Looking for a font with feeling

SarahMarie1227's picture

I'm looking for suggestions of well designed type that would convey these feelings. Thanks for your suggestions.


blank's picture

You should really hire a designer to do your work for you.

SarahMarie1227's picture

Well, actually, I'm a student. Which means I'm broke. Which also means I can't hire a designer, and I wouldn't learn anything doing that anyway.

So, now that we have my life story along with my question, is there anyone willing to offer a genuine suggestion? I'm trying to build my go-to toolbox of good, well-designed types that convey different emotions.

Years from now I might be your boss, James Puckett — play nice.

jonathanhughes's picture

Could you give us some more background on the project? Is this all for one project, or will the fonts you're looking for be used on different projects.

SarahMarie1227's picture

I'm literally trying to build a toolbox. And, rather than grabbing a bunch of crap off the internet, I'd like to choose smart, well-designed typefaces. I'm interested in what makes them good and being able to have dialogue about why.

Projects I'm working on now are more or less experiments with type. For example, changing the tone/feeling of a title by simply changing the type. That's where the feeling comes in — Garamond evokes a much different emotion than Univers even if the words themselves remain the same.

blank's picture

If you’re a student you should be learning to pick type yourself. You won’t end up anybody’s boss if you can’t even spec fonts.

jonathanhughes's picture

Something like "happy" could be expressed with numerous casual scripty typefaces (check out some of Rob Leuschke's stuff

But I think some of the emotions you're trying to match with fonts may be impossible (I don't think there are any fonts that say "I'm hungry"). In general, I don't think there are going to be a lot of fonts that really evoke the feelings you've listed. So much of this stuff depends on context. In he hands of a good designer, one font could evoke numerous feelings depending on how it's used and what surrounds it.

What might be a useful exercise would be to do some fake projects and post them in the Critiques section to see if they evoke the feeling you're going after.

SarahMarie1227's picture


Really, I don't even have time to argue about this. It's sad that a student can't even ask the industry for advice/suggestions.

I can't believe I'm trying this again, but here goes my question for the fourth time — I'm looking to build a toolbox of well-designed typefaces. So, when asked to spec fonts, I have a base knowledge to expand from.

I will no longer respond to messages that are nonconstructive on here.

SarahMarie1227's picture

Thanks Jonathan. My first assignment was to study a non-branded place for at least an hour. For instance, my kitchen and describe the feelings associated with it, that's where I got hunger. I realize this is vague and maybe I should have explained the details of the assignment sooner. I guess I didn't want people to do my assignment for me, but rather give me tools to do it myself.

Maybe I should have described this... My kitchen has a warm yet contemporary style (cherry hardwood floors and cabinets, stainless steel appliances and accented with bold rustic colors like deep red and brass). The cooking in there is usually dinner-time meals and we like to experiment with healthy recipes. My final composition for this assignment will simply be the title of this space, "My Kitchen," (black on white) in a font that reflects the feeling of the space.

Other spaces I've considered are the train (anxiety/stress, tired, bored, dirty), or my cubicle at work (boredom, excitement, tired - depends on the day) among others.

jonathanhughes's picture

Boy, I thought I _was_ offering constructive advice.

I guess what I was trying to get at in my last response is that there really isn't an answer to your question. A lot of feelings just can't be evoked simply by choosing a font. Now, you can find a lot of gimmicky fonts that you might be able to use for very specific things (a perfect example would be the font Ouch, from Adobe http://new.myfonts.com/fonts/adobe/ouch/), but things like that have very specific uses and aren't the kind of things that that a good, functional collection is built on.

Your latest post says you're "looking to build a toolbox of well-designed typefaces." To me, that's much different than asking for fonts that evoke specific feelings. It's also a much easier question to answer (although you'll give widely varying opinions).

The fonts that come with the Adobe Creative Suite are an excellent place to start. If you're going to be a designer, I think it's safe to assume you'll be using the suite. You get a bunch of classic and well-designed serifs (Adobe Garamond, Minion, Caslon, Arno, Janson), a nice slab serif (Chaparall), a very nice, flexible (and popular) sans serif (Myriad Pro), as well as a bunch of display faces.

You could probably do 90% of your work with just those.

You should probably add some classic sans serifs to your collection (Helvetica Neue or Univers, and maybe Futura), and some slab serifs (something along the lines of Rockwell or Stymie). Then maybe some more modern stuff (Meta, Antenna, oand Scala, of the top of my head).


jonathanhughes's picture

Ah, I see your response two posts ago wasn't to me. Now that you've given some more context, I'l think about that and post something else.

jonathanhughes's picture

Things make a lot more sense now. So for the kitchen example, there are a lot of feelings that it could evoke, but I'd look for one overall feeling, since the assignment forces you to make your point simply. You mentioned wood floors, rustic colors, healthy food, and "we" (family? friends? either way, I assume it's people you like being around). That stuff all points me towards a pretty specific overall feeling.

Since you're looking for tools, rather than specific answers, here's some things to look into (I'm not saying you should pick these, but look into them and see why they might or might NOT be appropriate choices). This is all off the top of my head. I'm sure others here can provide much better examples.

Geometric Sans Serifs: look at Futura and Avant Garde. They're very geometric, modern, and mechanical. Stainless steel appliance are all those things, but is that what the kitchen as a whole says to you?

Humanist Sans Serifs: check out how the strokes in Myriad vary, and how the capital O has a barely perceptible slant to it, as if it were maybe based on handwriting. Look into other humainst sans serifs and see how they can blend a modern look with a human feeling.

Slab Serifs: something like Rockwell is pretty geometric. Chapparal has (like Myriad) a slight handwriting feel to it

Scripts: there are formal ones, and ones that looking more like handwriting. Snell and Shelly are lovely, but very formal (maybe even slightly stiff?). Something Buffet Script (http://www.sudtipos.com/fonts/27) is much looser and friendlier.

Hopefully, that gives you some stuff to look into without giving any obvious answers.

Also, if you don't want your teacher to think you're lazy, no matter how much time you spend on this, don't pick Papyrus.

SarahMarie1227's picture

Thank you, Jonathan! That type (no pun intended) of advice is exactly what I need. I'll check out those typeface styles and see if they lead me somewhere. Not to worry, I won't be using Papyrus, or Comic Sans for that matter.

CreativeNRG's picture

@ Sarah:

I think you're completely missing the point that James presents and it's unfortunate you've taken such a defensive position with your "Really, I don't even have time to argue about this" attitude. This is an opportunity for you to learn something and I get the sense that you want us to do the leg work for you and your "toolbox".

Can you see this from the other perspective and how lazy this looks?

Roll up your shelves and put in some work. If you think this will be beneficial to your professional growth then invest the time. Many of the members on Typophile have devoted years and decades studying, designing and using type. Don't expect anyone with the proper knowledge to simply hand it over to a student who hasn't appeared to lift a finger.

You're not the first and won't be the last who has gotten this response. I've learned through the years that your attitude and approach speak volumes. I'm guessing you would have received a completely didn't response if you had generated a list of typefaces and asked for feedback.

Miss Tiffany's picture

I think the solution lies somewhere in between "we're not helping you" and "here are the answers." And I think Jonathan does nicely with his answer.

Sarah, I'd like to see how you solve this. It would be a good exercise for you to come back with your solutions and then we can discuss them based on successes.

Bendy's picture

I agree with CreativeNRG: As mentioned above, fonts can be used in such different ways and have different feelings for different people, just like colours can. Really in the end the only way to learn these things is to try them out for yourself and present to others for feedback.

So here's my suggestion: why not browse the websites of those listed on the list of font foundries.

Also, Robert Bringhurst's Elements of Typographic Style is an excellent reference book and though I'm not a typographer, it's extremely accessible and informative, and will help you learn which fonts are well designed and which are not.

Sye's picture

also, the I love Typography blog is a great place to learn about type and be inspired by its use. http://ilovetypography.com/

if you spend a few hours looking over the posts there you'll soon find you're understanding growing without you even really noticing :-)

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Comments above are spot on. Typefaces rarely carry this much meaning, it mostly depends on the context. What does help is considering what kind of tone you do or do not want a specific project to have. With an organization doing social justice, for example, one of those spikey athletic slabs would seem out of place, but a soft humanist sans might fit the bill.

paragraph's picture

I would recommend that you turn your approach around. You'll probably learn much more about type if you take any one typeface (say the already mentioned Myriad), and go through a mental checklist: If I were the designer, would I use this for: newspaper text? book of poetry? box of chocolates? box of computer software? a vegetarian restaurant menu? a wedding invitation?

After a while you should be able to reverse the process fairly easily. It is then that you'll find your toolbox.

.00's picture

I will no longer respond to messages that are nonconstructive on here.

What a relief! Now if only you could expand on that to not asking lazy questions on the internet, we would be even farther along.

Mental and physical abuse are part of becoming a graphic designer. The sooner you get use to that the better it will be for all of us.

dirtcastle's picture

I think a better strategy would be to ask people about their favorite or most useful fonts in particular classifications.

I feel that a classification-based approach is more empowering than having "go to" fonts. When I am in the process of selecting a font, I compare different types of fonts before settling on a specific typeface.

Eric MacLeod's picture

I don't think the problem here is a lazy student...sounds more like a lazy professor who gave the typohile url and said something like "these guys will help you". I had professors that pulled that one in school.

typerror's picture

I presented a remotely similar project for students two weeks ago. Lazy, I was not. The students... were not either. They searched MyFonts, Veer, P22 and others and completed the assignment with ease* and thoughtfulness. Type selection for a neophyte is a tough proposition, especially with no experience, but it is rewarding. They learned "bunches."

As to a toolbox of well designed fonts, develop the eye and use scrutiny. Just go for appropriate!!!!!

* Ease is time consuming :-) AND you learn by failing!


typerror's picture


Never mind. And sad for you Eric. Just keep the stereotyping to a minimum 'cause it pisses caring professors off!

Eric MacLeod's picture


I was not making a stereotype about all professors; I have a a great deal of respect for professors who teach students using proper methods. The professors I am referring to would use this kind of forum as a way of cutting lectures shorter. By saying "These guys will help you" they were communicating "These guys will help you because I will not." Granted this site is a great resource, but it was apparent that some professors used it as a crutch. I apologize for giving the impression that all professors fall into this stereotype—clearly not the case—but this is something that also pisses paying students off.

DrDoc's picture

Sarah, this doesn't really address your original question, but since you mentioned "building a toolbox," I should point out that because you're a student, you can purchase Adobe's excellent Education Essentials Font Folio. It provides a great selection of workhorse fonts for only $150. I reinvested money I had made from freelance work into the EE FF, and it's paid dividends.

penn's picture

@DrDoc Wow, the "EE FF" provides an incredible selection, and only for $150, is amazing!

Even though you (Sarah) may already have some of the fonts on the list, there are most likely many more weights included for each of them than you currently have. I agree, that this would make a great starting point for your "tool box".


timd's picture

So how many designers does it take to offer a type suggestion?

One to make pronouncements from a great height

One to actually offer a suggestion

The “Guild” spokespeople

The “Zen” approach

And the off-topic


dirtcastle's picture

Typophile is what happens while you're making other plans.

SarahMarie1227's picture

Thanks to those that offered help. I appreciate it.

For my kitchen that has warm bold colors, hardwood floor and stainless steel appliances, I chose Rockwell Regular. I chose Rockwell because the serifs give it a friendly, warm feel. But because they are slab serifs with sharp corners, it also echoes a clean space and is reflective of the stainless steel.

I also had to choose a font that was opposite of that. I went with Helvetica Narrow, which to me felt clean and more contemporary. While I like to think my kitchen is clean, I do think my kitchen has a warmer, friendlier quality better represented by Rockwell.

The other space I chose is my commute on the El in Chicago. It's cramped, stressful, anxious, busy, etc. The typeface I chose for this is Univers 47 Light Condensed Oblique with a little tighter kerning. I chose this because the type itself felt cramped because its condensed and with tight kerning. The light weight makes it feel insignificant, perhaps one of many, like on the train. The oblique give the type movement, much like the commotion on the train.

The opposite for the train is Baskerville Old Face which feels warm and friendly and settled. Perhaps on a random Sunday morning in the fall during a week that didn't happen to have construction, the train might feel like this. But certainly never my rush hour M-F commute.

I'm open to friendly criticism of my choices. Thanks all!

Sye's picture

sort of on topic, i sometimes wonder if i know too much type history and stop looking at type for it's intrinsic value, and instead look at it's historic value and/or position.

like sometimes i'll spend ages looking for something other than Myriad for a job, only to eventually come back to it, my reason to spending a long time looking elsewhere - because it's bundled - so it feels a little 'cheaper'. but it works great.

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