Starting a typeface library with $1000

Bundlebrat's picture

I would truly appreciate your advice on the best way to begin to build a typeface library. Say I have $1000 to spend on typefaces, what would you recommend I invest it in?

I know there are a bunch of type libraries and collections out there, but they all seem to contain many not so useful typefaces along side the great ones. Is there a specific collection you would recommend? One that would be a great basis to build upon? You know how it is. I want to get the best bang for my buck!

I have seen the list of essentials on here, and that is great, but I am interested in a concise list of bare necessities for under $1000.

I can't wait to see your suggestions! I think it would be very helpful for many who are starting a library.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Here's a few threads that may or may not help.

20 Faces to start a designers career
To buy or not to buy? (Adobe Type Library)
commercial font starter pack?

I would recommend you find a foundry that has a nice collection and tell them your budget and the type of work you do and see what they come up with. This will help you start a long-term relationship with a foundry and maybe save a few dollars in the long run.

Nick Shinn's picture

Are you sure this is the right approach?
Do you have a lot of stuff you've bought because you liked the packaging/it was a good deal -- but then never used?
The book unread, the shirt not worn?
I'd say "the best way to begin to build a typeface library" is on an ad hoc, per project basis. That way, no wallflowers.
But ditto Tiff on working directly with indie foundries.

Chris Keegan's picture

This really depends on what type of work you're doing. I would recommend you spend 3/4 of your budget on "workhorse" sans and serif families, and get a few script and display faces as well. There are a lot of good suggestions on the lists posted above. I would encourage you to really think about usage, and to look carefully before purchasing. I've bought more than a few type families that I just couldn't resist, that have yet to be used.

dberlow's picture

"I know there are a bunch of type libraries and collections out there, but they all seem to contain many not so useful typefaces along side the great ones."

Obviously, it's useless to pick fonts without a use.
I think you need to start with your identity, and then move out from there.
So, what fonts do you want to represent your design service. . . ?


Bundlebrat's picture

Thanks so much for your advice. I really like the idea of approaching a foundry with a budget and asking them assist in putting together some workhorse typefaces—and in the process begin a relationship with them. I hadn't thought of that.

I appreciate the top 20 lists very much too. Although I notice that that many of the lists seem to come with caveats like 'these are workhorses, but most experienced designers end up using 5-6 faces over and over and get to know them really well'. Hmmm, this provokes the question 'What are your five or six favourites that designers keep coming back to? The typefaces you use that are not the classics or the workhorses? The faces that reoccur in the projects you love?

I increasingly recognize that perhaps my approach is flawed and am reconsidering. But am interested in learning of others' favourites as possibilities to consider in the future when approaching particular projects. It sounds like a slow building process may be more desirable than a blanket expenditure. Thanks for invaluable input!

crossgrove's picture

If you have $1000 for fonts, consider it your year's budget for fonts. Buy a new family each time you have a real need for one; considering at each purchase how useful the family will be in the future. As your collection grows, one hopes it will all be useful, carefully-chosen designs that are versatile and varied.

I think it's essential for graphic designers to have budget for fonts all the time. Don't think you can buy a CD and be done with it for 20 years; nobody likes that stale look.

If it's more important that you decide right away and blow the $1000, then it doesn't matter which CD you choose. Any time you get bulk type libraries, you get stuff you can't use. The least fluffy library CDs I can think of are from Storm and FontBureau. But there will always be faces from indies like House, Underware, OurType, Joshua Darden, Simonson, that you really want....

Get them a few at a time, and savor them....

Bert Vanderveen's picture

I just bought the FontStars 2007 CD at FontShop. Great value — about € 1400 worth of very nice text and display faces for € 499. And all of those very usable.

Check it out here (German language):

Haven't found it in the US-store. Ask Stephen Coles when it's going to be available (if…).

. . .
Bert Vanderveen BNO

Gary Long's picture

Speaking from my own experience in building up a type library over the years, I also recommend doing it gradually, on an as-need basis dictated by the projects you work on, and carefully considering each purchase as to both current and future needs. It's tempting to buy typefaces you really like, especially if they're on sale. I've done this occasionally when I could reasonably foresee a need for a particular font that was on sale; but it can wreak havoc with your budget if you give in too often.

aluminum's picture

"I’d say “the best way to begin to build a typeface library” is on an ad hoc, per project basis."

I agree.

Except you should have Univers. Everyone should have Univers.

"If you have $1000 for fonts, consider it your year’s budget for fonts"

Hmm...this perhaps deserves a thread of its own.

What if font foundries offered the eMusic concept to designers?

With emusic, you pay monthly and get a download quota of music. What if you subscribed to a font service and every month you got to download a certain number of typefaces.

It would encourage designers/firms to keep a their type library fresh and spread the cost out over the year and build it into their budgets a bit easier. It would benefit the foundry as they could offer the faces at perhaps a slightly lower cost, but retain a more consistent and longer term revenue stream.

Just a thought.

aluminum's picture

Oh, and then there's this wiki page:

I'd love to see it updated more. (hint, hint...)

Gary Long's picture

I recall some years back a foundry promoting an offer whereby you paid them, say, $1000 now, and used this as your "bank" to draw typefaces from their collection. I think the incentive was, you got the fonts for much less than the regular price. Drawback, of course, was that the money was all tied up with that foundry, and what if it went belly-up before you had got your full value of fonts.

Miss Tiffany's picture

MyFonts has gift certificates. iTunes has an allowance program. I think it is a good idea.

charles ellertson's picture

Well, the sale ends tomorrow, but Sumner Stone is having a half-price sale.

Cycles, SFPL, and Magma Compact are very useful fonts.

jupiterboy's picture

So much good advise, what could I add? Maybe one advantage to having type on hand is that you can work with it a bit and get to know it.

If I were going to throw $1,000 at fonts to make a basic set, knowing it was better to add them per project, I would look at:

pattyfab's picture

Except you should have Univers. Everyone should have Univers.

I completely disagree. I never use Univers.

Quincunx's picture

I agree with the statement that it is probably best to buy typefaces per project. It prevents you from buying typefaces now you end up not using later, but also gives you a little more freedom when you are working on a project; you don't have to choose from your library, the choice is less limited.

mark eikema's picture

I am going to buy the Bitstream Cambridge Collection for only €199 ($279). Even it lacks the true classics and must-haves, it packs a nice couple of typefaces, including:

Century Schoolbook
Prima Sans

With the rest of the money you could get:

Sans: Helvetica or Univers
Slab: Caecilia
Serif: Minion or Dolly (which is a really nice AND cheap font)

Nick Shinn's picture

If you want type on hand, don't you already have plenty of classic fonts bundled with your computer OS, and the applications you use? Surely the bundled fonts cover most of the "essential" genres required for ordinary professional design work, except perhaps scripts, distress, and pixel fonts.

boardman's picture

It really depends on the OS. For instance, a person with a 3-year old XP box might not have much to work with. On the other hand, a new Mac comes with an incredible variety of incredible typefaces.

In my opinion, I think you need to have an unusual grotesque (e.g. Nick's own Brown), a well-rounded alternative to Futura (e.g. Avenir), and a serif like any of those mentioned above. And you need Clarendon. You can do a lot with a little, at least to start.

verdiinpink's picture

Also I would like to suggest you to consider free quality fonts (they look so professional) offered online so that maybe you can have more fonts with you fixed budget, or even lower your budget for type library.

There are some links for you here and here at smashing magazine la. Worth check them out!

--- pinky kinky winky ---

alchion's picture

I think i have gotten the most milage out of these fonts.
Fontshop's FF DIN and FF Scala, FF Disturbance, Peter Bilak / Typotheque's Fedra Family, Fabrizio Schiavi / FSD's Sys, ITC's Eplica Book, Olsen/Process's Klavika, Bryant, T26's Sodium, Lux Foundry's Section, Hagmann/Typekut's Wedding Sans, Licko's / Emigre's Mrs Eaves. Hoefler's Text and Gotham, and James Montalbano / Terminal Design's Clearview. This runs over $1000, but they are all great work horses and perhaps a few are similar, so pick your favorites and add the rest later. Lineto makes really great minimalist designs but they are too expensive as starters, these should ideally be bought by clients for specific projects.

alchion's picture

I am with Patricia, I never use Univers. It has excellent weights but is too dated in aesthetics for my taste.

somol's picture

As far as I can tell, Storm Type has some unbeatable offers. Check their current web at

I use their complete library in the "single license" form, allowing installation on one computer only. This saves about 50% of the price of the standard license allowing 5 installations.

Some of the choices I would consider for you are these:

* Storm Open Library 2 - ca. $700, 12 font families very well usable for serious work
* JBW+ (Jannon-Baskerville-Walbaum) for ca. $500 - 3 large families for book typography
* Designer Set for ca. $960 - bigger collection of mostly less usable, but not bad fonts

but I still find unbeatable the value/price compromise of their actual complete library of some 700 fonts - single license for ca. $2000. This contains all the serious fonts they've ever produced. You can probably survive a couple of years with just this library.

There is also (for some) an interesting side offer - Storm Type Library 2 TTF single license for ca. $600 - this contains all fonts the foundry has produced till 2005, but only in TTF format without the OpenType gimmicks, what is probably too limiting for a professional.

It might be good to ask them about Celebration Font Set (produced 2005, not advertised on their international web, but still available at their Czech web if you need Type 1 fonts, all their newer sets include only OpenType fonts.

As I do not make my living by typography nor graphic design, I usually hesitate to invest too much in fonts. But when I use a font, I need it to be good enough (to have various sets of figures, proper small caps, multi-language support [living in the EU, I need the support of many european languages] etc.). Currently some 80% of fonts I use come from Storm Type as their offers meet the requirements I have.

Peter Somol

Bundlebrat's picture

Thank you so much for all your comments and suggestions. You given me some great ideas!

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