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60 Brilliant Typefaces (and 40 free ones)
March 20, 2008 3:05 PM   Subscribe


 
*dies*
posted by maudlin at 3:08 PM on March 20, 2008


*nom nom nom*
posted by pyrex at 3:09 PM on March 20, 2008


man, sometimes I don't get typefaces. I mean, I can't help but imagine that the creative process for any given typeface is "What if I made [Helvetica/Arial/Impact] have a slightly wonky lower case e?" and then BAM! someone blogs about it.

I'd frankly love to see a list of what people believe are terrible fonts BESIDES ms comic sans. I have no reference point because all of these fonts look alike except that perhaps one has marginally thicker lines, or one has a slantier bridge in the capital A, and I'll be damned if I know what makes one better than another.
posted by shmegegge at 3:12 PM on March 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thank you!
posted by monkeymike at 3:31 PM on March 20, 2008


Awesome! Thanks for the links. I'm going to download a few of those free fonts when I get off work.
posted by kryptondog at 3:32 PM on March 20, 2008


Scriptina is so absolutely elegantly lovely that I downloaded it onto my mac, and now I have no idea what to do with it or how to use it!

Good Old Fashion bugs me not end, not least because I think it should be "Old FashionED." It seems so random and arbitrary rather than themed.
posted by misha at 3:33 PM on March 20, 2008


not end=no end
posted by misha at 3:33 PM on March 20, 2008


I'd frankly love to see a list of what people believe are terrible fonts BESIDES ms comic sans.

Times New Roman
Arial

Also, great post. But zipfile plz.
posted by imperium at 3:35 PM on March 20, 2008


I hereby petition mathowie to allow the font face html through. Just for this post. It tantalisingly worked on preview..
posted by imperium at 3:36 PM on March 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


isn't that just because they're defaults and everyone has used them to death, though? I honestly don't get what makes one good and another bad.
posted by shmegegge at 3:39 PM on March 20, 2008


shmegegge indeed... Man, if you want to see shoddy fonts, there are literally thousands out there for you to download, install and then regret at your leisure, as I have done on many occasions. What makes a font good? If its beautiful and makes you feel happy to look at, thats when its good. Like all art really.
posted by criticalbill at 3:53 PM on March 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Helvetica vs Arial
posted by maudlin at 4:04 PM on March 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Arial or Helvetica?

(Yes, Arial is my Comic Sans).
posted by maudlin at 4:10 PM on March 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Some of the sample texts are quite funny.

From Whitman:
RED-EYED VIREO
Incessant chattering
That bird has been at it for at least 164 hours straight
Exaggeration
Question of semantics
My definition of a word may differ from yours
DICTIONARY
Always comes in handy when board games are involved
Convenient pocket size
Tiny, unreadable text leaves ample room for interpretation

From Agency FB:
MOLECULAR STRUCTURE
BITS OF STUFF SO SMALL YOU WOULDN’T BELIEVE IT
Carbon ’n Hydrogen Flavored Soda
REARRANGEMENT OF ATOMIC ELEMENTS MAKES SILK PURSE OF SOW’S EAR
WHICH LEAVES THE SOW MORE THAN A LITTLE BIT CONFUSED
BUT SOON LEARNS TO ENJOY FAME, FORTUNE, & ENDORSEMENT CONTRACTS
Late-Night Talk Shows
Interrputed for press conference
Gold, platinum, & semi-precious stones are discovered in the local landfills
Residents from local communities stake claims
Neighbors clash over pile of trash
National Guard tries to restore order
COMPETING FACTIONS
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA COVERAGE
posted by Pyry at 4:16 PM on March 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


A few of these (Moderna, Delicious, Liberation, Mank, Colaborate, Steiner) are abominable, which is what I've come to expect of free fonts, but I'll be darned if the majority of the 40 aren't excellent. Nice find, criticalbill!
posted by Sys Rq at 4:18 PM on March 20, 2008


or one has a slantier bridge in the capital A, and I'll be damned if I know what makes one better than another.

There would probably be a huge difference if you looked at paragraphs of text in them.
posted by delmoi at 4:43 PM on March 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Very nice.
For some reason looking at all of these reminded me of dooce.
Or dooce ® (pronounced "deuce ARRRRR" or "doo-chay ARRRRR").
Whichever.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 4:47 PM on March 20, 2008


Some nice typefaces but I can't see a professional corporation using many of them, especially the hardwritten script typefaces.

Presidencia is quite lovely and of course, everything by H&FJ is best-in-class.

shmegegge: I think this topic came up in another thread. I think typography/typesetting is one of those things that people appreciate when it's done well but most people can't say why. It's a nuanced feeling that's hard to describe unless you deal with it frequently. As for designing type, it's a combination of the objectives of the designer plus some rough rules. A great many typefaces are also just digitized versions or interpretations of old typefaces in metal type blocks. Nevertheless, I can understand how many of the heavily corporate looking typefaces (like those seen here) might all look like slight variations on the same.

I'd frankly love to see a list of what people believe are terrible fonts BESIDES ms comic sans.
The entire set of fonts installed with those page layout programs in the $1 software bin.

Some of the sample texts are quite funny.
I write down lines of text that I find cool, amusing, odd, nonsensical, etc in a moleskine. These get added to my lorem ipsum collection. When it comes time to do a page layout, rand() gives me a fresh batch. Clients who notice seem to like that they get custom lorem ipsum with every project.
posted by junesix at 5:02 PM on March 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I agree that at some level, the devotion to picking the right typeface for a project is masturbatory. It's rare to come across a client that cares even 5% of what the graphic designer cares in selecting type. But I think that's a general rule for every aspect of any professional services business. It's our job to internally make a fuss about it because that's what we're being paid to do - clients just want the best end product. Sausage factory - ya know?
posted by junesix at 5:12 PM on March 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


SMALL CAPS AWESOME POST
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:15 PM on March 20, 2008


I'll be damned if I know what makes one better than another.
posted by shmegegge at 3:12 PM on March 20


Set type or do layout for a living; you'll figure it out pretty quickly. You have to understand that a lot of typography is invisible to the end user. You may think that Arial is just fine for everything, and that Comic Sans hatred is irrational or dumb, but if you had to read an issue of Harper's or today's New York Times or your favorite novel laid out or typeset by an amateur, you would immediately see a huge difference in the quality of the reading experience.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:26 PM on March 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


You might not even notice the difference consciously, but it would probably feel off. Think of film editing--most people don't see a movie and then say, "Goddamn that was well-edited!" You will definitely notice if it's done wrong, but if it's done right it just looks right and everything flows together.

A lot of work goes into making the experience easy for you (which is how it should be).
posted by kirkaracha at 5:47 PM on March 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mmm, Gentium is a real find, thanks. A decent looking free font that includes circumflexed ŵ's and ŷ's.

I'm a happy lil' Welshman.
posted by ceiriog at 6:00 PM on March 20, 2008


Type is a bit like wine tasting, actually.
There's a lot of wankery, but there is a lot of detail and specificity possible, if you're interested. And a crash introductory course can get you up to speed pretty quick.

1) Legibility. Are the letters significantly different from one another, to promote quick readability? Are they different enough?
2) Cohesiveness. Do the letters seem to belong together? Are they similar enough?
3) History. Does this typeface represent something from the past? Does it evoke a technique or a period?
4) Originality. Does this typeface do something new? Does it at least improve on the type it references.

Much like wine tasting, some people are poorly served by learning about type. They can never again enjoy $10 wine, when previously they could. It works both ways, though. A connoisseur can get much greater pleasure from something done perfectly than a layman ever could.
posted by Richard Daly at 6:43 PM on March 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, man, beautiful stuff. Many thanks.
posted by equalpants at 8:26 PM on March 20, 2008


Great stuff. (I live to kern.)
posted by jay2boat at 9:52 PM on March 20, 2008


Thank you. Seconding Gentium and Scriptina as particularly fine examples.
posted by blue shadows at 11:40 PM on March 20, 2008


For the lazy, here are a few direct-downloads to some I liked.

Pigiarniq [354KB] (sample)
All the MG Open Stuff... [891KB] (sample)Fontin Sans [87KB] (sample) - not hotlinking by request
Yanone Kaffeesatz [84KB] (sample)
Nadia Serif [18KB - Win | 24KB - Mac] (sample)
Scriptina [70KB - Win | 165KB Mac] (sample)
Qlassik [44KB] (sample)
Greyscale Basic [144KB] (sample)
Lacuna [62KB - Win | 89KB - Mac] (sample)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:18 AM on March 21, 2008


C_D, just to let you know, but the sample links for Nadia Serif to Lacuna don't work.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:32 AM on March 21, 2008


The whole point of Pigiarniq is to provide a consistent font for the non-latin characters, so why do all the examples give simple latin examples (well, aside from the fact that the rest of us can't just what a good inuktitut font might look like)? So, here's an example, from the territorial government's Inuktitut home page. Unfortunately, Mac OS Firefox doesn't seem to cope well with symbolic unicode fonts. The site is best viewed, on a Mac, with Safari.

My favourite part of the font is the inukshuk glyph: '᐀' (which character, at least, does look right on Mac OS Firefox).
posted by djfiander at 5:47 AM on March 21, 2008


I always felt if it was called Apple Comic Sans it wouldn't get near the amount of hatin'.
posted by Standeck at 8:29 AM on March 21, 2008


Following some of the links provided in the comments here, i came across a remarkable essay on the history of helvetica and arial. and in there was this gem of a line:

But there was a problem. There were two kinds of PostScript fonts: Type 1 and Type 3.

... ? Oh Adobe, I love you AND I want to strangle you, at all times.

Also, thanks to everyone for the explanations of typography. it cleared things up quite a bit for me.

Think of film editing--most people don't see a movie and then say, "Goddamn that was well-edited!" Funny thing in this particular instance is that I would, but I'm an editor by trade, so... but yeah, thanks for the explanation.
posted by shmegegge at 9:02 AM on March 21, 2008


just to let you know, but the sample links for Nadia Serif to Lacuna don't work.

Ah, thanks for the head's up.
Nadia Serif sample
Scriptina sample
Qlassik sample
Lacuna sample (2, 3)

...and a couple more that didn't make the official cut...

ATF Antique [230KB - Win | 265KB Mac] (sample, 2)
Vollkorn [29KB - Win | Mac] (sample, 2)

Actually, I might as well link to the whole site (free font category), 'cause that dude is awesome.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:39 PM on March 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Great stuff
posted by e_nehpets at 7:01 PM on March 31, 2008


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