Typically, a list of best-selling fonts does not tend to represent the most interesting designs – in fact, the most popular fonts are often simply new OpenType versions of older text ones.
So what constitutes an interesting font? Graphic designers look for several things: appropriateness for the project at hand; an elegant and refined design; typographic extras such as ornaments and alternate characters (glyphs); if fonts will be used in text-heavy projects and an extended family of weights and styles. It also helps if the font seems fresh and not overused by everyone, everywhere.
The MyFonts.com website has an excellent annual Top 10 list – our favourites from that list are Aphrodite Slim Pro, Champion Pro and Liza Pro, because of their huge sets of alternate glyphs and advanced OpenType features that automate the use of thousands of glyphs.
They are graced with beautiful swirls and swashes, many of which are attached to alternate versions of standard characters. If you examine the same letter in different locations, its shape changes according to the letters on either side of it.
Weight and styles
Magazine designers are constantly on the lookout for unique fonts that complement article topics. Two great examples of fonts that could appear as graphic headlines in a magazine are Narziss and Memoriam. Both work best at large sizes because of the dramatic difference in weight between the thin and thick strokes of the letters, which tend to break up at smaller sizes. This also makes them suitable for use in posters.
If you’re looking for a book-text font, Calluna is a useful choice. It has several weights, along with elegant italic styles.
This variety is helpful when you need to distinguish between headlines, subheads, text and captions. In addition, Calluna includes ornaments for beginning or ending chapters, and a true small caps style for callouts, quotes, and other places where you want variety.
While some publishing applications are able to create a fake small caps style from a regular font, these rarely look right on the finished product – the difference in thickness between the large caps and the small caps looks rather unprofessional.
If you fancy the fantastical, you should consider Ivory. The illustrated capital letters are perfect for chapter titles, or even for a book jacket. In addition, the illustrated backgrounds for the letters are available separately, so you can stack them and even apply different colours to the foreground and background.
A catalogue project requires a larger array of weights and styles, which the best-selling Alright Sans provides. Its design is modern, yet approachable. The wide-open design of its letter forms lends itself to use in a wide range of sizes, as well as in web pages. And it has old-style numbers that blend in nicely with the text – a feature also available in Calluna.
Both of these fonts include lining numbers, which feature an equal width for each number, so they line up when used in a vertical column. We’ve become accustomed to seeing lining numbers because they have been included in all fonts since the beginning of desktop publishing. Old-style numbers were once available only in special font sets, but now they’re included in some advanced OpenType fonts.
If you’re designing, say, a timetable, an events chart, or liner notes for a CD, try Geogrotesque. The letters have uniform strokes: there’s little difference in width between vertical, horizontal, and curved segments. Its modern – even postmodern – appearance also lends itself to low-resolution display, such as for web pages.
We Love Nature, a picture font, reminds us that fonts may contain any kind of shape, not just letters. These flowers are simply outlines placed into the slots normally reserved for letters in a font. Type the letter A, and you get one of these flowers; type B, and a different one appears. This font is one example of hundreds that contain outlines of different objects – everything from fish to cats, aeroplanes to people, and weapons to Michelangelo’s drawings.