Contemporary sans for body text

katju's picture


I am new to the forum, and very impressed of the quality and amount of information on this site. I am hoping for your help on finding a contemporary sans serif, that has readability in long text settings and large enough family to include condensed styles.

This is for a minor redesign of a magazine on culture and society. The magazine uses a lot of illustration and it's printed with just two spot colors on an uncoated paper. The overall feel is quite airy, graphic and a bit experimental. Current fonts for body text and headlines are ITC Franklin Gothic and Arnhem Blond, with occasional SerifedSans headlines and some flourishes to spice it up. I will keep the flourishes, and the basic layout, but I will change the text fonts and redesign some of the details.

The reason why I am looking for something contemporary and new instead of, say Frutiger, is quite vain - it's just to keep it fun for me. I already have some good candidates, but I would love to hear of any new ideas. I'm sure there are still some treasures to be found.

This is what the new font set should consist of:

2 headline fonts
- Farnham Display Swash Italic / this is decided & bought already
- a condensed sans serif - like Trade Gothic Bold Condensed No. 20, but Trade Gothic doesn't cut it for the body text

2 body text fonts
- modern, light sans serif with readability (even for long finnish words) with a family that has the condensed style needed for the headline. I'm thinking maybe Fresco Sans?
- a serif that's something like ITC Charter - and has a 'b' similar to Charter. Arnhem is beautiful, but starting to be a bit overused here and lacks the lightness and modern feel of Charter. Any ideas for this are also welcome.

Both the sans and the serif need to have a light, modern feel, but also some warmth. For sans I would love to use Bliss, or maybe even Mundo Sans, but both lack the condensed style.

I might be getting my terms wrong, or explain myself poorly, so let me know if this doesn't make any sense to you. Attached are some pictures of the magazine to give you an idea of the design. Thanks in advance for your help!

tulva_cover.jpg134.38 KB
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Stephen Coles's picture

I highly recommend Brown Gothic to replace Trade Gothic. It works well in text sizes, but is even better for display as it has more character than Trade. Bulldog is also a good alternative for the same reasons. Its true italic makes it an even better candidate for text. It could be used along with Brown Gothic Condensed for headlines.

I'm surprised to hear that Arnhem is overused. Things must be looking beautiful in Finland. Have you considered OurType's newest text serif Amalia? Download the PDF for a decent look.

katju's picture

Thank you for your quick reply!
I quite like Bulldog for text setting and Brown Gothic for display. But without the other neither of them is quite what I need for this project. And I would like to use just one font for sans to keep the total number of fonts down to three - and to have one full family for later use.
Any other suggestions..?

> I’m surprised to hear that Arnhem is overused.

Well, this might be my subjective view, having worked on 4 different magazines using it. Although, it is a small market so sometimes good things just spread around on a word-to-mouth basis everywhere really quickly.

> Things must be looking beautiful in Finland.

Nah, of Nordic countries, I'd say Sweden is the place to look for beautifully set magazines.

Stephen Coles's picture

Perhaps Spiegel is just right then.

> I’d say Sweden is the place to look for beautifully set magazines.

I certainly experienced that when I lived there a few years ago.

Stefan H's picture


Now if you like Swedish magazines you might like Swedish typefaces as well.
See if you find anything tasy at MAC Rhino Fonts? let me know if you have further questions?

condesed sans serif: Stalemate

Text faces: Delicato, Anziano and Tarocco

Stefan H's picture

Hmm, I see now you only ask for Sans serifs... sorry about that.

katju's picture

Thanks for your recommendations. I liked both Spiegel and Stalemate as sans, but I didn't go crazy over them - and that's what I'm looking for now. Or maybe I just don't know what I want as well as I thought.

I need to do some other work for now, but will study all the options, including Amalia and other serifs, and any other new ideas for sans, at a later moment.

Stephen Coles's picture

Is Spiegel too "rigid" (a word you used in the other thread)?

katju's picture


Ok, been thinking about it a while, and now I know what I need:

- a humanist sans
- open forms ('c' and 's' for example)
- curved serifs in 'a'
- a beautiful italic

So yes, Franklin, Spiegel and Bulldog would be too 'rigid'. Mundo Sans fits the description perfectly (but does not have the condensed bold).

But – with these specifications I am not likely to find a font with a condensed bold and/or the kind of closed forms as in Trade Gothic Bold Condensed no 20 or Franklin Gothic Extra Condensed, am I?

Do you think that it would be too much to mix 4 different fonts in one magazine? I have always preferred to keep the number down to 2-3 so I hesitate.

If I go for 4 different fonts, Mundo Sans is on the top of my list. Any other suggestions with these specifications?

Miss Tiffany's picture

What about Agenda?

katju's picture

Thanks! I took a new look at Fresco Sans, which was my original favorite, and Agenda - they got on the list. Formata is beautiful but not quite what I'm looking for.

top 3 for now:

1. Agenda – in text setting, exactly what I'm looking for, but would require another sans for display
2. Mundo Sans – would work both text and display, if I give up on the condensed bold cut
3. Fresco Sans – not as warm and rounded as the other two, and not as much character in display as Mundo Sans

So I guess it'll be either Agenda or Mundo Sans. Any comments on either one? Is there still something I should see, similar to these two?

Miss Tiffany's picture

If you don't need the condensed then you should go with Mundo Sans. :^)

But, I also think if you chose to go with Agenda that you could use it for display as well.

katju's picture

I think that in the end it comes down to pairing it with the other fonts. So one last poll, which one do you think pairs better with Farnham Display Swashes and ITC Charter, which will most likely be the new serif?

Stephen Coles's picture

Definitely Fresco Sans. It's almost made for Charter. Compare them side by side. They'd even work well within one line.

katju's picture

You're right Stephen, they do go well together! And I hadn't noticed that there's a Fresco Condensed in FontShop - didn't see one in OurType pages. I had already decided to go with Mundo Sans, but you made me change my mind.

This has been a difficult choice, not least because the project is more of a hobby and has no budget, so I need to be able to use the fonts later too. But I think I have a good set now.

So thank you all, my choice is Fresco Sans + Charter + Farnham Display.

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