Typographer’s typefaces

The 25 most admired typefaces by typographers, type designers and letterers.

In case you missed our most popular post from last year, here it is again. It’s also been translated into Japanese.

Selecting the right typeface makes all the difference to effective design and communication. But with over 100,000 font families to pick from it can be a daunting task. There are some excellent guides on how to choose a typeface and helpful methods for pairing typefaces but in order to apply these principles it’s important to be familiar with a broad range of quality typefaces.

Wouldn’t it be great to start with a short list of typefaces, hand-picked by designers in the type industry? In each issue of 8 Faces magazine we asked eight leading designers from the fields of typography, lettering and type design itself: If you could use just eight typefaces, which would you choose?

Over four years and across eight issues we interviewed 64 world-renowned designers1, including; Erik Spiekermann, Jessica Hische, Michael Bierut, Nina Stössinger, Mark Simonson & Seb Lester, plus owners of respected type foundries such as, Font Smith, Type Together and Process Type.

We’ve counted the number of times each typeface was selected and found consensus with the top 25. The top 10 designers’ favourite fonts will be quite familiar to many but hopefully the full list will provide a useful stepping stone to exploring many more.

1. Georgia

Georgia, Matthew Carter

Matthew Carter, 1993. Chosen 11 times. Originally designed for clarity on low resolution screens, for Microsoft, it is the counterpart to Verdana, which also appears in this list. Georgia has a large x-height and ascenders that rise above the cap height. It’s a sturdy yet friendly typeface, with a wonderful flowing italic, that features on millions of websites.

“A gorgeous technical achievement.” Jason Santa Maria

2. Gotham

Gotham, Tobias Frere-Jones

Tobias Frere-Jones, 2000. Chosen 8 times. Famously used for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

“Each character just feels ‘normal’ and ‘right’”. H & FJ

3. FF Scala

Scala & Serif, Martin Majoor

Martin Majoor, 1990. Chosen 6 times. FontShop International’s ‘first serious text face’.

“Scala and Scala San are just about perfect.” John Boardley

4. Futura

Futura, Paul Renner

Paul Renner, 1927. Chosen 5 times. This immortal ‘modern’ typeface with its uncompromising shapes has become the benchmark geometric sans for almost 80 years.

“Paul Renner’s Future characterised his time and influenced many other designers. It was a real modern typeface, not based on existing serif typefaces”. Georg Salden

5. Gill Sans

Gill Sans, Eric Gill

Eric Gill, 1926. Chosen 5 times. A quintessential British design produced under the direction of Stanley Morison at Monotype.  It remains one of the most distinctive blends of humanist and geometric shapes.

6. Garamond

Garamond, Claude Garamond

(Claude Garamond, c. 1480–1561), Several derivatives of the Parisian punch cutter’s design have been chosen, including; ITC Garamond (Tony Stan), Adobe Garamond & Garamond Premier (Robert Slimbach). Chosen 5 times.

“Garamond was quite the master who appreciated restraint as much as elegance. Of the various roman and italic sizes that he cut, I feel his Vraye Parangonne font (about 18 pt.) best captures the essence of his vision. The subtlety of line and detail are simply remarkable.” Robert Slimbach

7. Caslon (Adobe Caslon)

Caslon, William Caslon I, Carol Twombly

(William Caslon I, 1722) Carol Twombly, 1990. Chosen 5 times. Gave rise to a printer’s saying ‘When in doubt, use Caslon’. Also a favourite of Benjamin Franklin.

8. Akzidenz Grotesk

Akzidenz Grotesk, Berthold Type Foundry

H. Berthold, Berthold Type Foundry, 1898. Chosen 4 times. The first widely used sans serif typeface.

“The original grotesque and still the best.” Vincent Connare

9. Alternate Gothic

Alternate Gothic, Morris Fuller Benton

Morris Fuller Benton, 1903. Chosen 4 times. Designed for the American Typefounders Company (ATF). All three weights are bold and narrow. Currently used on YouTube’s homepage logo.

“Very well designed and drawn. It’s a standard that I strive for in my own work” Mark Simonson 

10. Baskerville

Helvetica, Max Miedinger with Eduard Hoffmann

John Baskerville, 1757. Chosen 4 times. Baskerville designed his own type to improve his printed works and better the dominant fonts of William Caslon. His typefaces were both admired (notably by Giambattista Bodoni and Benjamin Franklin) and criticised by his competitors.

Baskerville made variations of his typeface for use at different sizes (now referred to as ‘optical sizes’). Some modern interpretations of Baskerville have been reproduced following the designs of a specific size, resulting in several distinct versions.

There are some beautiful, classic typefaces on this list. I was a little surprised that Verdana made the top 25. It wouldn’t have been one of my top choices.