What’s Your Type?

When researching fonts for my mystery client, I learned that acquiring legal copies of these typefaces would be incredibly expensive. If I were to purchase the Frutiger family ($339 from fonts.com), the Adobe Optima family ($265 from the Adobe store), the Adobe Futura family ($492 from fonts.com) and the Lexicon No. 1 ADF bundle ($1874 from the Enschedé Font Foundry in Open Type Format), the total damage would be $2970. Since I’m just beginning my career as a freelance web designer, and my client isn’t paying me very much, I realized that purchasing all of these font families is not an option.

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Samples of my name in (top to bottom) Revolution, Linux Libertine, Alpha Fitness, and Nordica, all available for free download on DaFont.com.

Because I’m oh-so-frugal and resourceful, I came up with the idea to find similar fonts for free on dafont.com (I was not at all prompted into this situation for the purposes of completing an assignment for a grade). Pictured above are the three fonts that I’ve persuaded my client to use (Revolution, Linux Libertine, and Alpha Fitness), plus an extra one that I liked (Nordica). I chose Nordica for a few reasons: first, I felt that this group of fonts needed something sans-serif that also had the option of lowercase letters. I also liked the x height of this font, a characteristic that Jessica Hische deems important in her article “Upping your type game: Type designers are your new best friends.” Since Alpha Fitness is bold and decorative, I thought the fourth font should be something simple and versatile. Finally, I liked that the font was not too thick, so its weight provides a nice contrast to the rest of the fonts in the group.

When selecting my workhorse serif and sans-serif fonts, I kept the typeface-as-clothing analogy employed by both Dan Mayer and Jessica Hische in mind. I realized that these typefaces should be as simple and versatile as a pair of black slacks or a neutral, solid-colored v-neck sweater. My criteria for these workhorse fonts were mainly focused on legibility and simplicity of design. I looked for fonts that satisfied the “Il1” test with an x height at least 50% of the capital letters. I also wanted to make sure that the letter spacing allowed the fonts to be easily readable. I was more concerned about legibility with my serif font than the sans because the serif is what will be used in the text body of my pages. Eventually, I settled on PassionSans for my sans-serif font and Gentium for my serif font. I liked that both of these fonts were not too flashy, but seemed more exciting than a plain Times New Roman. As a bonus, both of these fonts were available in a few weights and both had two-story a’s, a quality that Hische emphasized for legibility. Only Gentium employs a two-story g, but I didn’t mind that PassionSans was lacking this characteristic because it will be used as a heading face rather than a body face. Gentium also has an italic that is closer to a true cursive than a sloped Roman. I wanted to make sure that my two workhorse fonts were visually appealing together, so I chose these specific fonts for their similar skeletal structure as well. I like the way they looked when I was playing around with Passion as the heading typeface and Gentium as the body typeface. Pictured below are two paragraphs from the introduction of a recent lab report. The “Introduction” heading and first paragraph are shown in Gentium, and the second paragraph remains in Times New Roman. The differences between these two fonts are subtle, but increasingly noticeable as the font size is increased.

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Two paragraphs from the Introduction section of a recent formal lab report. The heading and first paragraph are shown in Gentium, while the second paragraph is shown in Times New Roman.

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