graphics designers who use one or few typefaces

pmbfpereira's picture

Hello. Happy new year!!

How many contemporary graphics designers do you know who use one or at least few typefaces?

Try to think apart, or outside, from helvetica and the international style.

Thank you.

Frank ADEBIAYE's picture


Happy New Year, too !

In France Malte Maltin ( is very famous for his extensive use of FF Din.

font fanatic's picture

I would venture to say that depending on your range of work a majority of designers try to find versatile, high-quality typefaces. I find a lot of times when I'm off searching for some feeling the familiarity of Din, Gotham, Avenir lends well to a lot of projects. Just some thoughts. You might like 8Faces. It's a typography based magazine that asks designers if they could only choose 8 faces to use forever what would they be.


Andreas Stötzner's picture

As a graphic designer I have most times selected from a limited but hand-picked range of typefaces. I still have preferences for some of the classics but try to avoid those faces used by everyone at a time. For instance, if I may dare to say so, I have used Myriad and Lucida Sans frequently early in the Nineties when they were not yet that popular.
However, by time I repeatedly find myself using my home-made fonts.

charles ellertson's picture

Kinda depends on what sort of graphic design you're doing. Pitching a product that will have a new style every year? Like after 1957 to the early '60s, every car had to have tail-fins. The bigger the better, until it suddenly stopped. So "graphic design" in those ads was a matter of "style," too. If you know the product is going to change regularly, and/or there will be a new ad campaign every few months, I suppose you gotta be with it.

Now if you look at a well-done book from the 1920s, you know it's dated, but that feeling soon disappears if you start reading it (no, not just look at it, read it).

What's the point? In the small, underpaid world of book designers, most of the best use only a very few fonts. In the advertising business, you have to be timely. I don't know that business, but I'd assume using new fonts is considered important. IMSLTHO, book design is only a little bit about letterforms. Learning to *use* a font takes time. Here are a couple of names if that was your question -- Richard Eckersley, Rich Hendel . . .

* * *

Here's an interesting notion -- do designers pushing products that appeal to "old money" use Gotham?

JamesM's picture

When working with corporate clients, typeface choices may be dictated by their identity standards. So a designer who gets most of his work from a few steady clients may find himself using the same fonts repeatedly.

Trevor Baum's picture

Jason Santa Maria is pretty renowned for his use of condensed gothics in both web and print design, notably Trade Gothic and FB Titling Gothic.

hrant's picture

Any designer who thinks a fixed set of fonts is enough for any
possible job is not a designer. Massimo "6 Font" Vignelli for
example is worse for type design than the worst font pirate.
And I once told him as much on the ATypI discussion list.


Té Rowan's picture

Talking of Sr. Vignelli, what does he count as a 'font'? A single weight/style or the whole effin clan?

riccard0's picture

Could Barbara Kruger fit your criteria?

Bert Vanderveen's picture

Wim Crouwel ( ) has favoured a (really) small selection of typefaces during his long career. From the top of my head: Helvetica and Bembo (in case a serif was necessary).

Nick Shinn's picture

There were some studios that branded themselves as Helveticans, a few years ago, e.g. Experimental Jetset, but I don’t know if they kept it up.

Further back (1970s), I recall being shown the Letraset cabinet at Gottschalk + Ash, which consisted of dozens of drawers of Garamond and Univers, with a couple of “Misc.” at the bottom.

pmbfpereira's picture

The question i'm trying to answer is why certain designers only use one or few typefaces.

Do they use only one because of the price of typefaces?

When they choose only one typeface, it's because they understand it better (instead of others) and in that way, they can make a full use of it?

When doing identity design do they still use one typeface? What other "tools" do they use to achieve something unique?

So far i've got the following names:

Massimo Vignelli
Malte Maltin
Experimental Jetset
Pablo Martín
Michael C. Place

Richard Eckersley
Rich Hendel
Jason Santa Maria
Barbara Kruger
Wim Crouwel

Do you agree that Wim Crouwel only worked with a really small selection?

Do you know any other graphic designer?

hrant's picture

I think deep down the reason is simplification for its own
sake, often as an escape from a genre of complexity one
does not enjoy. Some defend it by saying Design needs
constraints to have meaning. This is true, but only if the
particular constraint derives from functionality, not fear.


Bert Vanderveen's picture

Jason Santa Maria should not be on the list. His website is famous for having differing designs (and typefaces) for each page.

The rationale for using just a few typefaces is that one has to learn about them and through familiarity comes excellence. A hypothesis I find very appealing… It is in line with for instance Yves Klein’s usage of blue, or Donald Judd’s fascination with a restricted scale of shapes and materials.

But to be fair — in the past designers were restricted by the limits of what print shops had available etcetera. Nowadays a designer has 120.000 typefaces to consider… (and in practice there are those twenty he knows that work and that will be used.)

Nick Shinn's picture

Certain graphic designers don’t have freedom of type choice.

Not the (re)designers of newspapers and magazines, but those who work in-house on a publication’s editorial design, by day, week or month, according to style sheets that specify adherence to a handful of types chosen by someone else.

Not those who (re)design brands, but those who work in-house, subsequently governed by corporate design manuals created by others.

5star's picture

Most freelance graphic designers I know charge enough of a fee to be able to buy most any font/typeface their clients approve. And when potential clients ask for some graphic thumbnail to be done up asap it is best to be able to understand the clients business characteristics and their market place as part of the 'letter shape' design decision(s). For instance, way finding signage for a veterinarian hospital as opposed to promotional/sale packages of a saddlery (both entities by-the-way in business of animals).

Using just one typeface for the brief example above not only limits/restricts/blurs the client's brands, but will also dummy down graphic design as a whole into nothing more than a grunt.

In my humble opinion of course.

Happy New Year to you also :)

Tomi from Suomi's picture

I believe that Alexey Brodovitch, at least towards the end, only used Bodoni for Harper's Bazaar from the thirties to fifties.

aluminum's picture

"The question i'm trying to answer is why certain designers only use one or few typefaces."

Some carpenters have their one trusty hammer.

Some carpenters have 12 for each specific situation.

Most carpenters have one or two trusty hammers they use 80% of the time, and then a handful of others for those special situations.

JamesM's picture

> those who work in-house, subsequently governed by
> corporate design manuals created by others

Yes, and independent designers doing freelance work for those corporations typically are given the same font restrictions.

Bezier Abuser's picture

Most of Wim Crouwel's posters are set in Akzidenz and Gill sans

pmbfpereira's picture

I've found out another one: Abbott Miller and 'the scala years'.

Ramiro Espinoza's picture

Alejandro Ros: One of the most outstanding Latin American designers, has a typographic approach (and taste) similar to Vignelli

dezcom's picture


Martin Silvertant's picture

> Massimo "6 Font" Vignelli for example is worse for type design
> than the worst font pirate. And I once told him as much on the ATypI discussion list.
Hilarious. How did he respond?

hrant's picture

I think he left. Maybe he'd rather only ever talk to 6 people.


Martin Silvertant's picture

> I think he left. Maybe he'd rather only ever talk to 6 people.
Man, that's just perfect! I'm so pleased right now.

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