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Guidelines for combining typefaces

From: Foundations of Typography

Video: Guidelines for combining typefaces

Because of the complex array of typographic choices that are readily available, the most common question I'm asked is how do I know what Typefaces go together? Let's try to take some of the mystery out of making good type choices. What we are looking for are type combinations which will live harmoniously with one another. Using too many Typefaces can create visual cacophony. It's like type soup, in many cases you might be better off selecting just one Typeface which has a large family of variations.

Guidelines for combining typefaces

Because of the complex array of typographic choices that are readily available, the most common question I'm asked is how do I know what Typefaces go together? Let's try to take some of the mystery out of making good type choices. What we are looking for are type combinations which will live harmoniously with one another. Using too many Typefaces can create visual cacophony. It's like type soup, in many cases you might be better off selecting just one Typeface which has a large family of variations.

Helvetica Neue, for example is a very large family with many weights and widths. And each of these comes with a matching set of italic letters. Because the fonts all originate from one family member, you can be sure the other family members will play well together. Here are a couple of projects each of which sticks to using one large Typeface which allows the designer to achieve many different effects. Each of these examples is really varied yet uses only one Typeface.

You can see here that by using many different weights and widths from one family there's plenty of typographic diversity. But let's say you do need or want more than one Typeface. Here are some factors that might help you decide which to use. The most important factor is contrast or differentiation, a common situation is body text plus headlines. Your Text Type choice will most likely be a Serif text face. So for contrast, you will want to look for something like a Sans Serif that has a variety of bold weights.

In this page from Vibe magazine each Typeface plays a different role and each is a strong contrast from the others. Most projects don't need more than two well-chosen Typefaces to create a broad and useful typographic hierarchy. When combining Typefaces, consider their basic characteristics. Typefaces from a Similar Historical Period whose families have different features, may work well together. Another possibility, combine Typefaces by the Same Designer, since they will have a stylistic connection, or you might want to choose two very opposite Typefaces, one very traditional and sober, the other, friendly and warm.

Typefaces with a Similar Body Height can make good companions as long as their styles are different enough to have a strong contrast. A common mistake in combining Typefaces is putting together Typefaces that are individually idiosyncratic, that is they have Strong Stylistic details, so they conflict with one another. And here we are with Eurostile and Cochin looking very unhappy together. If you find it necessary to add a third Typeface to a text face in a Sans Serif, a Slab Serif might be a good choice.

This works well if you have a need for a third of typographic texture or content which needs to be separate and stand out from the other text elements. Think of putting together an outfit where each piece of clothing has a complex pattern, maybe a fashion maven compare these successfully. But in all likelihood the effect will be jumbled and unmatched. One simple piece and one complex piece work much better, that way the stylistic details of both can be appreciated.

Choosing two simple pieces or Typefaces works well too, differentiation is the key. Combining Typefaces need not be any more complicated than putting together an outfit. The elements should compliment one another. There are no hard and fast rules, but let good taste be your guide.

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This video is part of

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Foundations of Typography

46 video lessons · 30398 viewers

Ina Saltz
Author

 
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  1. 9m 5s
    1. Welcome
      1m 58s
    2. Why good typography matters
      1m 55s
    3. The power of type
      1m 53s
    4. The theory of typographic relativity
      1m 53s
    5. Getting the most out of this course
      1m 26s
  2. 23m 49s
    1. Serif vs. sans serif
      3m 27s
    2. Display type vs. text type
      3m 39s
    3. Type history
      2m 48s
    4. Type classification
      4m 8s
    5. Other type categories
      3m 24s
    6. Guidelines for combining typefaces
      3m 49s
    7. Using cases
      2m 34s
  3. 18m 28s
    1. Anatomy: Parts and shapes of type
      4m 35s
    2. Size and measurements of type
      2m 18s
    3. Type families: Widths, weights, and slopes
      3m 53s
    4. Reviewing the terminology of type, based on function
      3m 27s
    5. Working with color and tonal weight: Exercises
      4m 15s
  4. 20m 27s
    1. Kerning and kerning pairs
      3m 33s
    2. Tracking and leading
      3m 49s
    3. Exploring variations in type alignment
      3m 55s
    4. Hyphenation and justification
      3m 13s
    5. Indents, outdents, and hanging punctuation
      2m 26s
    6. Other typographic best practices
      3m 31s
  5. 10m 3s
    1. Where type begins: The mark of the hand
      2m 28s
    2. Related parts and shapes: Family resemblances
      4m 35s
    3. Designing a typeface
      3m 0s
  6. 22m 19s
    1. How legibility and readability differ
      3m 48s
    2. Examining factors affecting legibility
      4m 46s
    3. Hierarchy and functionality
      4m 29s
    4. Systematized hierarchy
      3m 52s
    5. Paragraphs, drop caps, and entry points
      2m 41s
    6. Typographic abominations
      2m 43s
  7. 11m 8s
    1. Opposing forces of typography
      3m 8s
    2. The grid: A structure for containing type
      3m 6s
    3. Contrast and scale
      4m 54s
  8. 9m 41s
    1. Typographic expressiveness
      3m 22s
    2. The emotional impact of type
      2m 47s
    3. Three-dimensional type
      3m 32s
  9. 8m 55s
    1. Working with numbers
      2m 10s
    2. Expert characters and analphabetic symbols
      1m 56s
    3. Using typography to navigate content
      1m 51s
    4. Using typography to navigate the environment
      2m 58s
  10. 9m 14s
    1. Managing fonts and building your type library
      3m 14s
    2. Developing your typographic eye
      2m 31s
    3. Breaking the rules
      1m 41s
    4. What's next
      1m 48s

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