The Big Book of Font Combinations

So many font combinations. So little time.

font-combinations-book-v02The BBOFC is an expansive collection of carefully crafted typeface pair samples. The font pairings in BBOFC will inspire you and give you back time you need for your design projects. Use the combination examples straight out of the BBOFC in your next project, with other typeface software, or use them as a springboard for your own creativity. However you use the BBOFC, it’s bound to inspire and is a trustworthy companion to consult for all kinds of design projects and general study of typography.

  • 370 packed pages of combination ideas
  • Dozens and dozens of the most popular typefaces of all time
  • Uses many of the top classic typefaces you already own
  • Affordable, practical, inspirational
  • Fully searchable, indexed, and clickable PDF

100% Vector PDF

A feature of the PDF version is that all the type is 100% vector. This means you can zoom in using your PDF reader of choice, and get up and close to all the typographic goodness you want. It also means that print outs, for even closer examination, are as crisp as possible, no matter what size you print them.

Incredibly, the entire PDF of the BBOFC is an amazingly svelte 5mb even at 370 pages, which means you have instant download access to this huge collection of typographic goodness which you can quickly open and search in your PDF or eBook reader of choice with ease.

Typefaces you know and love

Our independent research, coupled with several other sources, yielded a matrix of the most popular fonts in graphic design history. We took over 50 of top typefaces and combined them amongst themselves, yielding over 350 typeface pairings. These font pairs are yours for the taking, ready to implement with little fuss if need be. They are also a great starting place for creating your own combinations with typefaces you may own that are not in the BBOFC. Either way, you have a great head start with the BBOFC.

Think of the BBOFC like this: it’s a sketchbook with some ideas filled in for you. The final masterpiece is up to you.

Fantastically faster than fiddling with fonts

In order to try fonts on your system, you have 1) find the font in your font manager, 2) activate the font, 3) go back to your design app, 4) re-select the text, 5) wade through the font list until you find what you just activated, and finally 6) re-adjust the point size. To create a typeface pairings, you have to do this twice,if not multiple times, to get what you are after. The BBOFC can greatly reduce if not eliminate this cycle for some projects.

A titanic typeface tutoring tour-de-force

With so many classic typefaces for graphic designers to peruse, it’s impossible to spend time with the BBOFC and not learn something new about a typeface you my already know well. And what about those other classic typefaces you’ve heard about, read about, seen in passing, but never got up close and personal with? The BBOFC is a great tutor because the first page of each font chapter is focused on just one classic typeface. Perfect!

font combinations
Format: PDF eBook
Dimensions: 8.5 x 11
Pages: 370
Your Price: $29.95 $24.95

Click on a sample for a close up…

Frequently Asked Questions

Take a few minutes to read the FAQ. We want you to get to know the BBOFC as the brainstorming or type sketchbook tool it was designed to be. If you want to learn about typefaces through examples and find your own inspiration along the way, then this is a great resource for you! Read on to find out more.

Why do I want The Big Book of Font Combinations?

If you love typography and typefaces, you will want this book. It is a working historical record of incredibly influential typefaces from many critical times in graphic design history. It is very easy to enjoy the pleasure of seeing so many wonderful typefaces in relaxed conversation with each other on the sample pages. There is no UI to fiddle with, no flaky font substitution or activation from font manager programs or buggy software or fickle fonts to slow down the inspiration process. Just use the table of contents to get to a typeface chapter, or simply peruse.

What is this book about?

The BBOFC is an inspiration resource for creating great looking combinations of typefaces and fonts for design projects using a carefully selected library of classic typefaces. While there are principles to help designers put together functional and pleasant combinations, nothing beats simply seeing them work together on a page on screen or in print. It takes time to create the samples in order to evaluate them. The goal of this book is to give you back some time, and have fun while learning about typefaces in the process.

Who is this book for?

It is for professional designers, students, and hobbyists alike. Students will learn the names and visual characteristics of some of the most popular typefaces in all of graphic design history. Professionals will find inspiration and save valuable time in the process. In most cases, a designer has to sort through a typeface collection using a type manager application (like Suitcase Fusion), turning individual fonts on and off for use in their design program. After locating and activating a font in the type manager, they then have to flip back to their design application and apply the font to a selection of text. There might be something therapeutic in this slow process for some people, but it does take a lot of time. The BBOFC is a little aid to speed that process up.

Is this meant to be a visual guide or a set of rules?

The BBOFC is not meant to provide a formulaic set of combination options. It is primarily meant to be a learning tool and a time-saving and inspirational resource for designers. While many combos may work right out of this book, many others serve as examples of contrast. Some examples have more harmony than others, and some have more discord than others, as presented.
It is important to note that no attempt was made to fine tune each type sample to best match another type sample. This was done so that all the type samples would remain consistent from page to page, to help the designer become familiar with the same text, same font size, same leading, etc., from page to page, to help form a mental picture of not only the samples in the book and how they relate, but perhaps how another font on their computer system might work with an example they are familiar with.
Again, while some combinations of fonts with their respective tracking and leading as shown in each sample might work as-is, they may also be greatly improved by carefully optimizing their individual attributes for even better results. I leave the fine-tuning of those attributes up to you!

What is this book not?

  1. It is not intended as a showcase of typography. It is a tool. A workbook. A sketchpad. Your favorite layout application document captured 350 times in the process of trying different typefaces on for size. It is a whiteboard, chalkboard, napkin, conversation, a walk in the wild Typographic Forest. It is like a color chip ink sample book for selected classic typefaces.
  2. It is not a manifesto of formulaic results. It is conversation amongst classic typefaces. You will find some great ideas right off, and you will come across other ideas not useful at the moment, and you will come up with your own great ideas. If this conversation sounds interesting to you, this is a resource you’ll enjoy.

How were the typefaces chosen?

They were selected by collating several independent sources of research to come up with a list of the most popular typefaces in history. There are various reasons why some typefaces made the list that seem to indicate a bias or preference on the part of the author, but that is not the case. While the list is not exhaustive, the list accurately reflects that all of the typefaces have great popularity and continued high usage in modern design.

What is the best way to view the pages?

Nothing beats a high-quality print out. A high-resolution ink jet print would be best, because it handles the grey block on the right the most naturally. A second best option is a high-resolution color laser print. The third best option would be a standard high-resolution laser print. However, being able to zoom in on the PDF using Adobe Reader or Mac Preview is very useful. Another option is to print at 200% and tile, if your printer can handle that kind of output.

Why did you design such a busy layout for the sample pages?

See the previous question for more detail. In a nutshell, we needed to cram a lot, but not too much, and not too little information on each page. Yes, there is a lot going on. No, you don’t want to emulate this layout for your next newsletter. But yes, you get a wide variety of practical samples for each font and each page, all without having to fiddle with any software. Think of it like a sketchbook for ideas, and you’ll have a perfect understanding of the layout.

Are you promoting old typefaces versus new ones?

It would seem that because many new and popular typefaces are not included in this work (like the ever-popular Gotham by HF&J), that there is a bias against new typefaces designed by living type designers over and against old typefaces designed by generations of past type designers. This is not the case. There is simply a logistical, mechanical, and numerical limit to what we could include in a work of this nature.
While future editions may expand the typeface selection to a degree, it will never be able to include all popular typefaces. However, our suite of mobile applications called Font Combinations contains both classic and contemporary typefaces, and can create thousands and thousands of combinations.

Should designers buy new typefaces?

Yes. The typefaces included in this book are all classics (or darn near close) and widely used. But you must expand into current type design vocabulary in order to be the best designer you can. Please support the work of living typographers. Do yourself and them a favor and purchase new, relevant work. Expand your typographic repertoire.

How do I use this book?

You must interact with this book. It is a dialogue. It is a resource. Each “chapter” is prefaced by a header and body combination using the same typeface. Subsequent pages for each chapter leave the header font in place while changing the body typeface among a range of options that will give the designer either a literal working combo, or an inspiration to take to their layout program. Either way, a lot of time can be saved by browsing the pages of this book first before fiddling with and drudging through large type libraries and cumbersome font management programs.

Hey! Wait a sec! You can’t just put any old two typefaces together!

This has been said many times. If you feel that strongly about it, this is not the book for you. However, your audience will be viewing your work primarily from an aesthetic point of view. This book makes no attempt to assert nor expound on any philosophical platitudes about the deeper meaning of typography. That is the rightful subject of other tomes. The Big Book of Font Combinations does the best job it can with the typefaces it is intentionally delimited to. To that end, this book celebrates the fun of getting inspired, and the beauty of getting decent design work finished, which is what most of us want.

What principles did you use to create the all this?

In general, the method I used was to first look for a basic relationship between the x-heights of each typeface. Secondary attention was paid to glyph width. Tertiary attention was then paid to peculiar chemistries between individual fonts which was usually a bold font as a header copy from one typeface and a regular weight font for body copy from another typeface. That said, if I found something interesting, I tossed the method out the door.

Are all these ideas really useful?

All the ideas are useful in some way. Some are ready to go to print. Just copy the basic info for point size and leading right out of the book, but do you own tweaking to the different attributes. Even less-than-apparently-useful ones are quite instructive regarding the personality of a typeface or font. If you know you don’t like a pairing, you might think about why by zooming in a little and really coming to a conclusion you can articulate. When you can do that, you’ve really learned something about a typeface or font.
For instance, you may be ambivalent about Stone, but negative about Stone Italic, especially combined with Helvetica. Perhaps the Helvetica brings out the worst in Stone Italic, in a way you didn’t see before, and now you can put your finger on why. Once you are able to do that, you have further developed your own visual vocabulary regarding typography in general.

Why didn’t you include [insert favorite typeface] in your list?

We had to draw the line somewhere. If we had included the next ten or fifteen fonts from our list of one-hundred typefaces, this book could have approached five-hundred pages.