Imagine your blank InDesign® document as a clean white ceramic plate; a plate that needs some personality, sauciness, and something delicious. You are about to invest a good part of your day into making the most scrumptious meal so you might as well make it worth it… dig through your immense spice rack for the best fonts to start with.
A collection of fonts and facts for every designer’s plate.
What are the staples of a designer’s font collection? Of course this can vary from one designer to another but my collection starts with a little Akzidenz Grotesk and Avenir. Two very lovely and distinct san serif fonts. Each was created for their own purposes in the graphic industry. Akzidenz was developed in 1896 for scientific publications of the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin. While Avenir, which in French means future, was created to fulfill what Adrian Frutiger called a need for “handwriting movement [to be incorporated] with a modern typographical independence [from Futura and Gill Sans]”.1
Avenir is typeset in magenta, or pink.
Akzidenz is typeset in cyan, or blue.
Now we move onto another area of the spice rack that consists of spicy slab serifs or in layman’s terms, serif fonts with really fat bars that protrude off the ends of the letterforms. Take for instance the classic font Clarendon. In 1845, it was recorded as the first font to have been patented. A characteristic that really defines this typeface is the very large, organic curves in the slab serif.
A few shakes later you’ll find Cholla Slab… a techy yet quirky typeface. The typeface is named after a group of cactus species indigenous to the Mojave desert. Perhaps one would consider this font for a headline on Wired magazine or the movie poster for TRON® due to its techy qualities.
How could you forget the ever so reliable font, the go-to, and most popular san serif in both hemispheres, Helvetica. This font is the salt and pepper of graphic design. This adaptable typeface is integrated into some of the largest worldwide brands such as 3M, American Airlines, American Apparel, BMW, Jeep, JCPenney, Kawasaki, Lufthansa, Microsoft, Mitsubishi Electric, Motorola, Panasonic, Philippine Airlines, Target, and Verizon. The Swiss font, developed in 1957 by Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffmann changed the course of typography as we know it.
Dig around in your font pantry and you’ll find a font known for its beautiful serifs, spurs, ascenders, descenders, counters, and more. Yes, all of those words describe the anatomy of a letterform(s). Garamond, created around 1540, is the oldest serif typeface still in use today. Upon the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984, Apple adopted a new corporate font called [Apple] Garamond. It was a variation of the classic Garamond typeface.2 To further show the beauty of Garamond and explain the anatomy of a typeface, see the graphic below:
While designers will continue to expand their font cupboards to broaden their palette and design skill sets, they will always have a handful of classics that will remain close to their hearts. Maybe designers learned from typography professors to always respect and cherish some select fonts. Or perhaps we obtain an acquired taste for some fonts from the typographic successes we’ve experienced throughout our design careers.
Either way, it’s good practice to keep your font pantry full of the classic staples while also adding some new ones here and there to spice things up a bit.