My favorite fonts, gender typing in typography, and truthiness.

I am a self-confessed font nazi. I love fonts. Andy, a good friend and housemate, recently asked for some font advice on Facebook, and used the word "masculine" to describe the kind of font he was looking for. This created... a hub-bub within some folks in the gay community, and I posted the following.

Univers, Frankfurt Airport, where I first fell in love.

First, Frutiger's font styling is some of the best out there, and my all time favourite sans is Univers. I own this font; I spent about $1000 on it over the years for its various typefaces. It's clean, easy to read, works on everything from signage down to text, and it's gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous....

Univers® font family |

Now I prefer that by far to its other options, like Helvetica, Arial, and its simulacra. They just feel stranger, less formal, somehow more awkward. Disney, however, is currenly moving to Avenir, another Frutiger font. Avenir Next, specifically, is slightly more informal, a little more streamlined and modernist.

Linotype Font Collections - Avenir Next

To get something to feel historical, and to lend the feeling of truthiness, you might opt for a historically-based serif like Baskerville.

For a more feminine take, and I'm using that the same way I think you are imagining in your mind (and in this case, for illustrative purposes), see Mrs. Eaves (the typeface).

Baskerville font family |

Century Schoolbook is an old hand at serifs; it's considered highly legible, even though it's a serif. (I have a high bias against serifs, I just think they're frilly and superfluous, but they do something for lots of readers.) It lends itself a weird familiarity with the reader, mostly because they've seen it a million times before but can never put their finger on where.

It's widely available. It's a bit... Dare I say basic. I guess. But it's good, it's honest, and it's not Times Fucking New Roman.

Century Schoolbook font family |

This is how ugly it used to be.

Emulating an Android feel requires Roboto. It's a weird, weird frankenfont, with the look and feel - you might argue "the best", and you might well bloody not - of several other fonts: Helvetica, Myriad, Universe, FF DIN, and Ronnia. It's an interesting study into the strangeness that is Google.

Of course, many of these original issues have been fixed, but it's roots are still deeply embedded in the patchwork that birthed it.

It is, now, however, a very good font worthy of consideration.

Roboto | Google Fonts

Roboto Is Was a Four-Headed Frankenstein | Typographica

Like many derived types, differences can be subtle.  Thank you, ive, for not putting little hearts above the lower case i.

Then there's our more elegant and beautiful cousin. Emulating the feel of Apple devices requires San Francisco these days. They're both interesting yet utterly derivative of their Geneva and Helvetica Neue past, Apple's previous system fonts. When you see them, you see lazy. Unless they're trying to associate their product with Apple. Then you see brazen manipulation of the reader.

San Francisco | Fonts - Apple Developer >

Consolas was one of the greatest gifts to the programming community. Microsoft's original is still an incredibly beautiful monospaced font - perfect for everything from terminals to the "full screen writing" or "distraction free writing" tools that I occasionally drop into.

Consolas | Microsoft Typography

And that's great, if you're on Windows. But to be frank, there's really no need to use it anymore. Inconsolata is an incredibly productive and useful replica, which has been altered over time and is now incredibly complete and beautiful. It still lacks some of Consolas' polish, but it's free, and everyone has no excuse not to switch over to using it right now.

Inconsolata | Google Fonts

So little known fact: Fonts often have popular pairings, and it's not uncommon to do headings and subheadings in a serif and then drop to sans-serif for body text.

One of my favorite pairings in the free community is Merriweather with Open Sans; the former is a good, solid, free serif, and the latter is a nice, open-body sans that's round and full-bodied.

Merriweather | Google Fonts

Open Sans | Google Fonts

Because nobody gives a fuck about impact.  Really.

Sometimes you want a display font - something for logos and punchy intros. Something that isn't IMPACT, because you shouldn't ever use IMPACT. Because it's so overused it doesn't have any anymore.

For the rest of us, there's Hudson NY.

Hudson NY | MyFonts

You can almost see the 80's synthesizer blinking.

Sometimes you need a human touch in fonts. Hand-drawn fonts can be everything from sketchy to industrial, and there's more than a few drafter-hand letters.

Me, I'm a child of the 80's. Every time I see Imogen Agnes I want to dress up in a Miami Vice salmon jacket and throw money at hookers.


I don't always use handwritten fonts, but when I do I use might could pencil.

Now, if you think you need Comic Sans, you don't. You need Might Could Pencil. Proof that you can write like a cynical bitch and still look at the world with childlike wonder while you do it.


Chronicle.  Your basic mid-newspaper glossy insert font.

For magazine style layouts, sometimes you want something that just kind of bleeds elegant fashion.

Personally, I'm a fan of Chronicle Display, and it's close cousin, Chronicle Text. The latter I almost never use for anything, because, you know, I hate serifs, but the former has a place in any designer's book.

Chronicle Display Fonts | Hoefler & Co.

Chronicle Text Fonts | Hoefler & Co.

Mercury and Esquire: Making news sexy since 1996.

Sometimes you need something less newsy, but still serif'd, stylish yet bold. Mercury was designed for Esquire magazine, and it's the heart of their signature look - you see it instantly when you know, but it's subtly there influencing the mind of the reader when you don't; you've seen it a million times on the cover, and somewhere deep in your soul, you make the connection. Because that's what good fonts do.

Mercury Display Fonts | Hoefler & Co.

Somewhere between the Gothic fonts of old, like Baskerville and its ilk, and the postmodern "humanist" fonts of Frutiger that just scream airport signage at you - because, yes, that's probably where you've seen it before - is Whitney. This one's designed for New York's Whitney Museum.

Whitney Fonts | Hoefler & Co.

Of course, I suppose I should wade into the "gender typing" war.

However you feel about the subject of gender typing, the goal of a designer is to evoke a sensation within the masses, to communicate. You do so using stereotypes; idioms and identifiable thought patterns you know exist in the mind of the reader.

It seems appropriate, on the day that Trump becomes present, to remind readers that we are ingrained with idiotic, pointless, stupid, foolish, and downright wrong stereotypes from birth. All the fucking time.

Your job, as a designer, is to pull every lever, to push every button, to silently manipulate the image you're conveying through both liminal and subliminal to convey your message. This isn't just about what you write, or the images you use, but the shapes, the lines, the foundational design elements, the design language of the piece.

Design requires a deep understanding of the psyche of the individual you're designing for. So describing things as "masculine" or "feminine" is as real as the stereotype that exists in the mind of the reader - and believe you me, most people have that stereotype so well ingrained that you can use it.

Leveraging Stereotypes in Design: Masculine vs. Feminine Typography | DESIGNSHACK.NET

Last, a reminder. Yes, I worked in display advertising for years and years. I've always been a fan of the business - Saatchi and Saatchi and Tomato are probably my favorite design houses.

Design, especially within advertising, is often about communicating using every possible element - constructing tiny universes where every single visible element is there to deliver and reinforce a message and identify with a target audience.

But that's design's goal - to build things that connect with humans, to build associations. It's the reason people care about their typefaces; they're literally part of the identity of the brand.

Apple is San Francisco. Android is Roboto. They're not just typefaces, they're full-blown wars over what makes something readable, about what humans like to see, about whether people are more likely to trust what you say when you use one font over another.

For one of the world's most fascinating experiments on this, read The Baskerville Experiment.

The Baskerville Experiment: Font and its influence on our perception of truth | MARKETINGEXPERIMENTS.COM

And with that, I conclude. Thank you, dear reader. ;)