Renowned Italian designer Massimo Vignelli, creator of the classic American Airlines logo, once said that designers use far too many typefaces. But with so many great free fonts around, it’s no surprise that creatives’ collections are ever-growing.
Vignelli’s all-purpose toolkit features household names like Garamond, Bodoni, Helvetica, Univers, Futura, Caslon and Baskerville – between them spanning three centuries of type design history. And few designers would disagree that all of the above are timeless, albeit well-worn classics.
But sometimes something a little different is required of a display face, to give it that extra punch. Sometimes the ubiquitous serifs of Times New Roman just don’t quite cut it. Whatever your needs, the following list of top fonts that often get overlooked should really come in handy.
We’ve split our list into display fonts, serif fonts, sans serif fonts and slab serif fonts to help you find the font you need. We’ll start with display fonts…
01. F37 Bella
Based on letterforms of American typographers John Pistilli and Herb Lubalin, and Swiss typographer Jan Tschichold, F37 Bella is an award-winning display font by Rick Banks. Designed in the classical French Didot style but with a contemporary geometrical twist, Bella contains alternatives and covers an extensive range of Latin-based languages, including Western and Eastern European.
02. Eames Stencil
When you’re looking for a great stencil font that’s beautifully designed and not in the least bit cheap-looking or gimmicky, this House Industries favourite should be your first port of call. This top font is part of the broader Eames family, developed in homage to the late great Charles and Ray Eames. The curves in the stencil font were inspired by the curvature of bent plywood.
Otto is a stunning font from talented design duo Non-Format. Featuring a combination of delicate lines with flashes of block colour, it’s a unique display font with two personalities that works well in large formats.
04. Poster Bodoni
Okay, so Vignelli already ticked Bodoni off the list – and a beautifully classy Didone-style serif it is too, thanks to the craft skills of Giambattista Bodoni in the late 18th century. But this display version from the 1920s is something extra special for setting large, high-impact type where the extreme contrast between the stem thickness really comes into its own. A top font that’s perfect for setting large, high-impact type where the extreme contrast between the stem thickness really comes into its own.
05. Cumulus & Foam
Designed by Stefan Kjartansson for YouWorkForThem, this utterly unique, quite surreal display font combines simple, ultra-thin lines with bulbous, cloud-like forms to give Cumulus & Foam its tagline, “the most beautifully grotesque font of our time.” Although Kjartansson proudly asserts that it doesn’t work as a typeface, this top font’s “ugly beauty” and “disciplined chaos” can certainly add character to a project.