What is your best fonts mix

xtruthpath's picture

I like Serifa with brazilia
Liberty with trade gothic...

I think it could be a good thing to share!?

Miss Tiffany's picture

I have found myself using Tyfa (Storm) a lot lately. I've paired it with small amounts of Stainless or Amplitude (Font Bureau). I've also just completed a project where I combined Farnham (Font Bureau) with Whitney (Hoefler+Frere-Jones).

dylan's picture

Farnham...I need to look into that one (uh-oh...better put my wallet away).

Glad you mentioned it, Tiffany.

Miss Tiffany's picture

For something entirely different, I recently used Dearest (P22) for display and Dyna Grotesk RE (Storm) for text and Eldorado (Font Bureau) for the tiny stuff.

Nick Shinn's picture

Folio Bold Condensed, Brush Script, Milwaukee (Font Diner), Futura Condensed.


dezcom's picture

Thanks, I needed comic relief just now :-)


Miss Tiffany's picture

Dez. Did you look at his cover? I thought the same thing and then looked and though wow those really do work well for that application.

Bald Condensed's picture

I can't like anything that has Futura Condensed in it. I'm not allowed by my religion. O:)

marian bantjes's picture

Just discovered the other day: Samba + Gotham Light (all caps).

I won't mention the 10 blackletters for fear of being struck dead.


jupiterboy's picture

I think I'm working out a Dolly/Formata mix at the moment.

I like this thread. I'd like to see some informal samples posted of the pairings for fun.

chronicle's picture

Bodoni Poster Italic and Avenir.

Palatine's picture

Scala and Scala Sans. Not a very imaginative choice, but this pair works on so many levels.

csr's picture

Miller/Meta has been almost too easy for me. Perhaps this thread will persuade me in a different direction.

draga's picture

hey guys here are some combinations that I've come across:
1) Archer with Verlag
3) Meta with Minion
4) Trajan with Gill sans
5) Formata with dolly
6) Dolly with FF quadraat sans
7) Din with Warnock
8) Din with caecillia

draga's picture

wow axe trajan w/ gill sans, not sure how that ended up on my list ...

dbonneville's picture

Here are 19:


Complete with a PDF you can zoom in on.

Also, try:


I have a font combination resource book coming out in 2010 and a iPhone App called "Font Combos" already on sale in the App Store.

Frutiger with Minion is a fav. Same for Din with Warnock.

Nick Shinn's picture

Doug, your recommendations, if "19 top fonts" is anything to go by, are safe, easy and boring.
The typefaces you recommend were almost all designed long ago, (none this century) and are published by corporations.

I declare my bias: I am alive, design original typefaces, and own the foundry that publishes them.

Get with the tour!

dbonneville's picture

@ Nick: Indeed, they are safe and boring. Like a Toyota and an iPod Classic. That is kind of the point of this particular article.

The premise of 19 combinations was based on 19 top fonts that I researched. Old, fuddy-duddy, or what-have-you, these ARE the fonts that most designers use on a routine basis.

Read the original article (well, glance anyway):


The intro reads as follows:

"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 for graphic designers' search results (plus variations) that I had time to visit. I spent several hours visiting blogs, forums, magazine websites, etc.."

That said, post a link back to something you've done that could possibly slip into the list I came up with. Just because something isn't widely used doesn't mean it shouldn't be! I'd love to see it.

Nick Shinn's picture

Thanks for the offer Doug, but the ad hoc inclusion of this critic's fonts won't appease me or make your list relevant.

"Several hours" of internet aggregation may indeed provide a "top fonts" list, but the assumption that this corresponds to the fonts "most preferred by graphic designers" is completely spurious.

...these ARE the fonts that most designers use on a routine basis.

That sounds authorative, but it's bullshit with no meaningful statistical basis. Who are these "most designers"? How big is your sample? Did you ask them to analyze their recent work and name the fonts used? Did you do a survey of web sites and print publications? Or competitions?

dezcom's picture

A more meaningful attempt at a list would be, "Which fonts work for which subjects and audiences" but that would take some serious research and some rigorous testing, much tougher than a straw poll of a few friends.

dbonneville's picture

I think the list has some relevance. Two independent articles that came to very similar conclusions:



I'm just reporting what I found by doing my own "unscientific" research. That is all.

My sample was big enough so that there was no meaningful (to me) distinction in the "long tail" of self-reporting "favorite font" data I could find on the web after a certain point. My own statistics showed that after the first 19 fonts (20 and beyond, on my list) the "tail" shot out and I concluded my data was broad enough. I was not interested in doing more than that, since I wasn't interested in the tail so much as the consensus.

If you simply took the excellent results from the survey in the first article at Abduzeedo, and got rid of the long tail, you will find an extremely close overlap with my own research, perhaps close to 90%. And that is just with 17 designers.

The results from the second article, primarily based on sales, confirm nearly the same.

One last tidbit I just found from 2009:

"According to fonts.com and fontshop.com the following fonts were best sellers in 2009:

Arial • ITC Franklin Gothic • Benton Sans • FF Meta • FF Din • Eurostile • Gill Sans • DIN Next • Avenir • Futura • Frutiger • Helvetica • Interstate • Akzidenz Grotesk • Univers • Trade Gothic • the Sans • Neo • SoHo • ITC Avant Garde Gothic • Rotis • Zapfino • Optima • Estillo • Helvetica Neue • Estilo Script • Waza™ • Olicana Smooth OT • Louisiana • Metroscript OT

There are many more classic fonts than I would have imagined."

You'll once again notice, based on recent sales stats from the vendors mentioned, the overlap with my own data is significant, as well as the reliance by many font purchasers on classic typefaces.

So, my data, while not clinical in a formal sense, are nonetheless devoid of willy-nilly spuriousness. It does reveal that most people buy boring, classic fonts though, according to many sources and not just mine.

Nick Shinn's picture

the overlap with my own data is significant ... most people buy boring, classic fonts

Certainly, many vintage type designs are sold, and many designers say they use them (while no doubt keeping mum about Comic Sans and Papyrus).

Nonetheless, your "top 19" is exclusively comprised of old typefaces from corporate sellers.
It may well be, as you claim, "19 top fonts most preferred by [some] graphic designers from around the web", but it is missing at least ten typefaces from the "tidbits" list you mention, that were designed and published in the present millennium.

Why are you biased against contemporary, independent foundries?

Perhaps it is because the majority of the fonts on your 19 came bundled with Adobe applications and the Mac OS?
(I know, because that's how I acquired them.)
Are you suggesting that designers' best practice is to stick with fonts from corporate publishers, that they acquired through bundling?

Take a look at the MyFonts bestsellers, and get up to date.

Brandon Grotesque
Champion Script
Mrs Eaves

And then there are the Hoefler and Frere-Jones types.
I understand they are quite popular, and highly visible in the media, although they may not be AS popular with the majority of designers who use free, bundled, and less expensive fare.

dbonneville's picture

Nick: I'm not biased. Three of my own personal modern favorites aren't on the list only because the data put them in the "long tail" outside of my scope:

Mrs. Eaves

I went to MyFonts and found the 50 bestsellers for the last month (May 2010). If you compare this to the 19 I found to the MyFonts bestsellers list, you find:

(* = overlap in top 20)
(** = overlap in top 50)

** Futura
* Frutiger
* Helvetica / Helvetica Neue
Franklin Gothic
* Univers
Gill Sans
* Akzidenz Grotesk
* Avenir
** Myriad
FF Din
** Trade Gothic

The Hoefler and Frere-Jones types still didn't register outside of the top 20 in my research, though I'm pretty sure Interstate was in the top 40 somewhere, as was Gotham. I was kind of surprised that Gotham wasn't in the top 20 actually.

It's a *very* good assumption that many designers get typefaces like Arno, Warnock, and Myriad with Adobe products and/or Mac OS. While not exciting, they are versatile and above all - included in your Adobe purchase and thus likely to occupy a soft spot in the hearts of many new designers.

The data is skewed towards corporate and otherwise free or low-cost classic faces due to distribution channels for them, like Adobe, having sheer numerical dominance. It's hard to compete with free. But unless the sales data at MyFonts is misleading, people are still going out of their way with cash money in hand to buy some of these oldies for reasons attributed to the overall usefulness of the typeface. If you are on a limited budget and are just starting out and want to acquire a type library, it makes good sense to get a Helvetica Neue expanded collection going. Gotta start somewhere.

"Why are you biased against contemporary, independent foundries?"

Again, I'm just reporting the fact, not setting an agenda.

"Are you suggesting that designers' best practice is to stick with fonts from corporate publishers, that they acquired through bundling?"

I'm not suggesting that is a best practice, but I'm reporting it as a matter-of-fact practice.

I think a best practice is to encourage designers to spend money on new typefaces especially from independent foundries, like they would on music gear if they were musicians, or on paints and materials if they were artists.

I will be doing new research and blog content focused on independent foundries in the coming months.

It just happens that the last type book I purchased a few weeks back, "Typeface: Classic Typography for Contemporary Design" by Tamye Riggs is a real delight to read. The list of typefaces she works with contains 46 typefaces, all of which are on the lists and research I did. She got a lot of flack from her "fellow type fanatics" about what should and shouldn't be on the list.

Her concluding sentence in the intro rings true for me:

"What is included is ultimately not the preference of the authors - the content evolved organically from a thorough exploration of typography in the design world."

Her research mirrors mine nearly identically. She did more research than I, so I'll defer to her list, even though I did my research before her book came out earlier this year.

But the second paragraph of the intro is even better:

"I could see tremendous potential for such a type book. Let me preface this by saying that I'm a big fan of living type designers and I support their efforts as much as possible. But while plenty of graphic designers employ new typefaces in their projects, there is still a tremendous amount of stunning work being produced using type that originated in the twentieth centuries and much earlier."

I couldn't say it any better myself, so I won't try!

dezcom's picture

"I think a best practice is to encourage designers to spend money on new typefaces especially from independent foundries, like they would on music gear if they were musicians, or on paints and materials if they were artists."

It is difficult to do this if every list that gets published in typography books completely ignores contemporary work!
Of course good design work can be and has been done with older bundled fonts. Everybody has them if they have design software so the odds are way skewed. If you only look in a sand box, you will surely find sand.

Tamye's book has some indy fonts including mine but that is a rare exception because most books rely on biased collections of data.

dbonneville's picture

"It is difficult to do this if every list that gets published in typography books completely ignores contemporary work!"

I can see how this looks like bias. Even if it is not pernicious, it has the same effect as being so. Good point.

What typeface in Tamye's book is yours? I'd like to look it up so I can tell people I "met" the designer :)

dezcom's picture

It is on page 221, the poster on the top. The poster is my design but the fonts are OCR and FF Din, not mine. The update of this poster uses one of my fonts instead of Din.


dbonneville's picture

The "uncertain" u and n are very clever. Very cool!

Nick Shinn's picture

Aggregating creates bias because not only does it report the long tail, it feeds it.

Consider Jason Santa Maria's favorite fonts, as featured at FontShop.

He has chosen several classics, such as Garamond and Trade Gothic, which are on many people's lists.
He has also chosen recent fare, such as Freight, Skolar, and Vista Sans, which are less broadly established.

So even though a poll of designers may reveal that their font choices are 50/50 classic/new, because the old faces come from a small stable of classics, whereas the new are a more disparate selection, the old faces will beat out the new in a "most preferred" list.

But this is a lie, because it gives the impression that most designers prefer classics exclusively.

Doug, you have used the metaphor of the long tail: abide by it, and find a way to reflect the truth that together, the belly and the tail are bigger than the head. This is the nature of the digital font beast.

dbonneville's picture

@ Nick:

I see your point. I would emphasize that the data is not a lie, but rather, it represents only one aspect of a complex picture to the exclusion of another from a particular perspective. That is nearly unavoidable, as the intro to Tamye's book suggests, with any discussion about.

You are right in saying the picture is not so simple. The problem, though, is that the other aspects (facets of the "long tail") are indeed much, much harder to represent. It's like trying to quantify "The top 10 independent Bed & Breakfast Inns": it just can't be done because they are so localized and specialized, that "top" doesn't apply. You could say "10 great independent Bed & Breakfast Inns", but that would not be data; it would be opinion.

I guess it's how you read the data - the meta narrative surrounding the facts.

Nick Shinn's picture

If you're talking about mixing fonts, I would say that any two fonts can be mixed, according to one principle or other.
So the principle is the important thing. (And in a way, a named font represents a principle, especially if it is one that has entered the collective conscious as an archetype, through many revivals at different hands--i.e. a classic.)

Don't name each B&B, but you will have to make some effort at defining categories in an abstract way. Rather than "like Helvetica", say Swiss. And don't get so hung up on "top".

Where is the beauty of serendipity and unprejudiced encouragement to people to construct their own strange and unprecedented meanings, in the formulaic world of If You Liked That You'll Like This?

dbonneville's picture

"Where is the beauty of serendipity and unprejudiced encouragement to people to construct their own strange and unprecedented meanings..."

Beautifully put - that is where design is most interesting.

There is a language involved in all this, and exposing curious people to the common denominators is helpful for learning the basics, specifically when they are asking about the basics. Before serendipity can happen, there must be a common language to facilitate it: my little article is geared towards that "boring" common denominator that Google tells me people are asking about.

All that said, you are making me think about where I could take this to help facilitate the unexpected.

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