They might not mean that much to you, but designers have love/hate relationships with fonts. Working with ones they don’t like invoke a visceral reaction in your designer’s belly, and working with ones you do can make you stop and slow clap in the middle of a job.
So which fonts do designers love? And what makes them so good?
Created in 1957 by Max Miedinger, Helvetica is without a doubt one of the most famous and preferred fonts for designers. It was developed in the 1950s in the neo-grotesque design style of the late 1800s, and was used ubiquitously in the Swiss Style (International Typographic Style) movement that was popular in Europe (particularly Switzerland) in the 50s, where it was used heavily in left-aligned type packages.
It’s a clean, sans-serif typeface that looks as fresh as it did in the 1950s. It’s argued to look good with just about any content, perhaps because it tends to be neutral, or not leave a particular impression or meaning.
Paul Renner developed the iconic typeface Futura in the Bauer Type Foundry in Germany in 1927 in Bauhaus art school movement. It’s a heavily circular geometric font, and it features clean proportions and an overall modern feel that belies its true age. It’s grown over the years, and now has lots of different character widths and weights.
Futura has a cult following across different art media. It’s peppered throughout Wes Anderson films, and it’s in the logos and branding identity of some of the biggest brands in the world, including Absolut vodka, Louis Vuitton, IKEA, Volkswagen, Red Bull, and Domino’s Pizza.
One of the oldest fonts still in use, Bodoni was created by Giambattista Bodoni in 1790. Known as a ‘masterpiece of symmetry’, it features high contrast between super thick and ultra-thin lines, unbracketed serifs, and an overall geometric construction.
Its modern elegance makes it a good choice for logos. You’ll see it in higher-end brand identities like Calvin Klein, Zara, Armani and Elizabeth Arden, magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. It’s also the typeface in the logo of iconic band Nirvana, and on the collateral for the movie Goodfellas.
Baskerville is one of the oldest serif typefaces we still love. It was designed in the 1750s by a self-taught printer, and as a transitional font, it falls somewhere between classical and high-contrast modern typefaces. But maybe we don’t just like it because it looks elegant.
In 2012, writer and filmmaker Errol Morris conducted an experiment to see if typefaces could influence people’s beliefs, and in a survey about optimism and pessimism, he asked readers of the New York Times online edition whether or not they agreed with a statement, which some people saw in Baskerville, others saw in Helvetica, and others saw in Comic Sans. The people who saw the statement in Baskerville were most likely to agree with it.
Do we really love Baskerville? Or does Baskerville just make us believe we do? Who knows.