19 top fonts most preferred by graphic designers from around the web

Out of the huge number of fonts used by graphic designers, there really is quite a small pool of fonts consistently chosen over and over again by graphic designers as their “most used”. I took some time to search out as many “top fonts for graphic designers” search results (plus variations) that I had time to visit. I spent several hours visiting blogs, forums, magazine websites, etc..

I tallied up the top typefaces in people’s lists. The list was about 40 fonts long after the first hour, but could have easily been 100 fonts if I kept at it. I then pared the list down and dropped off mentions of fonts below a certain threshold to get the list manageable and meaningful. After about 20 typefaces, the list took on the characteristics of the “long-tail” and it trailed off into more and more obscure fonts with no  group consensus.

NOTE: Because people generally favor the term “top fonts” over “top typefaces” according to Google, I’m using the term font. It’s correct to use in a certain sense, but this list really should be called “top typefaces”. Think of fonts as tracks and typefaces as albums. Albums have tracks and typefaces have fonts. Google “fonts and typefaces” for more clarification.

What we have left is 19 top fonts that met the criteria of being mentioned at least certain number of times. And here are the results!

  • Futura
    futura-19
  • Garamond
    garamond-19
  • Frutiger
    frutiger-19
  • Helvetica / Helvetica Neue –
    helv-19
  • Minion
    minion-19
  • Bodoni
    bodoni-19
  • Clarendon
    clarendon-19
  • Franklin Gothic
    franklin-19
  • Univers
    univers-19
  • Gill Sans
    gill-sans-19
  • Akzidenz Grotesk
    akzidenz-19
  • Avenir
    avenir-19
  • Caslon
    caslon-19
  • Myriad
    myriad-19
  • FF Din
    ff-din-19
  • Trade Gothic
    trade-gothic-19
  • Baskerville
    baskerville-19
  • Warnock
    warnock-19
  • Bembo
    bembo-19

BTW: The Big Book of Font Combinations wants you to stop by and check out its samples. So many fonts, so little time...

There you have it! For the experienced graphic designer, this list is no surprise. But it’s always a lesson. With typefaces, the wheel has been invented already, so don’t work too hard to pick your typeface for your next graphic design project!

More Top Fonts resources:

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Comments

  1. says

    Nice summary, I like how you’ve added the suns for each mention. Not surprised to see Futura as #1.

    Gotham will probably be on this list shortly too. Getting used quite often these days – seeing it everywhere.

  2. says

    Hi Philip: Avante Garde was in top 40, but it had just a few less votes overall than the last 3, starting with Baskerville. I was really surprised to see Baskerville ahead of Avante Garde, but perhaps in the end, Baskerville has just a wider range of application and versatility. But it was close. Maybe I should do a “Top 20 to 40 fonts” post :)

  3. says

    Hi Angel: I think both Avenir and Gotham will eventually make a list like this. I love Avenir a lot. Though lighter overall, it evokes the same kind of sophisticated sans serif feeling that comparable weights of Gotham do – very dignified.

  4. says

    Always good to see a list like this. I also agree with Jacob, that Gotham is everywhere now. Funny that it started as a commission for GQ Magazine. And Obama’s campaign for “Change we can believe in” uses it.

  5. says

    Hi NBK. Thanks for stopping by. There is a lot of love for Gotham. I wonder if it’s fundamental enough to stick with us for the next 50 years. It seems like a fundamental addition to the basic sans family we should all have.

  6. says

    Thanks for compiling this list :). I too am surprised Avant Garde did not make the top 19, or 20 even, but it is a bit specific an stylized whereas Baskerville is much more versatile and applicable in common uses of type as you suggest. Thanks again :)

  7. says

    Nice list and like the most of the comments no surprise Futura is on number one, but still a bit surprised with the Helvetica position, but that’s probably because I love it. Anyway great list always useful !

  8. says

    Erik: I was surprised to see Futura up there too at number one when I crunched the numbers. I thought it would be much further down, but in the top 10. I thought it would be 1) Helvetica and then 2) Garamond. I was most surprised to see Minion up there in the top fonts at all. I personally like it a lot (not love it) and use it all over the place, but I didn’t realize others used it the same way. I thought I was being a bit passe. Minion is definitely a swiss army knife typeface. Perhaps it’s more ubiquitous than I realize. I’ll have to keep an eye out for it…but I have to admit all the old school Adobe literature (not sure about today) with the Myriad / Minion pairing looks good to me still. Thanks for stopping by.

  9. says

    I remember being taught in design school that the correct spelling was ‘fount’ and that a font was something that you dipped babies’ heads in. What the hell happened to THAT?! I think that it was the last time I ever saw it spelled that way, though the guys teaching me were serious, heavyweight, old-school, hot-metal boys who knew more about type than I could ever dream of knowing.

    Anyone have any info on the switchover? Is it just an overly-propogated Americanism?

  10. says

    Hmmm…it makes sense that “fount” would be right, and in “foundry”, as in “hot metal” being poured into molds. But words take on new meanings over time, and spelling seems to follow popular usage. You’d have to shoppe around though to be sure…

  11. says

    Hi Douglas, just found your blog via the esteemable Mr Airey. A very refreshing read, thanks. Just one question. Am I correct in believing that for all intents and purposes Akzidenz Grotesk and Helvetica are the same font? Was not Helvetica based on Akzidenz which was the original Sans Serif (Grotesk) typeface? Can you clarify the difference? Thanks

  12. says

    @ Stewart: Akzidenz Grotesk is a forerunner of many modern sans serif typefaces, most notably Helvetica. They are quite different though. Maybe at small sizes they look very similar but on close inspection they are quite different. Akzidenz has been called “quirky” and “idiosyncratic” and if you really zoom in and look at the glyphs, it’s true. Most of the letter forms have something unique or off-balance that imparts an effect which I can’t describe, but overall, love. Akzidenz Grotesk, and URW Grotesk (a related typeface) are 2 of my all time favorite fonts. My humble little logo “bonfx” at the top of this blog is URW Grotesk. For instance, notice the strange angular little foot on the bottom of the “b” in “bonfx”. It’s details like that which captivate me and imbue the typeface with a very unique personality.

    Helvetica is an exercise in creating uniformity out of the quirkiness from the Grotesk fonts we are talking about. If you closely examine the letter forms side by side, you’ll see that wherever one of the Grotesks does something odd or off-balance, Helvetica decides in a way that is consistent with all the other letter forms in the typeface. This uniformity gives it a colorless, neutral, utilitarian kind of personality, which “gets out of the way” of the message. However, whatever your message is with Helvetica, this utilitarianism tends to have a strong presence.

    For instance, try setting “I love you, my dearest” in both Helvetica and URW Grotesk. If you compare them side by side, the Helvetica version seems sterile and robot like, while the Grotesk imparts a genuine, quirky kind of emotion. Your mileage may vary, but those are the kinds of things I think about when I use these faces.

  13. says

    Wow,Thanks for the lengthy reply, much appreciated. Next time I will make sure I arm myself with the facts rather than half the information!

  14. says

    Great article Douglas. Your passion for Typography shines through in your generous replies. I am just waking up to the true importance typography must have in graphic design, and this article has inspired me to read more and thus learn more.
    Thanks for putting this together, much appreciated.

  15. rz borusa says

    Having enjoyed a PBS feature on Helvetica I went looking on notepad and couldn’t find. It has been Interesting to hear what the professionals have to say. I have switched to Trebuchet MS for use on PC. Seems similar to Helvetica.

    My main consideration is readability. When I go a courtin the opposite sex I will have to step it up. I am reminded of an episode of Seinfeld where Georges story tested the best for courting. All in good fun.

  16. says

    Love Avenir! I see no verdana in there, hmmm… most corporates atleast this side of town/world prefer verdana! 😀 But then again these are what designers prefer… choices choices

  17. Marion says

    Go figure futura is at the top….Love it! Thought Helvetica would be second place for sure. Thanks for the list.

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