Update: February 26, 2019: After nine years of the digital-only edition, the Big Book of Font Combinations is available in glorious, full-sized print editions: paperback and hardcover. Learn more!
Update: April 5, 2016: I recently compiled a list of the 19 most popular fonts according to usage by graphic designers from all over the web. I could have had 100, but I got it down to under 50, and from there whittled it down to just the 19 best fonts. Why 19? Because at exactly 20, the “long tail” shot right out and the differences in tallies became negligible. Take a look at those top fonts if you want and come right back because now we are going to have a little typography fun.
So you want to get a handle on the main types of fonts used by graphic designers and typographers every day. We have a list of 17 of the most used kinds of typefaces in general order of their usage and popularity. The most elementary and different kinds of fonts are here listed for you, so look no further!
We’ll look at all our examples using the same format: the name of the font, a basic description, and an example so you can see each one in action. Here we go!
Serif fonts are typefaces composed of lines with their ends embellished with small marks or strokes making them easy to read. Serifs originated in the Latin Alphabet. An example of classic serif fonts are Times Roman, New Century Gothic, and Palatino.
An Inspiring Collection of Fonts
FontShop sold a typeface collection called “100 Best Fonts” for a limited time in Germany a little while back. The website for this special promotion generously listed the names of all 100 best typefaces for graphic design with background information in German. When the typeface collection was no longer available, the promotional site itself retained a life of its own, serving as a go-to reference for graphic designers looking for inspiration. The PDF on the promotional website is a beautiful piece of design work, a nice visual resource, and just plain fun to look at even if you don’t read German. (NOTE: You can click the typeface names for more info)
How could this great list be improved? I was interested into what categories and classifications these classic fonts were placed, what foundries they were from, and what interesting insights might avail themselves if I could see all the data in one place. I also wanted one place to see examples of all these great typefaces, so I put those together too. Enjoy, and leave a comment!
If you do a google search for “what fonts go with…”, you’ll see Futura, Century Gothic, Bebas, and a few other suggestions pop up in the auto-suggest tool. We just did a post on fonts that look great with Futura, and now we are continuing on to Century Gothic.
Century Gothic is similar in some fundamental ways to Futura, but has some very unique differences that clearly set it apart. For instance, notice how the terminals of the letter “C” (and other letters) differ from each other in this illustration (which I reconstructed from an uncredited source on Pinterest):
The perpendicular cut of Futura seems to make it feel more “serious”, where Century Gothic feels a bit less formal. If you compare Century Gothic and Futura in a variety of settings, you’ll see that to a large degree they can be used interchangeably. So, let’s see what fonts work with Century Gothic, pulling from a list of classic typefaces we keep handy, and see what kind of look and feel we can get going.