With 400,000 typefaces available online, looking for a typeface can be overwhelming.
Should you just look for something you like?
What about the weights, widths or italics? Do you have to think about the punctuation, foreign characters, different types of scripts? Are there legalities to consider when using a typeface?
If picking a typeface makes you anxious, this resource will help you take the stress out of the process.
After going over the advice of typeface designer Alanna Munro, we put together a comprehensive checklist that you can use with every project.
More importantly, we’ll show you what to avoid, so that you don’t run into design or legal issues in the future.
Let’s get started.
Firstly, Finding Fonts
Before you start running through checklists, you need to whittle down to a handful of typefaces that you may find suitable for your project.
There are two primary places to look for typefaces: foundries and marketplaces.
Foundries are expertly curated libraries. A reliable foundry will only recommend fonts that are well rounded and suitable for most platforms.
Marketplaces, on the other hand, are usually open-source databases where anyone can upload a font. These typefaces are often low-priced (or free)…but since there is no curation, quality can vary wildly.
Where Do You Find Curated Typefaces?
- Typographica – Typeface review site run by experts.
- Fonts in use and Typewolf are great for finding fonts visually, they have examples used in journals or the web.
- Font Review Journal – Reviews on typefaces.
- Type Foundries Archive – Big list of all the font foundries.
- Future Fonts – Type designers can sell their products on future fonts early. It is usually cheaper and you get each update of the font for free.
- Fresh Fonts – Weekly newsletter on fonts. This is an ideal sources when looking for something more unique.
- Font of the Month Club – Subscription of 6 dollars a month and you get a font every month.
- Fontstand – Rent fonts.
- Adobe Typekit – Subscription services, access to their catalog.
If you are working on a project that is on a strict budget, here are some recommended marketplaces
- Lost Type – Pay what you want based on the type of license
- Google Fonts – Free and open source, but used in most places, not very unique
- Velvetyne – Free and open source as well
A Quick Note On Licensing And Copyright
When it comes to licensing, the typeface creator typically owns the copyright for the original design.
They grant users (that’s you) a license to use it.
It’s very important that you examine the license granted before using a typeface on any project.
This step saves you from wasting time considering a typeface that isn’t suitable because of licensing availability or related fees. It’s also respectful to the creator.
The key takeaway here: just because you can download a typeface doesn’t mean you have the legal right to use it on whatever you want.
The 13-Point Typeface Selection Checklist
If you’ve found a few typefaces that could work for your next project, congratulations!
It’s time to run them through this 13-point checklist before making your final selection.
This will help you understand the limitations of each typeface, so there are no nasty surprises later on.
The Pangram Check
A pangram is a passage that uses all the letters of the alphabet. Your goal is to look for anything that looks weird or off-putting when looking at words as a whole.
Here’s one you can use:
“THE WIZARDS QUICKLY JINXED THE GNOMES BEFORE THEY VAPORIZED”
“the wizards quickly jinxed the gnomes before they vaporized”
1. Letters are proportionate.
Eg. ‘G’ looks to be the same size as ‘O.’
2. Characters are evenly weighted.
Squint to see if any look too thick or thin. Look closely at all the diagonal letters like ‘X’ and ‘Y.’
Don’t worry too much about having an expert eye on this. Considering the amount of text you read, you are already skilled at spotting these nuances. Just look for anything awkward or outstanding.
Spacing And Kerning
Look at the spacing between each letter to see if you notice anything that doesn’t fit well together.
3. Diagonal characters such as ‘AVA’ fit well.
4. Diagonal characters with rounded characters such as ‘OAO’ fit well.
5. Asymmetrical characters such as ‘LTFJ’ fit well.
Check the styles and keep in mind which styles your project or website will use.
When it comes to webpages, Google will automatically translate text for readers who have a different preferred language in their browser.
If the character set for that language is unavailable, Google may swap out the entire font or swap out the individual letter to a default font.
This makes for a challenging reading experience—and will likely result in a completely different aesthetic.
To reduce this issue, make sure your selected typeface:
11. Has the necessary character set.
12. Has the necessary punctuation set.
13. Has support for necessary languages.