How to Choose Font

Published by Cindy Buckley Koren on

Do you know the difference between a font and a typeface? The main difference between these two terms is that a typeface (or type family) is the name of a specific collection of related fonts. In comparisonfont refers to a particular weight, width, and style within that typeface.

A little background:

Way back in the 1980s when I was a student, I was introduced to wonderful trade magazines such as Print Magazine and Communications Arts, which I dutifully subscribed to—and still do to this day. But the magazine that had the most impact on my typographic decisions in my early career was U&lc, (shorthand for upper and lower case). The best part about U&lc was that it was FREE and contained exquisite examples of typographic artistry by Herb Lubalin and others which served as font specimens for International Typeface Corporation (ITC). ITC began as Lubalin, Burns & Co and called itself “the first typo-graphics agency.” The articles were interesting but the helpful specifications at the bottom of the pages indicating the fonts used made it easy for designers to mark up copy (words that need to be typeset) to send to the typesetter. Sadly, U&lc stopped publications but I have discovered other free resources that students can turn to such as GD USA Magazine.

Choosing, using, and purchasing fonts has transformed so many times since my career began that my head swims just thinking about it.

The Graphic Means film gives a good overview how many paradigm shifts graphic designers have endured over the decades.

Today’s resources for choosing fonts

Butterick’s Practical Typography – a complete interactive guide.


Back in 2004 when I began teaching Typographic Design at Pratt, students were only allowed to use two type families for the first semester. Garamond and Univers. It is truly amazing how using combinations of this serif and sans serif type family can communicate any message effectively.

For the second semester, they were only allowed to use a small selection of fonts from a variety of classifications. Download the Pratt Approved fonts for print HERE.

Google offers good quality and FREE fonts.

All the fonts in the Google catalog are free and open source, making beautiful type accessible to anyone for any project. This means you can share favorites and collaborate easily with friends and colleagues. Google Fonts takes care of all the licensing and hosting, ensuring that the latest and greatest version of any font is available to everyone.

They also have variable fonts available.

Adobe Fonts – good professional fonts —but not free.

Adobe Font Pack from Tad Carpenter

What are Variable fonts?

The font developer can offer a set of different axes. You can combine them because they all share the same default styles. Roboto has three styles in a Width axis: the Regular is at the center of the axis, and two styles, narrower and wider, are at each end. These provide all the widths of the Regular style, and combine with the Weight axis to provide all the widths for every weight Roboto Flex in random combinations of Width and Weight

This means there are thousands of styles! This may seem like massive overkill, but the quality of the reading experience can be remarkably enhanced by this diversity of type styles. And, if it is without performance penalty, web developers can use a few or as many styles as they wish–it’s up to their design.

The following website gives a complete and updated understanding of how to use and specify variable fonts for every application, print or web!

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Cindy Buckley Koren

Cindy Buckley Koren is the founder of {meetinghouse} Creative Collaborative and Professor of Communications Design at PrattMWP College of Art and Design


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