Typographer’s top typefaces

If you could use just eight typefaces, which would you choose? In each issue 8 Faces magazine asks this question to eight leading designers from the fields of lettering, typography, and of course type design itself.

So far we interviewed 48 world-renowned designers including Erik Spiekermann, Jessica Hische, Yves Peters and Ale Paul, plus owners of type foundries such as H&FJ, Font Smith and Process Type. Between all them 336 typefaces had been chosen so far.

With well over 100,000 possibly options there is some surprising consensus on their favourite fonts. Here’s the list so far, together with the number of times each typeface was chosen:

Georgia (9) Matthew Carter, 1993. Designed for screen display for Microsoft and still features on millions of websites. Jason Santa Maria: “A gorgeous technical achievement”.

Gotham (7) Tobias Frere-Jones, 2000. Famously used for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. H&FJ: “Each character just feels ‘normal’ and ‘right’.”

(Caslon) Adobe Caslon (5) (William Caslon I) Carol Twombly, (1722) 1990. Gave rise to a printer’s saying “When in doubt, use Caslon” Also a favourite of Benjamin Franklin.

FF Scala (5) Martin Majoor, 1990. FontShop International’s “first serious text face”. John Boardley: Scala and Scala San are just about perfect.

Akzidenz Grotesk (4) Berthold Type Foundry, 1896. The first widely used sans serif typeface. Nina Stössinger: “It’s spark of charm and character are still most welcome today.

Alternate Gothic (4) Morris Fuller Benton, 1903. Currently used on YouTube’s homepage logo. Mark simpson “Very well designed and drawn. It’s a standard that I strive for in my own work

Fedra Sans (4) Peter Bilak, 2001. With a very large x-height this typeface was designed to work equally well on paper and screen.

FF Meta Serif (4) Erik Spiekermann, Christian Schwartz and Kris Sowersby 2007. The serif companion to Spiekermann’s influential sans serif, FF Meta. Also designed to work well with FF Unit and FF Unit Slab. 

Metro (4) William Addison Dwiggins, 1930, Designed out of a dissatisfaction with the san serifs of the time like Futura.  

Caecilia (3) Peter Matthias Noordzij, 1990, A humanist rather than geometric sans serif aiding its legibility.

Chaparral (3), Carol Twombly, 2000 A “hybrid slab-serif” text face that mixes the legibility of 19th Century designs with 16th century panache.

ITC Franklin Gothic (3) Morris Fuller Benton, 1902. Designed for the American Type Founders Company named after Benjamin Franklin.

Gill Sans (3)  Eric Gill, 1926, A quintessential British design though it’s eccentricities make it notoriously tricky to use well. A mix of humanist and geometric shapes.

Helvetica (3) Max Miedinger with Eduard Hoffmann 1957. Helvetica needs no introduction as the planet’s most famous typeface—it even inspired a very good film

Hoefler Text (3) Jonathan Hoefler,1991. Designed for Apple to demonstrate advanced type technologies it reintroduced type design traditions once central to fine printing like ligature sets, engraved capitals, Ornaments and Arabesques.

ITC Officina (3) Erik Spiekermann, 1990. A paired family of serif and sans serif faces, originally designed as a typeface for business correspondence but found a much wider trendier audience.

Sentinel (3) Jonathan Hoefler & Tobias Frere-Jones, 2009. “For everyone who’s ever wished Clarendons had italics”. Three of our interviewees so far had. A slab serif suitable for both text and display. 

Trade Gothic (3) Jackson Burke, 1948/1960. Michael Bierut described it as “the ultimate ‘I don’t give a damn’ typeface. No style, no nuance, just blunt, in-your-face, straightforward attitude.”

We’ll update this list as more choices are made. The 7th issue of 8 Faces is being finalised now so stay tuned for more details.