawing eccentricities, allowing it to fade completely into the background. Since its debut, it has been used in countless books, owing both to the strength of its design and to being bundled with Adobe software. Though it may not always be the best choice depending on time period or subject matter, it does its job exceptionally well. Its use may, however, suggest a lack of effort on the part of the designer because of its status as a "default" font in professional typesetting.
- New York: Apple’s in-house serif interface font, introduced in 2018 in its Books app and made available for use in all macOS and iOS apps in 2019. It comes in four optical sizes and six weights, and is available for free, although like its sans counterpart San Francisco, Apple’s licensing means it’s technically not allowed to be used outside app development.note
- The font by that name available on early Macs was originally a bitmap font by Susan Kare before being reworked by Bigelow & Holmes. Despite sharing a name and more obvious similarities than the two fonts named “San Francisco”, the design is entirely separate. The name, part of Apple's "world cities" theme for early Mac typefaces, is probably a subtle reference to the font it was intended to substitute for (Times New Roman, i.e., "The New York Times", although the original was of course for The Times of London, not New York). Later Macs would include the actual (Linotype cut of) Times alongside it.
- Palatino: Classic one, easy to read. It's very likely the best known font created by the great German type designer Hermann Zapf, and in some form has been readily available on every major computing platform since at least the early 1990s. It's a Spiritual Successor to the Garamonds, Baskervilles, and Caslons of the past, rendered as though with a calligraphy pen, and is a bit of a chameleon in that it can do double duty as a text font and a display font.note A Palatino Sans exists, created by Zapf and Akira Kobayashi, but it's fairly expensive and has yet to be bundled into any of Palatino's traditional homes; as yet, it's probably unlikely to displace Zapf's Optima (see below), which is something of a traditional partner for Palatino.
- Book Antiqua: Suspiciously Similar Substitute. (URW Palladio, which is used on many Linux systems because its publisher made it available for free, isn't "suspiciously" similar, because it was authorized by Hermann Zapf; the same applies to Bitstream's Zapf Calligraphic. As with Arial, Monotype and Microsoft showed no such consideration with Book Antiqua, which annoyed Zapf greatly.) For reasons no doubt long forgotten in Redmond, Microsoft still ships it despite having licensed Palatino Linotype, which Zapf considered the definitive Palatino for all time.note
- Perpetua: A popular serif typeface by Eric Gill, the creator of Gill Sans (see below). A finely serifed type with an almost inscriptional quality (fitting, since Gill did stonecarving and sculpture in addition to his calligraphy and type design), it has become popular for fine printing and elegant headings. Though originally designed as a body text face for books, its delicate lines (accentuated in the digital version) make it somewhat less suitable for this purpose than Gill's own Joanna, which is similar but more sturdily constructed.
- Souvenir: A blobby mess of a font created in 1914 by Morris Fuller Benton for American Type Founders, but popularized (in a rare Ed Benguiat misfire) by the ITC cut from the 1970s. (The sans serif version, Souvenir Gothic, was a creation of URW++ and isn't nearly as hideous; it also manages to look halfway decent as a monospace.) It was badly overused (redundancy?) in the 1970s and 1980s as a text font and is in many ways the Comic Sans of the phototypesetter era. If you're a fan of that flashy 70s ITC look, use Bookman, or Benguiat, or ITC Garamond. Anything but this. As the saying goes, friends don't let friends set Souvenir.
- Times New Roman: A transitional serif fontnote originally commissioned for The Times of London and thus designed to fit the maximum amount of text into narrow newspaper columns without sacrificing either readability or aesthetics. Was for many years the default font in most word processors, mainly due to being one the only fonts available by default on Windows, but is still a major standard.note Ubiquitous as a result, especially in non-professional work. Although not really anything special, it does its job with a good balance of readability and economy of space. Used in several books and newspapers. Before the advent of digital typesetting almost all British paperbacks were set in either Times New Roman or its forebear, the more bookish Plantin. Using it on a Web site, however, tends to brand the creator as a noob. By the late 1970s, it had become a traditional partner with Helvetica and Courier in technical publishing, likely influencing Adobe's choice of the three as base fonts for the earliest versions of PostScript.
- Linotype's Times is the same typeface, licensed out of necessity because The Times used Linotype's machines, not Monotype's, for its typesetting. As a result, the spacing is somewhat looser and the lettershapes are subtly different. (Linotype was also working on a competitor for commercial release, known internally as Experimental 267D, which was quite far along when they remembered that they already had the rights to Times New Roman and decided to just release it outright.) Commercially, Linotype also offers Times Ten and Times Eighteen, geared toward specific point-sizes. (The bundled version of Times is, unsurprisingly, made for 12-point text.)
- While Times is still ubiquitous in publications large and small, those seeking something Times-esque without going too far afield have in recent years largely gone toward Tiempos by Kris Sowersby, which is based on the same historical sources but is more consistent, open and legible, particularly in the heavier weights. One of its most prominent users is National Geographic magazine, which employs a custom-tweaked version (called Grosvenor) for article text. Another popular alternative is Poynter Oldstyle, by Tobias Frere-Jones for Font Bureau, which is along the same lines but keeps a bit more of a 17th-century aesthetic.
- Trajan: The Roman font, as well as the film poster font. It’s based on the lettering found on the 2nd-century Trajan Column in Rome, which defined what we think of as “Roman letters” (or at least the capitals) today. Because of that stately heritage (giving it the same sort of gravitas as a deep-voiced narrator of a movie trailer), it became the font of choice to set the titles on posters for films of epic scale… but as time went on, usage creep saw it become more and more genre-neutral, until it began to be seen on posters for just about any movie. It probably doesn’t help that it’s one of the fonts that come bundled with Adobe software.
- Traktir is another slab serif typeface evoking the look and feel of 19th-century papers and posters. It's bilingual, with both Latin and Cyrillic letters (the latter was often used in Tsarist Russia).
- Windsor is Woody Allen's signature title font. Older American GenXers will also recognize it as the title font for the 1976 Saturday morning cartoon Tarzan: Lord of the Jungle. It dates all the way back to the late 19th century, but is more commonly remembered for its use by the hippie counterculture of the 1960s and '70s, as in the Whole Earth Catalog.note
Sans-serif types were invented around 1816, first appearing in a specimen book by William Caslon IVnote , but gained acceptance only gradually, taking off around the turn of the 20th century. Since then, several different styles have proliferated:
- Grotesque: Also referred to as "gothic" (which referred to all sans serifs until other genres started appearing), these are the result if you take the serifs off a Didone typeface, equalize the stroke widths and simplify the details a touch. The letterforms are generally "closed up", with small apertures, and strokes ending in somewhat haphazard angles. Capitals are wide and relatively uniform in width. Capital "R" tends to have either the bowed Didone leg or a straight leg seemingly straining under the weight of the bowl; lowercase "g" can be single-story, as in Akzidenz-Grotesk (1897), or double-story, as in Franklin Gothic (1904).
- Geometric: A trend that burst onto the scene in the late 1920s in Weimar Germany, based on the radical typographic experiments at the Bauhaus. Epitomized by Futura (released by the Bauer Type Foundry in 1927), the lowercase is based largely on geometric shapes (circles, squares and triangles), while the capitals are modeled after Roman monumental inscriptions. The boom in geometric sans serifs during The Roaring '20s and The Great Depression goes hand-in-hand with the Art Deco aesthetic of the same time period. Ironically enough, the country that gave rise to geometrics soundly rejected them during the 1930s, as Nazi Germany promoted the use of the overtly Germanic blackletter script instead.note Geometrics in general are useful for evoking the Art Deco era, but the most iconic examples are overexposed, so it helps to hunt for something less ubiquitous than Futura or Kabel.
- Neo-grotesque: A reaction to the postwar return to popularity of grotesque sans serifs among Swiss designers, neo-grotesque designs like Helvetica and Univers take the turn-of-the-century grotesques and iron out the quirks in the name of cool, understated rationality. The overall look is similar to previous grotesques, but more uniform in structure, with strokes tending to terminate horizontally or vertically wherever possible. While neo-grotesques arose through the Swiss design movement of The '50s and The '60s, they've been ubiquitous ever since, with Helvetica in particular becoming a part of the typographic "furniture" (pun intended). There are still non-Helvetica standouts (witness Roboto and San Francisco just within the past few years), but the entire genre is literally everywhere.
- Humanist: In contrast to the Didone basis of grotesque sans serifs, a humanist sans takes its basic structure from the Renaissance typefaces of the 15th and 16th centuries. They first arose in the early decades of the 20th century with typefaces such as Johnston and Gill Sans, but they weren't codified as a separate style until after World War II, with the advent of Syntax, Frutiger and others. The lowercase "g" is often (though not always) two-story, and the overall letter shapes are closer to calligraphy, sometimes with pronounced differences in stroke contrast, as in Optima. This style is much favored for informational signage due to its good legibilitynote and is generally more useful for long-form text than other types of sans serif.
- Agency FB: A narrow, geometric font originating in the 1930s (as the all-caps Agency Gothic) recognizable for its open capital "R". Popular in recent years for video game logos, including the Battlefield and Red Faction franchises.
- Antique Olive is a quirky, reverse-contrastnote sans-serif that was created by Roger Excoffon in France in the 1960s, but its heaviest weight, "Nord", has almost inexplicablynote become ubiquitous in the 2010s, being most closely associated with professional shingles and cheap plastic sale signs in front of stores. It's named for Fonderie Olive, the foundry that commissioned it, and the round letters, not coincidentally, happen to be roughly olive-shaped.
- Avant Garde, initially designed for the magazine of the same name, is a geometric typeface designed to be "edgy" and "hip" but has lost that feel from overuse thanks to its inclusion in the PostScript standard. It was especially popular in the 1970s and still evokes a feel of that era. Known for its right-angled, tilted alternates for A, M, V, and W (and sometimes Y).
- Century Gothic: Monotype's Suspiciously Similar Substitute, licensed to Microsoft so they could avoid paying for the PostScript licensing. A modern remake of a 1930s font called Twentieth Century (also pre-installed on Windows computers), which was itself a Suspiciously Similar Substitute for Futura (see below).
- Bank Gothic. A caps-onlynote titling font with a simple, geometric design. Popular as a logotype for anything that needs to convey "serious business", particularly for subheadings. As noted below, one of two fonts (the other being Eurostile) used in works that are Typeset in the Future.
- Calibri. In 2010, it became the default typeface in, among others, Microsoft Office, substituting for Times New Roman and Arial. Not recommended for use on Web sites, however, because at the same point size it is noticeably smaller than all of the sans-serif fonts that can be used as a fallback. If you see a printed note hanging up in your office (passive-aggressive or otherwise) and your office, like most, mainly uses Windows, the chances are overwhelming that it was typed in all-caps Calibri.
- Chicago. The default font for Macintosh computers for System 7 and earlier. Later Mac OSes replaced it with Charcoal, Lucida Grande, Helvetica, and most recently San Francisco (see below).
- DIN 1451: A German industrial standard, originating in the Prussian railways at the turn of the 20th century and formalized in 1931. It's now best known as the font on all German road signs, though its grid-drawn, industrial nature lends itself to a variety of contexts were an impersonal, "mechanical" aesthetic is desired. Much like Highway Gothic, its rough American equivalent (see below), a number of alternative versions have sprung up to make it more useful in general contexts; the two best-known versions are FF DIN (1995) by Albert-Jan Pool and DIN Next (2009) by Akira Kobayashi. Both add a variety of useful (italic, rounded, stencil) and not-so-useful (hearts, stars...) styles to the mix.
- Bebas and Bebas Neue: Two free, condensed DIN-alikes created by Ryōichi Tsunekawa of DharmaType (formerly Flat-It Type Foundry). Bebas Neue is an updated version of the original Bebas, with smoother curves and some redrawn letter shapes, including the capital "R". Their wide availability and free-of-charge nature has made them especially ubiquitous on video-sharing platforms like YouTube, where they're practically inescapable. Bebas Pro, a new version with multiple weights including obliques, was released in 2019, although it has the distinct disadvantage of not being freeware.
- Eurostile. Known for its squarish roundnote letters, most iconic in its extended (widened) form, from which it originated as the all-caps Microgramma. Common on electronic equipment in the '70s and '80s. Still manages to retain a futuristic feel, though some would argue that it's slipping into Zeerust territory.
- What appears to be Eurostile in many products of Japanese origin (such as video games; Mario Kart 8 and Mega Man 11 spring to mind) is actually (the Latin-character range of) Shin-Go, produced by Japanese foundry Morisawa.note In the absence of any actual Japanese characters, it’s distinguishable mainly by its two-story lowercase “g”.
- For those who do think Eurostile Extended is showing its age, there's the even more geometric Bank Gothic. Originally designed in the 1930s as an industrial font, it has spent most of the last decade being slapped on anything and everything that needs to scream 20 Minutes into the Future.
- Eurostile and Bank Gothic are so commonly used to convey a futuristic setting that they now have their own trope: Typeset in the Future.
- Franklin Gothic. A type family released by American Type Founders starting in 1904 as part of Morris Fuller Benton's project to systematize the various headline faces inherited from ATF's predecessors.note Makes sense for headlines and minor design elements. Popular with the U.S. Army and various news outlets including The Washington Post and Time magazine. A good way of conveying "America, especially in the mid-20th century, and most especially journalists."
- More broadly, Franklin Gothic makes up the extra-bold end of what's often called the "News Gothic family", made up of various fonts of similar but differing designs. News Gothic makes up the regular weights and widths, Alternate Gothic is at the condensed/compressed end of the spectrum, and Lightline Gothic and Monotone Gothic are at the light/expanded end. Revivals usually take one of these designs and extrapolate them through the remainder of weights and widths: Benton Sans does this for News Gothic, ATF Alternate Gothic does it for Alternate Gothic, and ITC Franklin Gothic (as well as its own revival, ITC Franklin) does it for Franklin Gothic.
- Trade Gothic: Linotype's 1948-vintage Alternate Company Equivalentnote , a set of similar-but-not-quite-identical designs in an array of inscrutably-numbered styles. In 2009, Linotype released Trade Gothic Next, which standardized the design and increased the weight/width range. Over the following decade, Monotype (which bought out Linotype) has gotten a fair bit of mileage out of variants to it, such as soft/rounded, inline, "display" (a set of layers that can be superimposed for pseudo-3D designs) and "rust" (pockmarked and worn, like badly-corroded metal type).
- In terms of free offerings, Pablo Impallari's Libre Franklin, based on the original Franklin Gothic, is available on Google Fonts, while League Gothic is a free revival of Alternate Gothic No. 1 from the League of Movable Type.
- Frutiger: Originally designed for use on airport signs, it is notable for being easy to read from a wide range of angles and distances. Quite popular, it has a clean modern look.
- Myriad: Adobe's Suspiciously Similar Substitute in the "Adobe Originals" series, designed by Robert Slimbach and Carol Twombly and released in 1992. Made on the same humanist model as Frutiger and equally at home in long-form text as on signs and ads, it's most distinguishable by the splayed legs of capital "M" and the true (cursive) italic, which uses different forms for letters such as "a" and "e". Since its introduction, it has been incredibly popular across a wide range of uses. It's probably best known as Apple's corporate typeface from the iPod era up until it was replaced by San Francisco. The range of weights and widths makes it quite versatile, although its inclusion with Adobe software makes it inescapable, which undercuts its otherwise solid credentials.
- Futura. The earliest released geometric type, heavily associated with modernity in the 1930s through the 1950s, used extensively as a general-purpose font. Created by German type designer Paul Renner in the 1920s, but popular throughout the 20th century and still widely available in the 21st. Inspired a rash of imitators, while forcing more distinct competitors from other foundries to become more similar due to market demand. While it can also be used to evoke The Roaring '20s and The Great Depression (as well as the Art Deco style in general), the fact that it's never really gone away makes it less apt than its competitors, which are far less ubiquitous.
- Its Bauhaus style is good for a movie set in The '50s or early-to-mid Sixties and you want to show signage at a research laboratory or tables in a science textbook. (It was largely replaced in these contexts with Helvetica by the end of the ’60s.)
- Futura Bold could almost be considered a separate typeface altogether, as the thicker lines and chopped-off tips on the A, M, V, and W lend them a distinctly informal feel compared to their thinner counterparts. Ubiquitous to the point of being the less-stodgy counterpart to Helvetica, and the font used for the Red-and-White Comedy Poster.
- Futura Black and Futura Display are separate typefaces, despite sharing the Futura name. Futura Black is best known as "that stencil font", and was featured on The Love Boat. Futura Display was most popular in the 1950s and 1960s, and is probably best known in its use in the logo for retailer Canadian Tire.
- Spartan and Twentieth Century are the Suspiciously Similar Substitutes from Linotype and Monotype, respectively. Both have long since been superseded by the real thing, but Twentieth Century is notable for being the basis for Century Gothic, a Suspiciously Similar Substitute for Avant Garde Gothic.
- Newspapers in the mid-20th century more often than not relied on a pair of Suspiciously Similar Substitutes, Tempo (from Ludlow, for headlines) and Vogue (from Intertype, for captions and similar). They were both notable in that they had multiple alternate characters in order to resemble not only Futura, but also other similar typefaces.
- Erbar: The Rival claimant to "earliest geometric sans serif", though never as popular. Probably best known for its Phosphor inline titling caps. A digital version exists, but is not particularly good; Dunbar, channeling both the original and its phototype knockoffs through a variable-height lowercase, is superior to the official releases.
- Avenir: Adrian Frutiger's answer to Futura, released some six decades after most of its competitors. It is on the whole very similarnote , but with Frutiger's characteristic humanist touches softening the geometry, such as a curved "t" and "j" and an "M" with straight sides. Fairly common since it's a standard install with both macOS and iOS, in both its original and Avenir Nextnote incarnations.
- Gotham: Commissioned by GQ magazine to be geometrical and look "masculine, new, and fresh", it was modeled after machine-cut signage from the mid-20th century in New York City, such as the lettering on the outside of the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Now associated with Barack Obama, whose campaigns made extensive use of it. Its use has exploded since then; most amusingly, it has been used in the logo for DC Comics, as well as in official letterhead for the state of New York.
- Helvetica: Released in 1957 to ride the coattails of its forebear Akzidenz-Grotesk, then in vogue among Swiss designers. It was marketed as the "perfect" typeface, meaning it could be used on almost any design or purpose. By the end of the 20th century, however, it and its clones had been overused by amateurs and professionals alike, largely subverting its original intent of being the least obtrusive font imaginable.
- "Helvetica" is actually the second name for the typeface, coinciding with its re-release for Linotype machine composition. It was originally known as Neue Haas Grotesk, and had a slightly different look than the Helvetica that exists today. After decades of successive transitions to new technologies, Linotype and Font Bureau went back to revive the original in 2011, although it's not clear whether it will ever be as popular, since it lacks the sheer name cachet of "Helvetica".
- Neue Helvetica (or "Helvetica Neue" as it appears in font menus) is a 1983 revision to bring order to the haphazardly-expanded Helvetica family, adopting a numbered classification system for its various weights and widths akin to Univers (described below). On the whole, it looks nearly identical, but it's slightly boxier. The razor-thin end of its weight range was employed by Apple in the iOS 7 interface overhaul before they ditched it in iOS 9 for their own San Francisco (described below).
- Helvetica Now: Monotype’s 2019 re-envisioning of (Neue) Helvetica for the 21st century. Compared to the print-oriented “restoration” of Neue Haas Grotesk, this version is geared toward digital display, including a “Micro” cut that doesn’t become nigh-illegible at text sizes on the web. Whether it was really necessary depends largely on whom one asks, with a steep divide between skeptical type designers and enthusiastic graphic designers, but Monotype’s industry clout and flashy marketing (not to mention the “Helvetica” name) virtually guarantee its ubiquity in the near future.
- Arial: The Suspiciously Similar Substitute from Monotype, ostensibly based on one of their old sans serifs but unquestionably meant to ape Helvetica to avoid the PostScript license fee. Here is a page about some of the differences between Arial and Helvetica. This is a 20-question quiz for telling apart the two fonts, using well-known logos designed in Helvetica and converted to Arial. As a rule of thumb, if you're viewing this page on a Windows computer, it will by default be in Arial. If you are viewing it on a Mac, it's probably Helvetica.
- Univers. The Rival: Both it and Helvetica were released the same year (1957) and are extremely similar. Univers has wider letter-spacing, however, making it more suitable for longer runs of text. It is also the dominant choice of sans-serif font in British how-to books of the 1960s and ’70s, disappearing rather abruptly in the 1980s as UK graphic designers discovered desktop publishing. Univers is known for its numbered style classification system, whose "periodic table" advertising made a splash (even if it wasn't big enough to overcome the Helvetica hype).
- Haas Unica: A project in the late 1970s to combine the strengths of both Helvetica and Universnote , creating the ideal neo-grotesque for the phototypesetting age. The only problem was, by the time it actually came out, photo-setting was on the decline in favor of desktop publishing, and Unica was virtually indistinguishable from Helvetica, which had already been digitized. The design sat unused and largely forgotten until 2015, when two rival digital versions came out: Unica77 from the team that designed it back in The '70s, and Neue Haas Unica from Monotype (who had bought out Linotype, who had bought out Haas).
- Acumin: Adobe's Suspiciously Similar Substitute, released relatively recently (2015). It's a perfectly well-designed typeface, from the hand of Robert Slimbach (who, with Carol Twombly, has done most of the Adobe Originals series), but one wonders why they bothered to make something quite so similar. Its sheer range of styles rivals Univers, which does make it fairly versatile.
- Highway Gothic, also known as the FHWA Series (from the United States Federal Highway Administration), was first developed in 1948 as a standard for US highway signs. The font series has been updated over time, notably to add lowercase letters to all sets. Highway Gothic has been used in a number of other countries in North and South America and Asia. Roadgeeks will easily spot fake signs in works that don't use Highway Gothic. A commercial version of the font, called Interstate, was developed for print and screen use in the 1990s, and has been used by the likes of TV Guide, The Weather Channel, and NBC Sports.
- Clearview was designed with the intent on eventually replacing Highway Gothic, and began appearing on signs in some states with interim approval from the FHWA in the early 2000s. More extensive testing since its rollout, though, proved that Clearview did not significantly improve sign legibility compared to new signs using the old fonts, and actually had worse performance on negative-contrast signs (such as speed limit or yellow advisory signs). As a result, the FHWA rescinded its interim approval of Clearview in 2016. Due to replacement costs, though, Clearview signs are expected to remain in service for several more years yet, and it remains to be seen if the font will ever come into widespread use in other applications like its predecessor.
- Impact: Stevenson, Blake & Co.'s 1965 knockoff of Letraset's Compacta (1963), itself a knockoff/extension of Walter Hättenschweiler's Schmalfette Grotesk (1954), an all-caps bold condensed font from German foundry Photoscript. Ubiquitous due to its inclusion as part of Microsoft's "Core Fonts for the Web" initiative, and often used amateurishly due to being used by, well, amateurs. Still, it's good for making text stand out (just so long as it's used sparingly; more than a few words at a time can be unpleasant to read). White-with-black-border Impact is used in an awful lot of image macros.
- Helvetica Compressed, despite carrying the Helvetica name, is another Impact/Compacta follower, designed by Matthew Carter for Linotype in 1966. Has three widths (Compressed, Extra Compressed and Ultra Compressed), which actually get less bold as they get narrower in order to preserve readability.
- Haettenschweiler: Monotype's Suspiciously Similar Substitute, not released until 1993, and unusual in that Monotype actually owns the rights to Impact and licensed it to Microsoft, so it's not exactly clear why they made this.note It is visually quite similar apart from the distinctive lowercase "r" (which it owes to Helvetica Compressed), but it at least acknowledges its relationship to Schmalfette Grotesk, being named after the original designer. It's used in the Joytube.com "Concentrate Plus" game.
- ITC Machine can also substitute for Impact, although its chamfered edges (like the letters on a varsity jacket) tend to give more of a "sports" vibe.
- Johnston: An early "humanist" sans-serif font, designed 1916 by Edward Johnston for the London Underground, designed to be clean and modern but also friendly. Very useful for signage, rather like Frutiger. Transport for London keeps the official versionnote under tight licensing restrictions for official applications only, but several retail versions, such as P22 Undergroundnote , exist for use by the public.
- Gill Sans A very similar humanist sans-serif font, designed in 1928–32 by Johnston's student, Eric Gill. Also used for signage, particularly for British railways (the London and North Eastern Railway and successor British Rail in particular) from the late 1920s to the mid-1960s, as well as many, many YouTube videos (it's a default title font on iMovie). It is used for signage and identification purposes by many British institutions, including the Church of England and The BBC, which used it as its corporate typeface from 1997 to 2021, when it was replaced with the BBC Reith typeface.
- Both Gill Sans and Johnston are seen as quintessentially British modern fonts; seeing them show up is a reasonably good indication that whatever is using it is connected to contemporary Britain.
- Kabel: A geometric typeface released the same year as Futura, but much more calligraphic in form, featuring an "e" with a tilted crossbar, diamond-shaped dots over "i" and "j", and an unusual, "one-and-a-half-story" lowercase "g".note The original metal version has long ascenders in the Art Deco fashion and was quite popular in the 1960s, although it's probably best known in the form of ITC Kabel, which blows up the x-height in typical ITC house style. This version (especially in the "black" weight) seems especially popular for advertising. More recently, Neue Kabel tries to split the difference in x-height between the original and ITC versions, making it more usable for body text. In popular culture, Kabel is probably best known as the logo for the Monopoly board game, as well as Wrangler jeans.
- Lithos is based on old Greek lettering and gives a primitive-ethnic feel. Good if you have a movie set in The '90s and want to show a restaurant menu (particularly a Greek diner). Apple's Skia fontnote has a similar inspiration, but with lowercase letters and less obvious cheesiness.
- Neutraface, a recent Art Deco (1920s-’30s)-style font based on the work of architect Richard Neutra, has begun to take off among designers who want a geometric sans that's a bit more distinct from Futura. Features a low centerline, which extends to the entire lowercase set as well as letters like "E" and "R". (A variant, Neutraface No. 2, raises the centerline to make it more conventionally practical.)
- Optima is likely Hermann Zapf's second best-known font after Palatino; although a sans serif font, it borrows the varying stroke widths of typical serif fonts. Although it's most strongly associated with the 1960s, it's never really gone out of style, and generally makes a nice companion font for Palatino, especially since the much newer Palatino Sans is fairly expensive and rare. (You might also find it under the names "Zapf Humanist" from Bitstream or "URW Classico"; both are Zapf-approved copies.) Its most famous use is probably on the U.S. Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where it is used to list the names of the war dead.
- Roboto. The "Android font" as of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). Released for desktop systems by Google in 2012; it's gradually developed into Google's corporate text font (alongside Product Sans, a Futura-esque design for its logos and other branding), and is the standard web font for YouTube and Google+.
- San Francisco is the second Apple font by that name; the first was a ransom note-style typeface designed in 1983 by Susan Kare for the original Macintosh and shipped until System 7 came out, while the new one was designed for the Apple Watch and replaces Helvetica Neue on OS X 10.11 and iOS 9. At a quick glance, it looks very much like Roboto, although on closer examination there are significant differences. A monospaced version, apparently developed for macOS 10.12 Sierra and iOS 10, shipped at Apple's June 2016 Worldwide Developer Conference, buried deep inside Xcode 8.
- Segoe. As "Segoe UI", the Microsoft user interface font for Windows Vista and 7, along with Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010. A slightly-different version of Segoe is the font for Windows 8 and Windows Phone. Considered a Suspiciously Similar Substitute for Frutiger and Myriad, and was actually updated along the way to make it less glaringly identical.
- Seravek: A humanist sans serif by Eric Olson of Process Type Foundry, released in 2007. It's included with Apple's suite of iApps (including Keynote, iMovie and iBooks), but hidden from the user so it can't be used in other apps (like, say, word processors…). Nevertheless, it makes for a calm, eminently readable page of text.note
- Trebuchet. Designed in 1996, and named for the medieval siege engine. TV Tropes uses Trebuchet in a few places, including the "Resources" and "Tropes By" sidebars and the Tropes and Forums links along the top.
- Ubuntu: The (more-or-less) free system font of the Linux distribution of the same name since 2010, and also the font behind the current TVTropes logo. It is a screen-oriented font that shares its design ethos with the print-centric FF Dax (1995), which takes the general concept of Bernhard Gothic (1929) and applies a more formal and neutral look, shaving off all the spurs on the ends of lowercase abdgmnpqru. Both Ubuntu and Dax are fairly popular in branding, and the latter is also (in a sore point for designers) the unacknowledged basis of "UPS Sans", the "bespoke" corporate typeface of United Parcel Service.note
- Verdana. Sans-serif counterpart to Georgia. Both were created by Matthew Carter for Microsoft. Tahoma is a narrower, more tightly-spaced variant also released by Microsoft. Although its creator was commissioned to expand the font's repertoire over the years, and those versions are commercial, the first public version of Verdana was released more or less as open content in a (successful) attempt to expand the number of standard fonts available to web designers, so it's available in some form or another on nearly all platforms.
Fonts where every glyph occupies the same amount of horizontal space. Monospaced fonts first came about through the use of typewriters, which, due to mechanical limitations, had to advance the same width every time a key was pressed. This results in some odd-looking compromises, with characters like "i" and "l" being extremely wide, and "m" being squished in horizontally. Later typewriters allowed for a limited number of character widths that varied depending on the system, but in the public's mind, a typewriter font always equals monospace. In spite of typewriters having been long supplanted by word processorsnote , however, monospaced fonts have found new life in coding, where horizontal alignment is of great importance. They've also remained as the typefaces of choice for screenwriting, since the image of a writer of hammering out a script on a typewriter has held that much sway in the popular imagination. As a result, they continue to be produced for these niche uses. Fonts for code in particular are also tuned for character distinguishability, with a slashed numeral "0" and distinct glyphs for capital "I", lowercase "l" and numeral "1".
- Anonymous TrueType and Anonymous Pro. Initially designed for Macs, these got exported to other operating systems. Popular with coders and some developers, they have a very clean look. Often overlooked because of compatibility issues.
- Consolas, a favorite among programmers because of its clean look, especially when text anti-aliasing (ClearType in Microsoft land) is used. One of only two fonts that can replace the default Windows Command Prompt font (Lucida Console is the other). Strangely, it did not replace Lucida Console as the default font in Notepad.
- TV Tropes uses Consolas in the text box for editing a page, and when using the monospace markup as seen below.
On TV Tropes, by default, this text is in Consolas on Windows.
- TV Tropes uses Consolas in the text box for editing a page, and when using the monospace markup as seen below.
- Courier. Looks like typewriting, because it was designed for the IBM Selectric typewriter line. The font of choice for screenwriters; nearly every guide to writing a screenplay says to use this font. 12-point Courier was also the font used by the US Department of State until 2004, when they switched to 14-point Times New Roman. Some courts also require it; the New Jersey judiciary's insistence that all documents coming into or out of its Appellate Division and Supreme Court be in Courier infuriates a lot of lawyers (and not a few judges!) in N.J., as Courier is profoundly hard to read for pages on end.note Also great for plain text e-mails, code, and rageface comics. Courier Prime is an attempt to create a prettier, more screenplay-friendly version of it.
- IBM actually created a number of fonts for the Selectric line, including Prestige Elite, Letter Gothic (a sans-serif), and Orator (similar to Letter Gothic, but with small caps instead of lower case letters). Those three and a few others have survived into the digital age, but are far less common than Courier and have been largely superseded by more screen-oriented fonts for general use. A few others like Script were fairly common in their day but have been superseded by more workable script fonts originally designed for professional printing, like Zapfino, Mistral, or Brush Script.
- Fixedsys is a very old console-based font. Unlike almost everything above, Fixedsys is not TrueType; the characters are encoded as pixels rather than lines and curves. Was the default font for Notepad on older versions of Windows, and still finds use where terminal programs are involved.
- Monaco (more specifically, the bitmap version of Monaco 9) was the standard monospaced system font for the Mac going back to the very beginning, and has appeared in at least three different official forms, including a glammed-up TrueType version designed by Bigelow and Holmes and a more direct recreation called MPW that Apple made for the Macintosh Programmer's Workshop IDE (one of the predecessors of Xcode). MPW seems no longer to be available except possibly from abandonware sites, but ProFont, a very close freeware equivalent, is. The name "Monaco" is part of the "world cities" theme of early Mac typefaces, but is probably in reference to its monospaced nature.
- OCR-A. Bar code or credit card font. Was created in 1968 to be easily recognized by computers. It has a retro-futuristic look, so it's also used in advertising and display graphics.
- OCR-B: Also for optical character recognition, but has a less technical appearance.
- Lucida Console is the typeface used in the blue screen of death in Windows XP and Windows CE, as well as the default font for Notepad. One of only two fonts that can replace the default Command Prompt font (Consolas being the other, as previously noted). In other platforms there is Lucida Typewriter.
- Prestige Elite: One of the other big-name typewriter fonts for the IBM Selectric, this one never caught on with the same kind of popularity as its sister face Courier, though it's still available. Just as Courier has inspired a variety of similar fonts, so has Prestige; Triplicatenote by Matthew Butterick expands on the original by including true italics and small caps, as well as proportional and code variants via OpenType features.
Historically, there were four basic kinds of Blackletter:
- Textura or Textualis, the darkest, densest version, which was used for deluxe manuscripts. It was all angles and straight sides, with the letter "o" being a hexagon and (in handwritten books) many neighboring letters sharing these vertical strokes, "weaving" words and lines together into a sort of unbroken "cloth"note . This, combined with the dearth of horizontal connecting strokes, could result in entire words looking like a bunch of verticals, with the word "minimum" being a typical example (it's why the letters "i" and "j" have dots). This version was often highly ornamented, the better to showcase the skill of the scribe, and is still the go-to style for newspaper mastheadsnote . On the other hand, the 1930s saw the introduction of an extremely pared-down style of Textura, akin to a sans-serif. Unfortunately, the era of their release meant they were inextricably linked with Nazi Germanynote and are now rarely used to portray anything else.
- Fraktur: by far the most common blackletter style used for ordinary texts. In the diagnostic character of "o", one side is flat and the other is rounded, which gives it a "broken" or "fractured" appearance. Wider, less ornate and more open than Textura, it is on the whole more readable, which probably explains its relative popularity. Still, you're unlikely to encounter it that often nowadays except in a historical context.
- Bastarda or Schwabacher: A rounder style, softer than the harder edges of textura and fraktur but still visibly "gothic" in style. The diagnostic character of "o" is rounded on both sides, but comes to points at top and bottom. The German "Schwabacher" style in particular has a peculiar lowercase "g" with a flat "lid" crossing the vertical strokes.
- Rotunda: The widest and roundest form of blackletter, most similar to its origins in Carolingian minusculenote . The lowercase "o" is completely round, and the "d" resembles its uncial form with a leftward-curving stem. It's the most similar to serif fonts by a long stretch, but perhaps for that reason (i.e., it's not "blackletter" enough), it's not as common.
- American Text: A member of the "Jackboot grotesque" style, released in 1932 and unique in that it was designed by Morris Fuller Benton at American Type Founders, who perhaps saw it as a way to jump on a trend (not yet associated with Nazism) that would appeal to German-speaking customers. And it has managed to endure to the present day, albeit in such notable uses as the English edition of Mein Kampf. The capitals retain more of the elaborate "Gothic"-ness than German examples of the genre, which can lend it a certain "storybook" quality, but tread lightly.
- Cloister Black: A 1904 textura font by Joseph Phinney and Morris Fuller Bentonnote , based on William Caslon I's own blackletter fonts from the 1700s. Sold as Old English Text (often shortened to just Old English)note by other foundries, including Monotype and Ludlow, and most commonly found under this name. Not to be confused with Engravers Old English, which also gets shortened to Old English; Cloister Black / Old English Text has less pointy letters in general, as well as more calligraphic numerals.
- Engravers Old English: Morris Fuller Benton's 1901 textura, which is characterized by its extremely "pointy" finials (stroke-endings) and a dangly bit on the right side of the lower case "h", as though it's unwittingly stepped on a piece of toilet paper. It also has numerals that mimic the design of the letters, rather than opting for the usual, more calligraphic approach. Confusingly, a number of modern digitizations are sold as just "Old English", also used for versions of Benton's later Cloister Black, which is a separate font reviving the Caslon blackletter.
- Goudy Text: Frederic Goudy's 1928 textura for Lanston Monotype, characterized by a somewhat "softer" appearance without being overly simplified. Goudy also made a set of Lombardic titling capitals to go with the font, which, depending on the digital foundry, are either offered separately or as OpenType alternates. Monotype's basic digitization is included as a pack-in with Office.
- Sachsenwald: A "Jackboot grotesque"-esque design by Berthold Wolpe, first released in 1937 by Monotype in the UK. The font's entire history was plagued by bad timing: Originally named "Bismarck-Schrift", it was conceived as a commission for publisher Ullstein Verlag, but the company's (Jewish) owners were stripped of their business by the Nazi authorities, and Wolpe himself (with Jewish ancestry) was forbidden from working as a designer. Wolpe continued working on it for Monotype after fleeing to England, anglicizing many of the details (and changing the name to something less nationalistic) in the process, but with World War II looming, it failed to find an audience and was quietly discontinued. It wasn't until 2017 that Monotype gave it a proper digital release, in two weights. Being more English-friendly and "softer" than the many designs of the same period, it could be useful where a readable blackletter is desired that isn't quite so fascist.
- Wedding Text: Morris Fuller Benton's other 1901 textura for American Type Founders, best described as a lighter, more delicate alternative to the heavier Engravers Old English, which it strongly resembles. Linotype also sold a version under the name Linotext. It still gets seen a fair bit in wedding-related contextsnote , which may well have been the intent behind its naming.
- Amelia: A notionally "futuristic" font from 1964, based on the MICR numbers found on checks and looking vaguely like Swiss cheese as a result. In addition to its 1960s connotations (see, for instance, the logo of Yellow Submarine), it has been used to suggest the future, such as in Future Shock by Alvin Toffler, though it's long since overstayed its welcome except in references to period graphic design.
- Albertus: A vaguely-serifed display font created by Berthold Wolpe in 1932 for Monotype. It's probably most closely identified with the films of John Carpenter, since he uses it for the credits in almost all of his movies. It's also associated with street signs within the City of London proper, as well as the South London borough of Lambeth, where Wolpe lived. The Prisoner (1967) used a modified version of Albertus (uncial-style lowercase ϵ, dotless i and j) on almost all signage within the Village.
- Bauhaus: A variety of stencil-style geometric fonts loosely based on Herbert Bayer's 1925 "Universal Alphabet", characterized by curves instead of corners and an overall aesthetic not unlike vintage neon signs. There are plenty of variations on this theme, but Bauhaus 93, released by Monotype in 1993note , is a standard install with Microsoft Office and especially ubiquitous. These were especially popular in the 1960s and '70s, which is where a lot of Bauhaus-style fonts come from, including Blippo from FotoStar (which graces the title screen of Super Mario Bros.), ITC Ronda and ITC Bauhaus from ITC, Cut-In and Pump from Letraset, and a good many others. More recently, P22 Bayer Universal from International House of Fonts and Architype Bayer from The Foundry, both released in 1997, resurrect Bayer's original unicase designs.
- Motter Tektura, a Bauhaus-style font created by Austrian designer Othmar Motter in 1975, is an interesting case. Although it's very familiar (particularly to GenXers from the U.S.) from several brands, most notably Apple, Reebok, and Mead Trapper Keepers, it appears that Motter never authorized a digital version. If you find one, therefore, it's probably a recreation.
- Bernhard Antique was created by ATF type designer Lucian Bernhard in 1912, and tended to be used rather heavily in the 70s and 80s to give kind of a cozy, "homespun" look to books in the phototypesetter era. It's still used here and there (a slightly modified version called Bernard Condensed (without the rough edges of the original) is a default install on Windows 10), although it doesn't really work unless you're trying to be self-consciously retro.
- Broadway, created in 1927. Popular with works set in the 1930s.
- Piccadilly, an all-caps variant created in 1973. Looks like Broadway characters made from neon tubing.
- Copperplate Gothic: An all-caps, monoline not-quite-sans serif with tiny slivers for serifs, well-used by those trying to emphasize their "serious" credentials, such as bankers and lawyers. It's actually an outlier for designer Frederic Goudy, who much preferred his many old-style serif types, but this has ended up his most popular and best-remembered font.
- Curlz and ITC Viner Hand seem to have become the stereotypical typefaces for the goth subculture.
- Elephant: Matthew Carter's 1992 revival of Vincent Figgins's "Five Lines Pica"note , an archetypical ultra-bold Didone fatface, essentially Regency England's equivalent of fonts like Impact. Thanks to its inclusion in Microsoft software throughout The '90s, it's been quite common in amateur graphic design. It was re-released later on as Big Figgins (matching Carter’s Big Caslon and Big Moore), with minor revisions to the character set, although it's been missing as a standard Windows pack-in for some time now. Available equivalents include Abril Fatface (a display weight of TypeTogether’s Abril series) and Sybarite Medium by Dunwich Type, both of which are free. The most comprehensive take out there is probably the Black weight of Hoefler & Co.'s Surveyor typeface, which includes contextual substitution of swash forms in the italic, along with a companion "handtooled"/"engraved" version known as Obsidian, which has insane levels of detailing across the entire character set; both require a commercial license, though.
- Hobo is a face with almost no straight lines, characterized by its "bow-legged" stance and its lack of descenders (note in particular the oddly truncated "g"). Designed by Morris Fuller Benton in 1910, it (like many aspects of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods) suddenly came back into vogue in the 1960s, particularly for the closing credits of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, and continues to be associated with psychedelicanote , to the point that using it is often a lazy shorthand for anything "far out" or "groovy". (It's also developed a secondary association with the tropics, perhaps due to the stems' resemblance to the bowed trunk of a palm tree.) Since then, other designers have tried to smooth over the design's oddities and make it more generally useful; Hobeaux by James Edmondson is the go-to example, although his subsequent elaboration of the theme makes it even more of an acid trip than the original. On the other extreme, Davison Arabesque (released in 1968) leans into the far-out uneven weight distribution and was pretty much left behind with the era.
- Several competing theories exist to explain its name, but the prevailing one is a reverse case of The Backwards Я. The story goes that Benton saw a piece of sign-lettering in Russian reading "Ново"note that helped inspire the design, and he (either intentionally or inadvertently) named it "Hobo" in honor of its genesis.
- Neuland (especially Neuland Inline) is best known as the Jurassic Park font, and is occasionally used to evoke images of the jungle and savannahs of Africa. It isn't necessarily a bad font, but be careful how you use it; at best, it comes off as clichéd, and at worst, racist, like the "wonton fonts" mentioned above. This fact was hinted at as early as 1928 with the naming of Othello, Monotype's Suspiciously Similar Substitute. Phosphate Inlinenote is a popular and slightly less hackneyed substitute.
- Papyrus. Ancient-looking font. The key here is ancient-looking: While not a particularly ugly font like Comic Sans, it's "a font from the early '80s wearing a week's stubble" and is neither based upon nor actually reminiscent of historical sources. As such, it's generally associated with New Agers and people with absolutely no sense of design. James Cameron used it for the Na'vi subtitles in Avatar and got razzed for it. A lot. This xkcd strip recommends its use for trolling font geeks.
- Peignot: An eccentric, unicase font designed by the equally eccentric artiste A.M. Cassandre and released by its namesake foundry, Deberny & Peignot, in 1937. Despite its vintage, it's mostly associated with the 1960s and ’70s, and the titles for The Mary Tyler Moore Show in particular. For a similar overall aesthetic with less overt quirkiness, try Touraine, from the same designer/foundry pairing, but with an actual lowercase.
- Revue: An Art Nouveau-inspired sans serif released by Letraset in 1968, and heavily associated with the time of its release, especially on album artwork and cheap paperbacks (the latter of which often featured a swashy version of Bookman as well). Nowadays it's probably most recognizable as the font on the infamous poster for The Room, as well as its making-of dramatization, The Disaster Artist. Dragon Ball fans might also recognize it as the font used on Funimation's Dragon Ball Z DVD singles in the early 2000s. Additionally, the font is also frequently used in Mortal Kombat 3 to the point there is a blog documenting uses of Revue, the "MK3 font".
- Paratype's Rodchenko is the archetypal, hammy, totalitarian SФVIЭT PЯФPAGДИDA PФSTЭЯ font. It is not to be confused with a much older font by the same name that is particularly associated with graphic design in the 1970s; astute viewers of Boston-based movies might note it as the font used on Boston Police cars until the early 2000s. This Rodchenko is also known as Futura Black and was designed by Paul Renner as a companion to the regular sans-serif Futura; in turn, it's not to be confused with Braggadocio, which was based on Futura Black but is a little wider, a little blobbier, and a little newer (1930s vs 1920s).
- Another "Communist-style" font is "Truth", named after the Soviet Communist Party newspaper "Pravda" ("Truth"). Other Pravda-derived fonts, however, are much more subdued and ordinary-looking.
- ITC Serif Gothic: A 1972 creation of Herb Lubalin and Tony DiSpigna, a monoline face with hairline serifs rather like Copperplate Gothic, but with an actual lowercase and stylized capitals, lending it a more informal style (think of it as the leisure suit to Copperplate's business suit). It's strongly associated with the 1970s and is probably best known today as a font used for Star Wars, both on vintage posters and in the marketing for the sequel trilogy; horror fans will recognize it from the opening credits to John Carpenter's Halloween (1978). It's also used in the logo for Chrono Trigger.
- Serpentine. Used a lot in the 1990s and early 21st century by brands that wanted to look hip and edgy, most notably the James Bond franchise. While it has an upright version as well, it's almost always seen in its oblique (slanted) form, the better to give it a sense of forward motion.
- Westminster was created in the 1960s by British font designer Leo Maggs and based on the style of the MICRnote characters used on checks. Until digital page layout became the norm in the late 1980s, it was known to most people as the "computer" font, although if used today it's more likely to evoke mimeographed zines and musty library books that should have been weeded out years ago.
- Wingdings and Webdings. A series of Microsoft dingbat (symbols instead of letters and numbers) fonts. Not to be confused with the Unicode symbols, these fonts use symbols mapped to actual keyboard letters (such as J for a smiley face).
- Rickshaw, Buddha, China Doll, and numerous other "wonton fonts": Used to convey an Asian, Chinese, and/or Japanese atmosphere, despite not remotely resembling any writing system actually used in Asia. Even so, they still get regular use, particularly from lazy designers or small businesses out to emphasize their Asian-ness. If you do feel compelled to use one of these (or are forced to by a client), handle with care, otherwise your work could easily come off as racist. Perhaps because of this pitfall, Choc (the bolder sibling of Mistral, described below in the "Script" folder) has been gaining popularity as an alternative. Its letterforms share some of the same vitality as various East Asian languages written in ink with a brush, at least making it more thematically appropriate (if no less hackneyed).
- Anime Ace: A comic book font first released by Blambot in the early aughts, now up to version 3.note Between its free-for-nonprofit license, its release just as Scanlations of Japanese manga were really taking off, and its name, it can be found in numerous unofficial manga translations, to the point that it’s become known as “the manga font” in some circles. That said, it’s looked down upon by professional letterers, and is rarely (if ever) found in official releases, perhaps out of fear that readers might mistake the title for a pirate edition. Maybe the ultimate case of its very popularity being its undoing.
- ITC Bradley Hand: A 1995 script font meant to imitate the handwriting of its designer, Richard Bradley (b.1947), otherwise known for his elegant hand-lettering intended for things like Bibles. As a Microsoft Office pack-in, it's seen in plenty of places, and is often used to lend a faux-casual effect to things that really shouldn't have one.
- Brush Script: An imitation of script lettering with a brush, designed by Robert Smithnote and released by American Type Founders in 1942. As a pack-in with Windows, it can be found on pretty much anything, though it's also not that great by script font standards, compounded by the not-that-great digitization.note There are other, better alternatives to choose from if you're looking for something similar, but if you absolutely must, consider the revival from ATF Collection, which smoothes out the kinks of previous versions and makes it at least somewhat bearable.
- Comic Sans MS. An informal script font for funny stuff, purportedly modeled after the hand lettering of comic book artist Dave Gibbons. It was never even meant to be used in print at all, but as the word-bubble text spoken by an early predecessor to Microsoft Office's talking paperclip. It has a reputation for awfulness that precedes it, and plenty of people hate it with a passion, although it is fairly effective in things designed for children (e.g. Beanie Babies). The problem is that amateur typographers seem to find it irresistible to use in grossly inappropriate contexts — tombstones, presentations and serious academic conferences, architecture, and more — for no apparent reason other than the fact that it’s there in their font menu. No one would call it a “good” font, necessarily, but the hate is largely misplaced.
- Chalkboard: The MacOS equivalent. Mac users looking for an informal font will find Marker Felt also included for free.
- Back Issues, Badaboom, Comic Book and Anime Ace, among others are often used instead of Comic Sans.
- Kuenstler Script and Snell Roundhand. Highly formal, based on ornate "copperplate" calligraphy from the 17th and 18th centuries. Good for wedding invitations and the like, though not so good for longer runs of text.
- Kaufmann and Dom Casual (which has a freehand effect similar to Comic Sans). Dom Casual peaked in popularity in the mid-'50s to early '70s, when it was (over)used much as Comic Sans is now. Today it's most often used when a "retro" look is desired, usually in imitation of "gee-whiz" optimistic '50s design.
- Lobster by Pablo Impallari is a script font that seems to have become common for restaurant and bar signs as well as many, many product labels. It was designed to take full advantage of Microsoft and Adobe's OpenType technology, including numerous ligatures to make it work more like cursive writing, and seems to be mainly used to give a sign or document a neo-Retraux feel. Because it was released as a Google Web Font and is free for anyone to use, it's become very popular. Perhaps too popular.
- Mistral: A casual script typeface by Roger Excoffon for France's Fonderie Olive, released in 1953. It's based on his own handwriting, and is fairly impressive for achieving a connected look with a minimum of ligatures (not that the most common digital version includes them anyhow). It's quite popular in advertising and on signage, especially for things (such as cafés) that want to evoke a certain breezy, French-adjacent je ne sais quoi. Bonus points if the thing in question is actually named "Mistral". Fonderie Olive also produced a bolder, non-connecting companion, named Chocnote , though it doesn't see nearly as much use outside Asian restaurants.
- Nuptial Script: A typeface by Edwin Shaar of Intertypenote , easily identifiable by the unusual indentations in the tops of capital B, C, P and R. As the name suggests, it's designed for things like wedding invitations, but in this era of OpenType fonts that can emulate hand-lettering much more closely, it seems to persist mostly out of sheer momentum (or people seeing the name and just going with it from there – a phenomenon nicknamed "LTypInote ).
- Segoe Print. Another font introduced in Windows Vista and Office 2007, presumably meant to displace Comic Sans as the informal/faux-handwriting font of choice.
- Maiandra GD is a font based on an early example of Oswald Cooper’s hand lettering in an advertisement for a book on home furnishing in the early 20th century, which was itself based on examples of letterforms from Greek epigraphy. Similar to Comic Sans without falling into It's Popular, Now It Sucks! mentality; Maiandra can be used in many of the places where Comic Sans would actually be appropriate without inciting "RAWR COMIC SANS!" rage.
- WhizBang: The original "comic book lettering" font, by André Kuzniarek of Studio Daedalus and dating back all the way to the early 1990s. Because it was the first of its kind (and also because it was widely pirated), it has made its way into far too many published comics to list. It continues to be used to this day, although it also has a fairly large number of detractors due to both its ubiquity and its decidedly rough nature as an early "faux hand-lettering" font. A good many "legacy" properties (e.g. Dragon Ball) are now stuck with it, though, and can't very well go changing it, lest the fans sense something amiss.
- Wild Words: One of Comicraft's many comic book lettering fonts. Notable for being the font used in professional English localizations of manga. While other Blambot and Comicraft fonts have seen use in manga, Wild Words is so frequently used that it's thought of as cliché. Yen Press, in particular, uses it for every release.
- ITC Zapf Chancery: A chancery italic font by Hermann Zapf, with longish extenders and a hand-lettered, calligraphic flow. Long included as a standard font on macOS, though it's gone missing since the Classic days (Apple still ships Apple Chancery, which is somewhat similar).note It can be used to add an elegant feeling to invitations, personal cards, and ad copy. The current version uses standard capitals by default but includes swash caps via OpenType features, which means you can dress it up or down depending on the occasion.
- Monotype Corsiva. Monotype's Suspiciously Similar Substitute, created to circumvent Adobe's PostScript licensing. (PostScript relied mostly on fonts from Linotype and International Typeface Corporation, leaving Monotype out of the loop.) Not quite as blatant a ripoff as some of Monotype's other PostScript knockoffs from the same era, Monotype Corsiva is relatively well-done in its own right. A standard install with Windows and/or Office, much as Zapf Chancery was for the Mac. The default swash capitals mean that it's not so good for setting in all-caps, not that the average computer user seems to care.
- Zapfino is a famously elaborate script typeface, originally designed in 1944 by Hermann Zapf but not released until 1998 because of its sheer complexity. It features a plethora of ligatures and alternate characters, allowing near-limitless customizability in the hands of a skilled typographer. Originally offered in four complementary font files, it's now available as a single file with alternates accessible via OpenType features. Though a standard install with macOS, the bundled system version has a much higher x-height than the regular Zapfino; this version is known commercially as "Zapfino X" (for "Mac OS X" and/or "x-height").
- Adobe Source, while not Adobe's first open source font project (that would be Utopia), is certainly their most ambitious. Intended, at least to some extent, to show off the capabilities of OpenType technology, the joint successor to both TrueType and Adobe Postscript Type 1 formats, the family includes three sets of Latin-script core fonts (Source Code Pro (monospace), Source Sans Pro, and Source Serif Pro) as well as a large number of non-Latin scripts including Hebrew, Devanagari, and CJK.
- Computer Modern (mentioned above) and its nearly-identical update Latin Modern were created for METAFONT, an early digital font rendering program that Donald Knuth (better known for his ''The Art Of Computer Programming" series of books) created to complement the TeX formatting package; however, they've been long since converted to PostScript, TrueType, and OTF formats for wide use, and expanded to include numerous character sets. They're loosely based on older versions of Century (as was commonly used in textbooks up through the mid-20th century), but also come in many, many forms of serif, sans-serif, and what can only be described as a blocky, charmingly antiquated monospaced form. (The original METAFONT source contained something like 60 different user variables, and Knuth noted that one of the reasons METAFONT didn't succeed outside the TeX world was because type designers didn't appreciate being forced to be mathematicians just to make a font.) Computer Modern and TeX were created because of Knuth's dissatisfaction with existing typesetting facilities for mathematical and technical writing, a field it still excels at.
- Cormorant by Christian Thalmann is a fairly large family of variants on a basic Garamond design, redrawn specifically for use on ultra-high-res ("retina") screens. It came out in 2015, making it by far one of the newest fonts listed on this page, not to mention one of the more interesting ones stylistically.note
- DejaVu (and its ancestor, the Bitstream Vera family) is one of the most popular open source font families; it's used on many free operating systems and is constantly updated to keep up with changes in the Unicode standard (which mostly involves adding emoji these days). Apple's console font Menlo is a slight modification of DejaVu Mono to increase readability on a computer screen.
- Freight is a fairly large family by Joshua Darden, used, among other places, by Facebook in some of their branding, and as the main text font for most Gawker sites. It sets itself apart in that the serif version's different optical size ranges are quite distinct from each other, rather than simply being designed on a linear continuum of contrast or proportion. The “micro” cut, while intended for very small sizes, also sees quite a bit of use blown up for headings and the like, the better to show off its angular faceting (done to aid legibility at its intended size range). More recently, Darden has collaborated on the sans-serif Halyard series, which employs similar techniques across its different optical sizes.
- IBM Plex: IBM's corporate typeface family, introduced in 2017 and designed in partnership with foundry Bold Monday. While the main impetus was simply to avoid having to pay licensing fees to Monotype for Helvetica (among other fonts), the family manages to reflect IBM's history and ethos as a company, referencing its logo, the graphic design of Paul Rand, and (in the monospaced variant) the Selectric Composer series of typewriters. And best of all for users, it's free and open-source, meaning it can be used (and modified) at will.
- Liberation and Croscore are two very similar families derived from Ascender by Steve Matteson. Both are open source; the Croscore variants are used by Google Chrome as exact metrical replacements for Times, Helvetica, and Courier but are essentially completely different designs. There are also two Crosextra fonts, Carlito and Caladea, which Chrome OS uses to replace Microsoft's Calibri and Cambria fonts. Not to be confused with
- Linux Libertine and Biolinum, which are a pair of fonts designed from the ground up as an open source font family. Libertine is meant as a replacement for Times, while Biolinum is essentially a somewhat more casual Optima. Libertine is the font used in TOW's logo, replacing Hoefler Text.
- Lucida by Charles Bigelow and Kris Holmes is very widely known due to one of its sans serif variants, Lucida Grande (also mentioned above), having been used for years as a system font by versions of Windows and Mac OS X. Lucida Console is also a common monospace font for coders, while Lucida Bright (an improved form of the original serif Lucida) was created for Scientific American magazine and has shown up sporadically on both Mac and Windows since the 1990s, as well as a good number of versions of Java. Closely related are the Luxi family (designed for the X11 Unix windowing system) and the TrueType version of the Mac OS New York font, both of which were also designed by B&H.
- The Microsoft Cleartype family (aka the "C series" or "the new Office fonts") is a set of fonts designed to show off Microsoft's ClearType rendering engine; the above-mentioned Calibri is probably the most common one, along with Cambria, Candara, Consolas, Constantia, Corbel, and Cariadings. They're standard with Windows since Vista, and with all versions of Microsoft Office; all except for Cariadings can also be had for free with some of Microsoft's Office-related utility software.
- URW Nimbus isn't so much a font family in its own right as a series of clones of Times, Helvetica, and Courier; unlike the Croscore fonts, however, the Nimbus fonts are virtually identical to their ancestors. They were released by URW for the GhostScript printing software package and are common on Linux systems and Windows systems where the owner can't afford to license real Helvetica. (In fact, the GhostPDL package that GhostScript is part of includes a treasure trove of high-quality Latin alphabet fonts, almost all of which are similar or identical to popular fonts like Arial, Bookman, or Univers, but not all of them are fully open source-licensed, so look it over twice before you distribute any changes you make to them.)
- The PT font family by Russian foundry ParaType (main designer Aleksandra Korolkova) was commissioned by the Russian government to provide a unified font family covering all the languages of the Russian Federation, in both Cyrillic and Latin letters; it's available on many Linux distros as well as OS X. It comes in mono, serif, and sans-serif, and in multiple weights for various layout purposes. note
- Rotis, by Otl Aicher, is probably best known in its semi-serif form, for which it's a somewhat popular logo font, but it comes in several other variants that vary by stroke weight and serif design.
- The Thesis family by Luc(as) De Groot (better known under its individual font names, TheSans and TheSerif) were designed as and commonly used as corporate identity fonts.
Finally, a few well-known…
- Ludovico Arrighi (Italy, 1475–1527) was, if not exactly the creator of italic type, one of its pioneers. A great many italic styles even today are based to some extent on his work, and he also remains influential in hand-lettered calligraphy.
- Ed Benguiat (United States, born 1927) worked for the International Typeface Corporation as both type designer and graphic designer. In addition to ITC Benguiat, he also created ITC Souvenir (based on a WWI-era original), ITC Bookman, and a number of logotypes including those of Playboy, Sports Illustrated, Estée Lauder, and a good number of 1970s movie posters. If you see a font that makes you think U.S. 1970s schlock, there's a good chance Benguiat had a hand in it, unless it was Herb Lubalin's work. House Industries sells five of his font designs as the "Ed Benguiat Collection".
- Morris Fuller Benton (United States, 1872–1948) was the head designer of American Type Founders and created, revived, or otherwise popularized over 200 typefaces, of which Century, Franklin Gothic, Hobo, and Cheltenham are probably the best known. His father, Linn Boyd Benton (1844–1932), invented a process of engraving using the pantograph, which allowed a single master typeface design to be manufactured in multiple sizes, where they previously had to be designed and cut individually.
- Giambattista Bodoni (Italy, 1740–1813), who along with colleague/rival Firmin Didot created what are now known as the "modern" or "didone" style fonts.
- Matthew Carter (United Kingdom/United States, born 1937): Creator of the ubiquitous Verdana screen font for Microsoft, along with other well-known fonts like Georgia, Bitstream Charter, Bell Centennial (the phone book font), Skia, and the Greek version of Helvetica. Probably wishes he created Myriad, since his fonts are otherwise ubiquitous in modern culture.
- Vincent Connare (United States, born 1960): Created Comic Sans for Microsoft and is possibly the most hated type designer alive. Also created Trebuchet, which isn't so bad but has been overshadowed by the rather slicker Verdana.
- The Didot family of France, printing pioneers active from the 17th through 19th century. Their eponymous font is named for Firmin Didot (1764–1836), who was also known for creating the stereotype, which originally referred to what we'd now call a printing plate.
- William Addison Dwiggins (United States, 1880–1956): A man of many talents, who coined the term "graphic designer" to describe his professionnote long before it was recognized as a distinct field. His released types are rather modest in number, but two of them (Electra and Caledonia) are considered classics of the hot-metal eranote , and another (Metro) was a newspaper mainstay for decades. His creative output was far greater than Linotype ever cared to bring to commercial release, but he has provided plenty of fodder for other designers; the Font Bureau and its alumni are particular devotees.
- Adrian Frutiger (Switzerland, 1928–2015): Creator of Univers, Avenir, and the eponymous Frutiger, the last of which was ancestral to (among others) Microsoft Segoe and Adobe Myriad, the latter of which very likely might be the defining font of the early 21st century. His OCR-B font is a common stylistic choice for movies with techie or spy themes. Despite his “humanist” reputation, he was adamant about only using obliques (slanted versions of the upright forms) with his sans serifs; the decision to release Frutiger Next with a true cursive italic note in 2000 caused something of a scandal at Linotype, so much so that they released Neue Frutigernote less than a decade later.
- Claude Garamont (France, c.1510–1561): Came to fame in 1541 for les Grecs du Roi, an influential Greek typeface commissioned by King François I of France to print Bibles; the Garamond family of fonts is based on his work and named for him, although some Garamonds are based on the later derivatives created by Jean Jannon decades after Garamont's death. Note that the spelling with "t" is intentional and attested historically for his name, while the spelling with "d" is usually applied to the types inspired by him. They sound exactly the same in French, much like Dupond & Dupont (a.k.a. Thompson & Thomson) in the Tintin series.
- Eric Gill (United Kingdom, 1882–1940): Best known for the typefaces Gill Sans and Perpetua, the tract An Essay on Typography, and being a creepy, incestuous sexual predator.
- Frederic Goudynote (United States, 1865–1947): A prolific letterer and type-designer working in the first half of the 20th century, well-known for his manynote old-style designs influenced by the Arts & Crafts movement, first for ATF and later Lanston Monotype.note Goudy Old Style (1915,note for ATF) is a standard install with Microsoft Office, while his (atypical for him) Copperplate Gothic (1901, also for ATF) is practically a cliché on business cards and letterhead. His Goudy Heavyface is also worth looking into as a less hackneyed alternative to Cooper Black. Credited with the aphorism, "Anyone who would letterspace lowercase would steal sheep."
- Pablo Impallari (Argentina): Creator of numerous free/libre fonts for the Web, most notably Lobster, Raleway, and free versions of Franklin Gothic, Caslon, Baskerville, and Bodoni.
- Edward Johnston (United Kingdom, 1872–1944): A calligrapher and type designer, most famous for his eponymous sans-serif for the London Underground and as the mentor for Eric Gill, who went on to design the conspicuously similar Gill Sans for the LNER. He is also credited with reintroducing the art of broadnib pen calligraphy to modern Britain, devising a "foundational hand" that synthesized medieval British "insular script" with humanist minuscule.
- Susan Kare (United States, born 1954): One of the pioneers of pixel art design and the creator of most of the bitmap fonts for the early Macintosh. Chicago is arguably her most famous.
- Akira Kobayashi (Japan / United Kingdom / Germany, born 1960): The current head honcho of type design at Monotype, who took that position after his previous company, Linotype, was bought out by them. He got his start working for Japanese photosetting firm Sha-Kennote and has gone on to work on typefaces with other greats on this list, such as Adrian Frutiger and Hermann Zapf.
- Rudolf Koch (Germany, 1876–1934): A designer working at the Klingspor type foundry during an explosively creative time for design in Germany, dabbling on both sides of the blackletter/roman divide and creating one of the most iconic geometric sans serifs on top of that. Though he has numerous blackletter types to his name, he is best remembered for the rough-hewn Neuland (think: Jurassic Park) and the sans-serif Kabel (used, among many other places, in the Monopoly logo). Was vehemently against giving away his work; whenever people wrote him asking for free samples, he sent them back an exquisitely-lettered postcard reading "Lecken sie mich am Arsch!"note
- Herb Lubalin (United States, 1918–1981): Creator of the divisive ITC Avant Garde font, and, like Ed Benguiat, a major influence on the type design of the 1970s.
- Aldo Manuzionote (Italy, 1449–1515): A printer in Venice who used the first roman type to make a definitive stylistic break with handwriting, as well as the first italic types (both cut by Francesco Griffo). Also responsible for the modern use of the semicolon. The company Aldus, which created the first mass-market desktop publishing program PageMaker, was named for him.
- Steve Matteson (United States, born 1965) has been closely associated with computer typography for quite some time, having been the creator of Google's Croscore and Droid families, Microsoft's Segoe UI and Andale Mono families, and the infamous Curlz MT display face.
- Max Miedinger (Switzerland, 1910–1980) created an intentionally dull, unassuming font called Neue Haas Grotesk, which, with a few tweaks and some genius marketing, went on to become the ubiquitious Helvetica.
- Othmar Motter (Austria, 1927–2010): A graphic designer of the phototypesetting era who specialized in modern, even futuristic-looking display fonts influenced by the Blackletter tradition. His Motter Tekturanote is well-known to Gen-Xers and older Millennials in the Trapper Keeper logo and on early Apple products, although it’s probably most ubiquitous in the logo of Reebok athletic shoes.
- Toshi “Tosche” Omagari (Japan / United Kingdom, born 1984): The current “golden boy” of Monotype, who has had a hand in nearly all their major releases since he joined the company. One of the more active type designers on social media in both English and Japanese, tweeting about type design and random Twitter things. Also operates the one-man Tabular Type Foundry, which specializes in monospaced fonts.
- Paul Renner (Germany, 1878–1956): Best known as creator of the Futura font, a bit of a spiritual ancestor to Helvetica et al.
- Robert Slimbach (United States, born 1956): Creator of Minion and Utopia (one of Adobe's first free software fonts), and along with Carol Twombly, Myriad.
- Kris Sowersby (New Zealand, born 1981): A Kiwi-born type designer who runs his own foundry, Klim Type Foundry, founded in 2005. He's also partnered with luminaries such as Erik Spiekermann in producing the serif version of FF Meta. As New Zealand's only prominent type designer, he has populated the landscape with fonts "for New Zealand", including National, Newzaldnote , and Pure Pākati, but has also captured attention overseas with designs like Tiempos, a modern newspaper alternative to Times New Roman. Prominent clients of his include the Financial Times of London and National Geographic magazine, along with the government of New Zealand.
- Erik Spiekermann (Germany, born 1947): A pre-eminent German designer and one of the few remaining "leading lights" of the business who has worked with all three major forms of typesetting during their successive heydays (metal/letterpress, phototype and digital). He cofounded FontShop International in 1989, and his FF Meta is extremely popular for signage and corporate branding, not to mention the basis of Fira Sans, the in-house font of the Firefox browser and erstwhile OS. He's also known for his rather strident opinions on design-related subjects: he will never mince words when telling you, in a crisp German accent, that your design sucks.note Now retired from type design, he's gone back to his roots to open a letterpress print shop in Berlin.
- Jan Tschichold (Germany / Switzerland, 1902–1974): A typographic radical-turned-traditionalist, at first championing the "new typography" of unadorned, left-aligned sans serifs that would serve as the template for the "Swiss international" style of the 1950s and ’60s, and later going on to design Sabon, a studied Garamond revival made to be identical across Linotype, Monotype, and phototypesetting systems. He's also known for creating the unified cover designs of Penguin mass-market paperbacks in the mid-20th century.
- Carol Twombly (United States, born 1959): During a relatively short career at Adobe, Twombly created Lithos and Trajan, as well as collaborating with Slimbach on Myriad.
- Hermann Zapf (Germany, 1918–2015): Creator of Melior, Optima, Zapf Chancery, Zapfino, and perhaps most famously Palatino, and an early pioneer along with Donald Knuth in digital type design. His widow, Gudrun Zapf von Hesse, is a type designer and calligrapher in her own right and recently celebrated her 100th birthday by releasing another font.
And a few companies, known as "foundries" after their original work of creating typefaces out of molten metal (there's a lot more where these came from):
- Adobe Systems: You might have heard of them. Founded in 1982 by John Warnock in his garage, the company pioneered the influential PostScript page-description language, leveraging it to work with major type foundries such as Linotype and International Typeface Corporation to produce faithful digital versions of some of the most iconic fonts out there, jump-starting the boom in desktop publishing. Thanks to their suite of creative software, they have remained ever-present in the publishing industry, but their most major contributions to computing have come under the hood in the form of the aforementioned PostScript language, as well as the OpenType font format, which allows for selectable alternate characters, multiple character sets, and much else. Their Adobe Originals series of fonts is also well-respectednote , although their curious penchant for including an ahistorical "Th" ligature in with the standard setnote on revivals of historical typefaces has been known to drive some creative professionals a little batty. They also run the Typekit service for Creative Cloud apps and hosted webfonts.
- American Type Founders: A conglomerate of some 20-odd American type foundries, including the Central Type Foundry of Philadelphia (among the oldest, if not the oldest, in the country). Under the direction of Morris Fuller Benton, it generated some of the most iconic typefaces of the early 20th century, but failed to survive the technological transitions of the '70s and '80s, going bankrupt and having its assets sold for scrap in an infamous 1993 auction.
- Apple Inc.: Along with Adobe, almost singlehandedly responsible for the boom in desktop publishing from the 1980s onward. The company's focus on typography owes entirely to college dropout Steve Jobs dropping in on a calligraphy class at his erstwhile alma mater. Employed designer Susan Kare (see above) to create most of the bitmap typefaces for the original Macintosh, before eventually licensing some of the most iconic fonts in the biz. Most recently known for San Francisco ("SF" for short), a Helvetica-esque neo-grotesque used for its corporate identity and throughout its operating systems (iOS, watchOS, tvOS and macOS). Apple's Core Text API is capable of adjusting character spacing and even switching optical sizes on the fly, which will be immensely useful to developers if it ever applies to anything beyond SF.
- Bitstream (now part of Monotype) was one of the first foundries to specialize in digital fonts. They had a huge library of both original fonts (Charter and Vera were among the first popular free software fonts) and authorized knockoffs.
- Blambot: A foundry specializing in comic book lettering, founded by indie comic book artist and letterer Nate Piekos in the late 1990s. Though its initial fonts were relatively straightforward, more recent releases have lots of OpenType bells and whistles in order to do fancy things like distinguish between barred “I” for personal pronouns and non-barred everywhere else, as well as offer variants of each letter to ease monotony in repetition. Its offerings have since gone on to appear in all manner of comics, major and minor, as well as translations of Japanese manga, both official and otherwise.
- Comicraft: Another foundry specializing in comic book lettering, founded by comic book letterer Richard Starkings in the early 90s. The fonts they offer feature many of the same features as Blambot's and if a comic book or manga doesn't use Blambot fonts, they're likely using Comicraft's instead.
- Emigre: Founded in 1984 by Rudy VanderLans and Zuzana Licko in Berkeley, California, its members were inspired by the arrival of the Macintosh to create entirely digital typefaces, with no metal or phototype antecedents. They gained notoriety through their eponymous Emigre magazine and its experimentation with "grunge" typography in the 1990s, which was decried by traditionalists; at the same time, they have produced hardworking screen faces such as the Vista superfamily, as well as elegant historical revivals such as Filosofianote and Mrs. Eavesnote . Their Exocet and Mason fonts are also an inescapable facet of goth culture and and anything vampire-related.
- The Font Bureau is a Boston-based company founded in 1989 by publication designer Roger Black and type designer David Berlow. They specialize in creating high-quality types for professional clients, including some of the most influential publications in the U.S. and around the world. They do occasionally indulge in whimsical creations or passion projects, but most of their catalogue consists of commissions. They've also developed a knack for shepherding young type designers who've gone on to do great things, such as Tobias Frere-Jones and Cyrus Highsmith. Known for their rights structure, wherein individual designers retain ownership of the typefaces they've made and can take them elsewhere when they leave the company. (Most former employees return the favor by staying within the fold on FB's TypeNetwork digital storefront / distribution hub.)
- FontFont: The in-house foundry of FontShop International, founded in 1990 by Erik Spiekermann and Neville Brody in Berlin with a focus on being "designer-friendly". FontShop was bought out by Monotype in 2014, although the FontFont foundry operated semi-independently until 2018. Some of its most influential typefaces are FF Meta (1991, by Spiekermann himself), widely used for corporate branding; FF Scala (1990-92, by Martin Majoor), a humanist superfamily for long-form text; and FF DIN (1995, by Albert-Jan Pool), an expansion of the DIN 1451 lettering used on German road signs.
- The Greek Font Society produces a decently large catalog of Greek and Greek/Latin fonts. Their GFS Artemisia font is essentially Times as rendered in the style used by most Greek fonts.
- GUST is primarily a Polish TeX user group, but they're also known for their type work, including the Latin Modern and TeX Gyre series (based on and enhanced from, respectively, the Computer Modern and URW GhostScript fonts), as well as some of their own creations like Antykwa Poltawskiego and Iwona.
- Hoefler & Co.: Formerly Hoefler & Frere-Jones, a Manhattan-based foundry run by Jonathan Hoefler (previously together with Tobias Frere-Jones) that has produced a number of high-profile typefaces, including Hoefler Text (standard on macOS) and the ubiquitous Gotham. In 2014, Hoefler and Frere-Jones had a falling-out over Frere-Jones's position with the company, with Hoefler arguing that, foundry name notwithstanding, Frere-Jones was merely an employee and not a full partner. Frere-Jones ended up leaving the company (and the entire body of work he'd done there) to start Frere-Jones Type.
- House Industries: A Delaware-based design studio / type foundry founded by Andy Cruz and Rich Roat, focusing primarily on display type for use in layouts. They're known for going all-out when promoting a new release, whether it's holding architecture/design exhibitions (Neutraface, Eames Century Modern), inventing a fictional type designer (Chalet), or throwing in a heavy metal EP along with an OpenType feature that liberally sprinkles Heavy Metal Umlauts at random (Blaktur). They also have a series of fonts based on the lettering of ITC heavy-lifter Ed Benguiat (Ed Benguiat Collection, Benguiat Buffalo, Benguiat Caslon). Their Sign Painter script font is a standard macOS install.
- International Typeface Corporation: Started in 1970 to capitalize on the invention of phototypesetting and now a brand belonging to Monotype. Their signature style was flashy, tightly-spaced letterforms with an exceptionally tall x-height, which didn't work so well in books and magazines but looked great on ad copy and signs.
- Letraset: A company that produced dry-transfer lettering, a popular intermediate step between hand-lettering and professional typesetting in the days before desktop publishing. Its ubiquity from the 1960s to the 1980s means you may well have seen it without knowing what it was. Many of its own designs were of the "cheesy novelty font" variety, although it did produce the influential Compacta, and it also licensed popular typefaces like Helvetica from other companies. Letraset bought out ITC in the 1980s and took on its name, so a decent number of Letraset faces are available digitally as ITC fonts.
- Linotype: Founded by inventor Ottmar Mergenthaler in the United States in the late 1800s, the company was known for its extremely convoluted (and equally popular) typesetting machines, which would cast molten metal into a "line o' type". The Linotype machine had a number of limitationsnote , but its (relative) speed made it invaluable to the high-pressure, time-sensitive world of newspapers and magazines. (For more on the machine that was dubbed "the eighth wonder of the world", check out the documentary.) Linotype (the company) survived the disintegration of typesetting as a specialized trade to make big investments in digital typography, and they're still one of the biggest names in the business. The company, now based in Mergenthaler's birthplace of Germany thanks to a series of corporate mergers, was purchased by Monotype in 2006 and officially renamed Monotype GmbHnote in 2013, although it continues to maintain the Linotype font library.
- Monotype Imaging: The 800-pound gorilla of the type industry, having acquired most of the other foundries in this list. It was originally British Monotype, the independently-operated U.K. division of the American Lanston Monotype Companynote , and is now itself based in the United States. Formerly Linotype's biggest competitor in hot-metal type, now its owner. The key difference was that the Monotype system produced individual sorts that were still hand-composed, allowing for finer-grained control over the typography, which made it more popular for books and other high-quality printing. The company is somewhat notorious for design theft during The '80s and The '90s; their "Book Antiqua" clone of Palatino outraged Hermann Zapf, probably even more so given that Zapf had authorized copies under different names to two other foundries. Their practice of offering fonts at steep discounts during certain periods is extremely controversial, with some designers seeing it as a way to expand their reach and others seeing it as devaluing their work.
- SoftMaker: A foundry well-known for its reputation of "quantity over quality", who used to put out CDs with 1000 fonts (mostly knockoffs of popular typefaces) for the price of one decent font from a more reputable source. The 99% rule still applies, though: Their "Palazzo Original" knockoff of Hermann Zapf's Palatino, for instance, is the only digital incarnation to preserve some the distinguishing features of the original metal version, as Zapf himself started tinkering with the official Palatino (and thus all authorized copies) not long after its initial release. That said, it's usually best to skip over SoftMaker's $9.99 "deal" to find the (more expensive, higher quality) typeface theirs is based on instead.
- TypeTogether: A UK-based foundry started by type designers Veronika Burian (from the Czech Republic) and José Scaglione (from Argentina), gathering the work of various individuals from around the world. Their Athelas is one of the default fonts in Apple's "Books" app, while the Abril series has gotten a lot of mileage out of offering the "Fatface" weight for free. TypeTogether has an especially close relationship with the University of Reading's type design program, and many former students (as well as one of its principal instructors, the late Gerard Unger) end up selling their work through them.
- URW++note : One of the pioneers in bringing existing typefaces to the digital realm, founded in 1972 by Gerhard Rubow and Jürgen Weber in Hamburg, Germany. A set of their fonts, donated originally to the GhostScript project, have been adopted among Linux users (as well as broke Mac and Windows users) as free alternatives to some of the most important fonts out there. Their Ikarus font editornote , first created in the mid-1970s, was one of the first and, through the 1990s, most important digital font editors available.
- Times New Roman is so named entirely because it was commissioned by The Times of London in 1931. It still uses a variant today; probably the only thing that could possibly incense the normally level-headed Times readers would be if they abandoned the Times font family for something noticeably different.
- BMW today is inextricably linked to Helvetica, and has been for quite some time now.
- Volkswagen has used Futura for decades. They manage to make it look clean and friendly.
- IKEA also had a historic association with Futura; this was nixed and switched to Verdana, which caused a small outcry among fans of IKEA and Futura.
- The BBC uses Gill Sans for its logo and corporate identity. As of 2017, it is phasing Gill Sans out in favour of a custom in-house font (though the logo is to retain the old typeface).
- The London Underground has used Johnston (from which Gill Sans is derived) for a very long time; the rest of Transport for London followed suit when it was formed in 2000.
- In contrast, most American subway systems use Helvetica. Most notable are probably the New York City Subway and Washington Metro, which both use white-on-black signage throughout their systems; some systems (like Philadelphia's SEPTA) liven it up by varying the colors (for instance, SEPTA color-codes based on the service, using white on blue Helvetica for the Market-Frankford El, white on orange for the Broad Street Subway, white on green for trolleys, white on purple for the Norristown High Speed Line, and white on dark blue for Regional Rail).
- Farewell, Etaoin Shrdlu: A documentary covering the final day of hot-metal presswork at The New York Times in 1978, the night before they switched to "cold type" phototypesetting. It's the End of an Age writ large, with longtime typesetters choosing either to retrain as pre-personal computer typists or to retire altogether.note
- Helvetica: A documentary about the eponymous typeface and its path from humble beginnings at a Swiss foundry to eventual world domination.
- Linotype: The Film — In Search of the Eighth Wonder of the World: A documentary about the Linotype Company and its typesetting machine, which revolutionized the printing industry when it was introduced but was largely scrapped after the introduction of phototypesetting and then digital production. The filmmakers also follow a handful of dedicated letterpress printers (and the sole repairman who services their machines across the entire continental United States) as they try to keep Linotype's namesake linecaster alive in a world of digital fonts and offset printing.
- American Psycho: Despite what Patrick Bateman may tell you, there is not a font called "Silian Rail" — his card appears to be Garamond. Van Patten's "Romalian type" appears to be Didot. Bryce's card is Helvetica, Paul Allen's is Copperplate Gothic.
- Shorts has a character named Helvetica Black.
- Thursday Next: In the Bookworld, different fonts are regarded as different languages.
- The Familiar: Fonts are used pointedly (of course, since the author Mark Z. Danielewski is known for his use of typography). The books have nine narrators, each of which has their own distinctive font, plus some other fonts used for other instances — leading to a listing of no less than 23 fonts in the end-credits of the books.
- Brick from The Middle is a font geek, which is just one of multiple things the show uses to show how weird he is. At one point he starts a font club at school specifically for discussions on the subject.
- Type:Rider is a mobile game devoted entirely to the history of typography and fonts, even going as far back as the age of cave paintings.
- Undertale, similar to Helvetica mentioned below, has two skeleton characters named Papyrus and (Comic) Sans. Almost everything written or said by them is done so in their respective fonts, unlike many other characters who instead share the same font. There is also the enigmatic W. D. Gaster, whose speech/writing is also done in a unique font - in this case, Wingdings (which seems to be where his initials are derived from - incidentally, "Aster" is also a font).
- Achewood. Téodor finds the guy who invented Comic Sans, and the rest of the cast drop what they're doing so they can beat the tar out of him.
- Helvetica is a comic about reanimated skeletons facing existential crises. The protagonist is also named after the typeface.
- In one Hipster Hitler comic, Hipster Hitler loses it because his new personalized typewriter uses Arial instead of Helvetica. For good measure, his t-shirt in that strip reads 'Heilvetica'.
- Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff is the deliberately terrible creation of Homestuck's Dave Strider. So all text in the comic is Comic Sans.
- xkcd shows us how to exploit a font. This strip deals with the frustration in recognizing bad kerning. And this one deals with someone who is upset at someone giving him the wrong type of font in exactly the wrong place.
- Wondermark features a character obsessed with this trope.
- Not Invented Here demonstrates the annoying results of teaching someone to recognize poor kerning here, much like the second xkcd strip above.
Paul: See this logo? There's too much space between these two letters. It's called "bad kerning".
Desmond: Oh yeah, now that you mention it, I do.
Desmond: [looking around] Wait, it's here too... and here... and here...
Desmond: It's everywhere!
Paul: Now I can go.
- Cyanide and Happiness introduces "The Comic Sans Game".
- The Walkyverse mocks the Comic Sans font a few:
Joyce: Um, Walky, the baby can only really hear me, like, through vibrations in my body.
- In Joyce and Walky! Joyce briefly throws Becky out of her apartment when Becky admits she likes Comic Sans.
- In It's Pregnancy (a spinoff of Joyce and Walky!) Walky tries to tell his son Bobby, while he's still in Joyce's womb, to not use Comic Sans.
Walky: WELL, TELL THEM ABOUT FRIGGIN' COMIC SANS!
Faz: What is wrong with Comic Sans? Faz has spotted it everywhere, such as a drug store logo, the local accounting firm, gravestones, my Starkist tuna packaging, Angelfire websites, emails from my grandmother, rape assistance brochures...
- In Shortpacked! the titular toy store used Comic Sans as its typeface when it remodeled. Predictably, Butt-Monkey Faz was the one that picked it.
- Cracked once took a look at how some fonts are seen◊.
- If you're using Mozilla Firefox, a handy add-on to tell what fonts are used on a Web page is fontinfo; highlight and right-click on text to use it.
- An interesting kerning exercise can be found here.
- CollegeHumor has created two shorts based on fonts, "Font Conference" and "Font Fight". Different fonts are personified by different actors, assuming personas suggested by the font names. Thus Comic Sans is a superhero, Wing Dings is a mental patient able to speak only using the names of symbols ("diamonds candle candle flag!"), Futura is a time traveler from the future, Century Gothic is a goth, etc.
- This McSweeney's piece.
- The sing-alongs on The Beatles used Folio Bold to display the lyrics on all used songs except "I'll Follow the Sun".
It also provides examples of:
- Discredited Trope: For professional print design, most of the default Windows fonts and their Mac equivalents fall into this. However, they are very common in Web design because of their high compatibility rate with most browsers.
- To overuse and misuse script fonts, especially Brush Script.
- Though the newer CSS 3 tricks, like @font-face and embedding sites like Google Fonts, allow the use of any font to be used on the web.
- Font Anachronism: For when fonts are used in the wrong time period either by mistake, by oversight, or on purpose to evoke a certain era while engaging the general audience.
- It's Popular, Now It Sucks!: Liable to come up with regard to any typeface that sticks around and sees common use. Helvetica is particularly divisive; while many designers still love it, it also has many detractors, not due to its aesthetics (which are pretty much universally admired) but simply because it's been used everywhere for so long.