Today, we'll talk about the most famous typefaces (don't confuse them with "fonts") and why they could be an excellent fit for your product.
Why is typeface choice such a vital step in the design process? With the invention of Guttenberg's printing press, typefaces have become a cornerstone of printed and digital communication. A carefully chosen typeface can evoke various emotions, express brand personality, and enhance legibility.
Jump in to explore the unique characteristics of a few of the most popular typefaces throughout history. To learn more about the intricacies of typography, give a check to our lesson Typefaces & Fonts.
Helvetica (originally Neue Haas Grotesk) is a sans-serif typeface developed in 1957 by a Swiss type designer Max Miedinger. The post-war European companies were looking for a simpler and clearer typeface drastically different from existing fancy and decorative typography.
Due to its neutral and clear design, which makes it usable across a wide range of mediums, Helvetica has become one of the most widely used sans-serif typefaces of all time. Its most popular successors are Helvetica Neue and Helvetica Now.
The primary goal of this typeface is not to give an impression or have any inherent meaning. That makes Helvetica one of the most versatile typefaces suitable for different design projects, from e-commerce to healthcare to financial services or social media apps.
Roboto is a sans-serif typeface created in 2011 by an American type designer Christian Roberton for Google. Initially designed for Android, the typeface soon spread to other major Google products such as Google Play, YouTube, and Google Maps. What are the reasons to use Roboto?
- It maintains a perfect balance between modern and classic, elegant and simple
- It enhances legibility
- It comes with Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic characters and has a broad compilation of fonts
3. Times New Roman
You'll probably recognize this typeface immediately. Installed on nearly all desktop computers, Times New Roman has become one of the most popular typefaces of all time. This serif typeface was created in 1931 by an English typographer Stanley Morison for the British newspaper The Times.
The typeface was insanely popular in printing as it has a narrower styling that allowed fitting more words in a line. However, in digital typography, designers are prone to use it cautiously, preferring more up-to-date and flexible options.
Unlike many other typefaces, Georgia didn't fall out of fashion. This serif typeface was born in 1993 by American designer Matthew Carter for Microsoft with a mission to be elegant and legible, even on small or low-resolution screens. The designer indeed succeeded in enhancing the typeface legibility by enlarging the x-height, introducing clear outlines, and increasing character pitch.
Such media giants as the New York Times and Huffington Post rely on Georgia to preserve the nostalgic impression of paper newspapers on screens.
5. Comic Sans
Comic Sans MS is a script typeface created in 1994 by American designer Vincent Connare for Microsoft. It draws inspiration from comic books' letters and looks like written by a small child. For better or worse, the typeface became the target of criticism and even hatred for its misuse and exaggerated simplicity. As Connare stated himself, "If you love it, you don't know much about typography, [but] if you hate it, you really don't know much about typography either, and you should get another hobby."
When is it okay to use Comic Sans? Its comic styling can be helpful in informal documents and children's materials, but avoid using it for body copy. Surprisingly, the typeface turned out to be highly legible and works perfectly for dyslexic kids.
Georgia's sibling, Verdana, is a sans-serif typeface created in 1996 by the same British designer Matthew Carter for Microsoft. In the same way as with Georgia, the designer aimed for a typeface that would be legible on the low-resolution screens of that period.
If legibility is a priority, then the serif-free Verdana with the enlarged x-height and large counters (the negative spaces inside letters such as p, c, a, R, o, etc.) makes for the perfect fit.
If you look around, Arial is everywhere. You can spot it in ads, branding materials, logos, newspapers, and magazines, not to mention websites and applications.
Arial is a sans-serif typeface created in 1982 by American company Monotype Imaging. It's similar in appearance to Helvetica and comes preinstalled on most devices.
Generally, Arial is a very versatile typeface with good legibility that can be a go-to choice if you're a beginner. However, for more unique solutions, you should break a sweat and search deeper.
Garamond is a group of serif typefaces initially created in the 16th century by French engraver Claude Garamond. The designer had a talent for creating calligraphic-style typefaces that were also a good fit for the printing press.
The Garamond typefaces have seen many revivals since they were first designed and have long been a favorite for books and body text. Surprisingly, the original Google logo used Garamond typeface.
Adobe Garamond is one of the first digitalized versions that you may encounter reading novels that used this typeface.
Baskerville is a serif typeface created in the 1750s by an English designer John Baskerville. It was revolutionary for its time as it increased the contrast between thick and thin strokes and had a stronger personality due to its rounded strokes.
Baskerville took a huge leap from old-style typefaces such as Caslon to modern typefaces such as Didot and Bodoni. Ahead of its time, the typeface didn't gain enough glory during the life of John Baskerville. Today, Baskerville is one of the most refined and legible classic typefaces for print.
Inspired by the Bauhaus design philosophy, German designer Paul Renner created Futura — a geometric sans-serif typeface stripped of unnecessary serifs and frills. You can say that this typeface represents the belief in functionality over aesthetics.
Due to its simplicity, Futura was Stanley Kubrick's most favorite typeface — he used it religiously in many of his films, e.g., 2001: A Space Odyssey and Eyes Wide Shut. On top of that, it became the first typeface that has been on the Moon! In July 1969, the Apollo 11 crew left a memorial plate that used the Futura typeface to record the first humans set upon the Moon.
Bodoni is a serif typeface created by an Italian typographer and type designer Giambattista Bodoni in the late eighteenth century. There have been numerous revivals since its creation — the two most successful are ATF Bodoni and Bauer Bodoni.
Due to the alternating thick and thin strokes, this typeface can be challenging for users to read, so avoid using it for large paragraphs. However, its refined and elegant style can be a perfect match for printing, like book covers or advertising, as well as for titles and logos in web design.
An updated version of 1910's Litho Antique, Rockwell was released in 1934 by an American company Monotype Imaging. It became one of the most popular geometric slab-serif typefaces constructed almost entirely of straight lines, perfect circles, and sharp angles.
The blocky nature and sharpness make Rockwell perfect for headlines rather than body copy. On the other hand, the typeface can create a warm, friendly, or playful feeling. For example, Malibu Rum uses it to create a beachy and carefree vacation atmosphere.