Latest update: April 5, 2016: 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 most preferred for graphic designers” search results (plus variations) that I had time to visit. I spent several hours visiting blogs, forums, magazine websites, etc..
We did the homework so you can pass the test!
We spent a bunch of hours weeding through the menagerie of great and not so great blogs and websites to see if we could come up with a nice cross section of agreed-upon, best font recommendations from sources the collective brain of the web has deemed reputable. The results to any seasoned graphic designer will not be surprising.
[Note: amended article to get rid of a spam blog that hijacked someone else’s article]
But first, an analogy.
I went to the Boston Science Museum as a kid in the 70’s and saw this huge wall full of ping-pong balls dropping from a hole behind a big sheet of plexiglass. In between the plexiglass and the wall was a grid of pegs forming a diamond shaped pattern across the entire wall. At the bottom of it all was a row of slots the size of a ping-pong ball. A ball would drop from the center and bounce all over the place and finally come to rest in a slot at the bottom. Over the course of several hundred balls, a perfect bell curve would form. Once it filled up, the balls would clear out and the process would start over.
I took my own 3 kids to the Boston Science Museum on Father’s Day. I was younger than my oldest son the last time I was there. I wondered if 2 things were still there: the ping-pong ball wall and the 1969 VW Bug that was flattened to about an inch thick. Well, the VW was gone, but that ping-pong ball was still there. And guess what? The bell curve the falling balls made was exactly the same, producing the same bell curve it did some several decades back.
What does this have to do with fonts? Everything.
If you could grab 1000 pieces of printed material and do a font count, I bet we’d see similar results to the list below. We went to umpteen sites (good and bad) and took the best “top fonts for graphic designers” lists and tallied up the top 10. When it came down to it, there were really only 6 websites which we felt were really indicative of what people were finding when they did the “top fonts” search. Yes, there were a lot more, and our decision to not tally this or that site was simply due to the law of diminish and return. A much larger sampling set would not have really altered the results. Our search was not looking for top new fonts, but rather the top classic fonts.
And so, like the falling ping-pong balls, font usage falls into a bell curve, with the zany and crazy and all-but-useless on either end of the curve. But the middle the bell curve is piled high with results from the same core set of best fonts. I would venture it’s less than 100 faces that make up the bulk of all printed material (that print Roman characters, that is!).
Top 10 fonts for graphic designers
In alphabetical order, we have the following classics:
- Akzidenz Grotesk
- Franklin Gothic
- Helvetica / Helvetica Neue
- Lucida Grande
We culled this list from the following sites:
- Die 100 Besten Schriften
- Just Creative Design – Top 7 Fonts Used By Professionals In Graphic Design
- David Airey – 13 typefaces for graphic designers
- Typophile – Top 10 typefaces (a long list of user submitted entries)
- Spoon Graphics – 25 Classic Fonts That Will Last a Whole Design Career
- Smashing Magazine – 80 Beautiful Typefaces For Professional Design
The top fonts for graphic designers will change very little over time
The moral of the story is that while these sites may not be indicative of search results in 6 months or 6 years, if you do the search and matrices again at that period of time, my guess is that the results will vary little, if any. Garamond has made it 500 years so far. I suspect it has some legs left in it…
A few of my favorites didn’t make this list. A few of my favorites didn’t make my own list of top 10 fonts, so I could keep it to a nice number like 10. All said though, if you have these 10 fonts in your library, you will have 10 weapons of mass design at your disposal…
Working with BonFX to put together your corporate identity package is easy and enjoyable. We have a streamlined creative process that always yields results that please our clients. With 20 years of experience in the field of brand identity, BonFX knows how to help you reach your business identity goals. We figured out that there is a process to doing this, and we’d love to show you how!
Corporate Identity Packages & the Logo Design Process
Our corporate identity packages follow a set of well-trodden steps. While there is no wrong way to approach logo design, experience has taught us that there really are quantifiable steps that repeatedly produce good results. Any of these steps can be repeated, and no next step is taken until the current one is completed satisfactorily, ensuring a professional end product by means of mastery of each step along the way:
- Scope Definition
We work out in writing what the expected course of action and deliverables will be including budget and timeline.
The first step in the creative process is gathering information on similar companies in your industry. We also analyze any logos that you like, or envision you new logo having a similar look and feel to. We ask you a set of questions about your marketing goals and how your company needs to be perceived to attain these goals.
- Thumbnail Pencil Sketches & Brainstorming
At this step, we generate as many thumbnails sketches as we feel is necessary to cover the bases and give you many options based on our research and your answers to our questions. We get your feedback for each concept and repeat the process as many times as possible while keeping on track with the project budget and timeline.
- Narrowing the Range
After the necessary rounds of sketches are complete, we work with you to narrow down the sketches to a few choices that we will being formal digital design on.
- Preliminary Digital Sketches
We present the initial translations of the narrowed range of sketches into Illustrator, along with any variations the translations process avails. This is a bit like an archaeology hunt – you never know what you are going to find, or which path leads to great and unexpected discoveries.
We work to refine one, at most two concepts, by producing another set of variations on our now tightly-focused vision for your new logo.
- Final Selection
A final variation is chosen from the refinement process to receive one last round of focused and detailed refinements. This logo is then completed and made ready for print and other media.
- Corporate Identity Package Collateral items
If business cards and letterhead were ordered as part of the corporate identity package, a similar but much shorter process that includes most of the previous steps now takes place.
The final logo is delivered in Illustrator (AI), Adobe PDF (PDF) formats, along with any bitmap requests you may have, like TIFF, JPG or PNG. Corporate Identity Package collateral items are delivered in (AI), Adobe PDF (PDF) and sometimes InDesign (INDD) file formats depending on the nature of the collateral.
That covers the essentials steps we follow for corporate identity package creation and logo design for virtually every corporate identity client that we have served in the last umpteen years or so. If you are looking to hire a graphic designer to do identity work for you, we would like to cordially invite you to contact us about getting your project started.
Update on my WordPress development…
There are wise ways to spend time these days, and there are unwise ways to spend time these days. It turns out that the worst way a freelance graphic designer, who’s days are measured in dollars and minutes measured in gold shavings, is to spend time trying to build a website by hand. After years of lovingly and achingly “staying true” to my craft, I’ve adopted WordPress to do all the heavy lifting of putting together and running a website. I feel like an old-world watch maker who sees the new Seiko factory cranking out digital watches by the pound for pennies on the dollar. Amazing insight: “craft”, while noble, no longer applies to tinkering with every piece of HTML code, if one wants to stay afloat in the graphic design world as freelancer. This is a good thing. That kind of attention should go towards fine art, illustration, better print pieces, etc. In other words, I’ve awoke from a bad dream (hand coding everything, writing home-brewed CMS systems, etc) and found that an amazing community of people have done all this work once and for all, so that freelance graphic designers like me can focus on what matters. And what matters? Content! I’ve known this for some time of course but the constant nagging of overly-customized work was taking all my time. Projects went too long and I would eat the overage on a fixed bid job. This is bad if you want to stay on as a freelance graphic designer in a competitive environment!
Here are some WordPress tips learned so far:
- Keep your blog design simple. Think whitespace.
- Use a high-quality template. Even better, use a template framework with a budding and buzzing support community. Don’t bother with one-off templates from one-shot Joe designer
- Discover, through astute observation and archive reading, what your favorite WordPress blogs are doing and emulate it. Chances are they have let the cat out the bag for you. There is no “secret” to blogging other than, apparently, reading a lot and doing what those with more experience tell you to do.
- Work hard at the basics and you will have more time later for what you really should be doing, like in my case, freelance graphic design.
- Don’t fiddle with things that take away from what is most important: content.
Anyway, I’m rapidly working my way through implementing a new design in WordPress. I’m using Theme Hybrid (themehybrid.com) and getting through the initial orientation and learning curve. So bear with my franken-site for a few more days!
One of the hallmarks of Renaissance art and architecture is stability in composition and design in both art and architecture. The desire of the Renaissance artists and architects (often one and the same person) was to create a sense of solidity and permanency in all that they did. This required, as they discovered, adherence to some basic laws of math. They discovered ratios that universally achieved balanced, pleasing designs. Graphic designers, especially web designers, could learn much from this.
Grid based design and HTML
Web designers for some time eschewed grid based layouts. This was due in large part not to a disdain for grids, but rather a lack of HTML suited to the task. Table-based layouts where the pinch-hitter stand in that ended up going 313 innings for no other reason than there was no other way to get the job done and stay in the game. Then along came CSS and most designers immediately shuddered and 1) embracing a new way of doing layout since tables and “1px transparent gif shims” just worked and it was predictable. Not easy to edit, those tables, but they were predictable. CSS layout, or “tableless layout” as it was first monikered, was not easy to grasp nor easy to implement. After about five years of bickering and reluctant education, along with much CSS griping, graphic designers en masse adopted CSS layout.
Grid based CSS systems
With the advent of easy-once-you-know-how-to-use-them CSS layouts (“easy” might still reasonably be called a relative term), the focus sharpened on grid based layouts. Today, there are entire CSS frameworks built on Grids. The 960 Grid System system is the foremost advocate of this design / CSS approach to solving the problem. Any system is going to have it’s strengths and constraints, but the 960 system works for many people. There are many ways to achieve a grid based system, from open source collaboratives to home-spun frameworks adapted to a graphic designers own peculiar way of working. But what about results? And how does this connect to the Renaissance?
Grids and the Renaissance artists
The Renaissance has had a permanent affect on all Western architecture present to this day. Of course, we have to go all the way back to Greek architecture to give full credit. But let’s stick to Renaissance for now, since it was during that time that a clear and communicable rationale was established for their methods of design and architecture.
By way of a quick musical analogy, a famous musician (nobody know who for sure) was once asked in an interview about what notes or scales he chose while improvising. The musician responded “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” Well, in this case, writing about grid based layout is like designing a building about poetry. Instead, lets look at some pictures. So here are 6 Renaissance building fascades and 6 grid based layouts. We can see immediate parallels to the idea of header, footer, side bar, main content, etc. One obvious note is that a building is going to have a grid layout focus exactly upside-down compared to a web page. We don’t (not usually anyway) enter a building at the top floor, but we do enter a web page that way. Hmm…imagine a site that scrolls up? There’s a thought…Enjoy!
6 Renaissance inspired building facades.
Now, for 6 grid based web design layouts…
Further reading on grid based design
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