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Typefaces:
that work together

and "Similar" faces with different names

One of the most often asked questions about type is: Which faces work well together?

The answer is usually simple: Serif faces work best with sans serif faces, sans serif faces work best with serif faces.

This means that if your body text is Goudy Old Style, a serif face, you should use a sans serif as a companion. Don't use Garamond with Goudy (they're both serif faces), or Futura with Univers (they're both sans). There's simply no reason to use two serifs or two sans together, and it inevitably looks sloppy.

The next step is not quite as simple: Which sans work well with which serifs? Part of the trick is to use faces that have similar feelings. When you use EsperFonto, simply choose serifs and sans in the same category.

A-C | D-I | J-M | N-Z

But since you can't tell whether a font is a serif or a sans by the name alone, and since sometimes fonts work well together even from different groups, I've compiled a list to help you.

Someone could work full-time keeping a list like this current and comprehensive. I don't promise that it covers every possible good combination, just the most basic combinations that I know work well together. You may disagree. That's fine, type is subjective and not everyone will agree on what makes a good combo.

I believe that Gill Sans works well with Goudy Old Style, but someone else may prefer Gill Sans with Garamond, or Goudy Old Style with Univers. Just because I don't list it doesn't mean it's not going to work, but what I do list you can feel confident will.

Finally, just because a face is not on this list does not mean it doesn't work with anything else. It just means it's a less common face and no one is paying me to catalog every new typeface in existence, though that wouldn't be such a bad job if I could manage to get a grant for it :)

Similar Faces

As well as listing fonts that work together, this list contains the "industry standard" name first, followed by the names of virtually identical (or very similar) fonts from other vendors.

There are often many typefaces that look nearly identical but have different names. That's because while typeface names can be legally protected, typeface designs cannot. Letters of the alphabet, no matter what their shape, are considered "useful objects" like a cup or spoon, and cannot be legally protected.

Before TrueType and Type One fonts were the standard, there were countless different font formats, and typesetting machines would often only use fonts from a single company. Because companies would rarely license type designs to each other, they took to copying each other's designs and giving them different names.

Today there are many copies of the most popular classic faces. Some of these, such as those from Bitstream, are as good (and sometimes better) than the original. They were re-created with great care by talented type designers and are sometimes truer to the originals than the so-called original digital designs. Bitstream's Zapf Humanist (Optima), Zapf Calligraphic (Palatino) and Zapf Elliptical (Melior) don't use the "original" names, but are the most authentic versions of Hermann Zapf's designs, supervised by the designer himself.

This is unfortunately not always the case. Extremely low-cost fonts, such as those in the "2,000 fonts for $20" packages, are poor copies. Badly digitized and unhinted, these only serve to make you look bad. Avoid them.

Similar names are not always alphabetical, so if you're looking for the "original" name of "Lapidary 333," it won't be under J-L, but instead under N-Z for Perpetua, its industry name. If you're not sure, just look at all four pages and use your browser's search function to find the font name in question.

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Copyright © 2000 Daniel Will-Harris, www.will-harris.com