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Understanding what to look for when pairing fonts

From: Choosing and Using Web Fonts

Video: Understanding what to look for when pairing fonts

The trick to choosing two fonts to pair with one another is to choose fonts that have both concord and contrast. Concord means the fonts are in harmony with one another, they have some physical feature in common. Contrast means the fonts have physical features that are different from each other, they aren't too similar. If fonts are too similar it's almost like wearing two colors that don't quite match, it's disconcerting. They look like they should be the same and it's difficult to appreciate their differences. If the fonts have too much contrast, it's like wearing two colors that clash.

Understanding what to look for when pairing fonts

The trick to choosing two fonts to pair with one another is to choose fonts that have both concord and contrast. Concord means the fonts are in harmony with one another, they have some physical feature in common. Contrast means the fonts have physical features that are different from each other, they aren't too similar. If fonts are too similar it's almost like wearing two colors that don't quite match, it's disconcerting. They look like they should be the same and it's difficult to appreciate their differences. If the fonts have too much contrast, it's like wearing two colors that clash.

Physical features to consider when picking fonts are Structure. Do they have a similar bowl shape? Do they have a similar aperture? What about their stress, their x-height, do they feel Humanist, Transitional, Geometric? We also look at Serifs. Do they both have Serifs? If so, what kind of Serifs do they have? Are they both Sans Serif? We also look at line weight. Do they have a similar line weight or a different line weight? Are they heavy, light or in-between? Do they have pen-formed strokes with changes between thicks and thins or are the strokes uniform? Once you have a list of these elements to consider you can look at two fonts and ask yourself, where are they similar and where are they different.

Today, we have font families with both a Serif and a Sans Serif font. If you're just learning to pair fonts, working with a family like this can make it a bit easier. One family we've seen in this course is Meta. Meta Serif Web Pro and Meta Web Pro were designed to work together. If we focus in on two words in the headings, large for, we can see that the a's and the e's have similar structures. They have similar closed counters and similar apertures. We can see the relationship between the x-height and the height of the stem on the l is similar.

We can see that they have the same shaped g, similar bowls though the Serifs feel a tad rounder and similar fs. If we relax our eyes and look at the texture, we can see the Serif font on top has more texture and the Sans Serif font on the bottom looks more open and light because of its letter spacing. So for all the similarities, all the concord between the two fonts, there is also contrast. Another font we've looked at in this course that has both a Serif and a Sans Serif is Museo. Here we are looking at Museo Slab and Museo Sans.

Again, if we look at the words, large for, in the heading we can see the structural similarities. And again, if we relax our eyes we can see the slight difference in texture due to the Slab Serifs in the top font. Now if we look at PT Serif and PT Sans, there are a few less similarities. Again, if we look at the words, large for, we can immediately see the g is different. And if we look more closely, we can see the x-height in the Sans Serif version feels a little more generous compared to the height of the stem on the l.

Finally, we can see the ascender on the Sans Serif f feels a little shorter as well, so there's a slightly different ratio between ascender and x-height in the Sans Serif font. But the structures on the a and the e are similar as are the bowls. So when we relax our eyes and look at the texture of the text, the two feel like they belong together. But not all font families come with a pair you can just use. Let's see if we can find one for Crimson Text which is an Old style font we used earlier in the course. We can try and pair it with PT Serif, our transitional font, but they look way too similar.

We don't even have to look closely at the details in the fonts to know they look a lot alike. We could try pairing with the Museo Slab or Slab Serif font, they definitely don't look too similar. Museo Slab has a much heavier presence in the text. And when we look more closely at the letters, we can see there are differences all over the place. The size of the x-height compared to the stem of l, the shape of the g, the shape of the bowl in the o, even the shapes of the f and r. Crimson Text's f and r curl over more but I think there's too much going on here, too much texture and perhaps too many differences between the fonts.

They look too different to me. One feels old and traditional while the other feels strong and solid. I'll keep looking. We could try pairing it with Merriweather, our other Serif font, but I'm back to an earlier problem, they feel too similar. I find myself wondering, why would I bother to use two fonts here? Moving into the Sans Serifs, we could try pairing Crimson Text with the Museo Sans. It definitely doesn't have the problem with too much texture that it did when we tried pairing it with the Museo Slab but I still don't care for the old traditional Serif and the strong, solid Geometric Sans, so we'll keep looking.

We could try pairing it with Nimbus Sans, our transitional Sans Serif, but Nimbus feels a little stiff compared to the pen-formed humanist structure of Crimson Text. If we look closely at the letters, we can see that there are big differences in the a and e both in the closed counters and then the apertures, we can also see the gs are different so are the fs. And the feeling of the x-height compared to the stem on the l, it's not surprising they feel so different. Finally, we can try pairing Crimson Text with Open Sans which is our Humanist Sans Serif font.

This might make the most sense. The contrast between Serif and Sans Serif is there but they both have humanist structures. Looking closely at the letters, I'm not sure they're going to work as a pair but they have a good shot. I'm going to keep my eye on whether or not Open Sans starts feeling too bubbly compared to Crimson Text. Open Sans bowl on the a is quite generous, but both fonts have the open apertures in the double-decker g, so they might work. Also, I did want to see if any of our Handwriting Fonts could work with Crimson Text.

Myndraine obviously doesn't, their textures are way too different. Sanvito Pro could work, both fonts feel old and handwritten with pens. Ruluko is not an option, it's too light and open and tall to pair with Crimson Text. But looking at these Handwriting Fonts reminds me, we can use what we know about history to pair fonts. Calluna which is a Venetian font pairs up with Sanvito even better than Crimson Text did. This is not surprising since they both have characteristics found in books from the late 1400s in Venice.

It's too bad Calluna's crossbar doesn't hold up cross-browser because this would be a lovely font pair, maybe someday. And Ruluko feels so contemporary to me, so light and Humanist but vertical too. I thought it might pair well with Merriweather, I think it does. It's hard to tell here because Ruluko feels a little big here, but this might be a good pairing in the right circumstances, especially since Merriweather doesn't have an Italic. So back to Crimson Text and Open Sans, they might work. When looking for two fonts to pair together, it's a matter of balancing contrast and concord.

It's also a matter of looking closely at the letters but making sure you back up a bit and consider the overall texture. But here, I'm just using screenshots of the Web Font's specimen sheet, it's a quick comparison. We won't really know how they work together until we try them.

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This video is part of

Image for Choosing and Using Web Fonts
Choosing and Using Web Fonts

89 video lessons · 6942 viewers

Laura Franz
Author

 
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  1. 4m 41s
    1. Welcome
      1m 2s
    2. What you should know before watching this course
      1m 52s
    3. Using the exercise files
      1m 47s
  2. 14m 55s
    1. Recognizing the anatomy of letters
      4m 17s
    2. Understanding font classification
      4m 38s
    3. Finding and testing web fonts
      3m 41s
    4. Identifying common problems in fonts
      2m 19s
  3. 43m 43s
    1. Understanding Venetian fonts
      4m 0s
    2. Identifying a Venetian font
      4m 46s
    3. Understanding handwritten letters
      3m 22s
    4. Choosing a Venetian font
      3m 47s
    5. Creating a Typekit account and building a kit
      3m 43s
    6. Adding a Venetian font (Calluna) to your kit
      2m 51s
    7. Applying Calluna to your web site
      5m 54s
    8. Troubleshooting Typekit fonts that don't load
      2m 2s
    9. Changing styling as necessary to improve the readability of the text
      4m 25s
    10. Working with more than four styles in Typekit
      5m 22s
    11. Looking at how using a Venetian font affects the look and feel of a web page
      3m 31s
  4. 32m 53s
    1. Identifying an Old Style font
      6m 26s
    2. Choosing an Old Style font
      4m 30s
    3. Applying Crimson Text to a web site using Google web fonts
      3m 8s
    4. Changing styling as necessary to improve the readability of the text
      9m 20s
    5. Making various weights and styles work correctly across different browsers
      5m 16s
    6. Looking at how using an Old Style font affects the look and feel of a web page
      4m 13s
  5. 21m 12s
    1. Identifying a Transitional font
      5m 10s
    2. Choosing a Transitional font
      6m 36s
    3. Applying PT Sans to a site via Typekit
      2m 57s
    4. Changing styling as necessary to improve the readability of the text
      2m 59s
    5. Looking at how using a Transitional font affects the look and feel of a web page
      3m 30s
  6. 16m 58s
    1. Identifying a Modern font
      7m 50s
    2. Choosing a Modern font
      4m 0s
    3. Using Typekit to find and test web fonts
      5m 8s
  7. 26m 52s
    1. Identifying a Slab Serif font
      4m 30s
    2. Choosing a Slab Serif font
      3m 58s
    3. Deleting a font from your Typekit
      3m 1s
    4. Exploring a font with multiple weights and styles
      9m 41s
    5. Looking at how using a Slab Serif font affects the look and feel of a web page
      5m 42s
  8. 26m 52s
    1. Identifying "Other" Serif fonts
      5m 28s
    2. Choosing "Other" Serif fonts
      10m 12s
    3. Using a font without an italic
      7m 6s
    4. Looking at how using an "Other" Serif font affects the look and feel of a web page
      4m 6s
  9. 20m 34s
    1. Identifying a Transitional Sans Serif font
      4m 29s
    2. Choosing a Transitional Sans Serif font
      5m 14s
    3. Changing styling to improve the readability of text
      6m 31s
    4. Looking at how using a Transitional Sans Serif font affects the look and feel of a web page
      4m 20s
  10. 31m 23s
    1. Identifying a Geometric Sans Serif font
      2m 51s
    2. Choosing a Geometric Sans Serif font
      4m 33s
    3. Downloading a free font licensed for use on the web
      3m 53s
    4. Using Font Squirrel to create an @font-face kit
      5m 12s
    5. Adding the @font-face syntax to the CSS
      2m 57s
    6. Implementing the font family in the CSS
      5m 29s
    7. Changing styling as necessary to improve the readability of the text
      3m 56s
    8. Looking at how using a Geometric Sans Serif font affects the look and feel of a web page
      2m 32s
  11. 21m 3s
    1. Identifying a Humanist Sans Serif font
      4m 18s
    2. Choosing a Humanist Sans Serif font
      7m 23s
    3. Changing styling as necessary to improve the readability of the text
      5m 32s
    4. Looking at how using a Humanist Sans Serif font affects the look and feel of a web page
      3m 50s
  12. 18m 28s
    1. Understanding handwritten fonts
      3m 4s
    2. Choosing a handwritten font
      8m 17s
    3. Looking at how using a handwritten font affects the look and feel of a web page
      7m 7s
  13. 33m 2s
    1. Understanding what to look for when pairing fonts
      6m 58s
    2. Using one font for headings and another for text
      6m 6s
    3. Using different fonts for different kinds of information on the page
      8m 38s
    4. Mixing and matching fonts within text
      3m 48s
    5. Looking at how using two fonts affects the look and feel of a web page
      7m 32s
  14. 23m 34s
    1. Understanding Script fonts
      2m 19s
    2. Choosing a Script font for display use
      8m 12s
    3. Changing styling as necessary to improve the form and placement of letters on the page
      3m 33s
    4. Choosing a second font to pair with the Script Display font
      3m 42s
    5. Incorporating a second font with the Script Display font
      2m 53s
    6. Setting fallback fonts
      2m 55s
  15. 26m 38s
    1. Understanding Wood Type fonts
      3m 25s
    2. Choosing a Wood Type font for display use
      8m 35s
    3. Changing styling as necessary to improve the form and placement of letters on the page
      4m 57s
    4. Choosing a second font to pair with the Wood Type font
      2m 28s
    5. Incorporating a second font with the Wood Type display font
      4m 42s
    6. Setting fallback fonts
      2m 31s
  16. 14m 58s
    1. Choosing an Art Deco font for display use
      2m 45s
    2. Changing styling as necessary to improve the form and placement of letters on the page
      3m 51s
    3. Choosing a second font to pair with the Art Deco font
      2m 37s
    4. Incorporating a second font with the Art Deco display font
      2m 57s
    5. Setting fallback fonts
      2m 48s
  17. 27m 38s
    1. Choosing a Futuristic font for display use
      5m 33s
    2. Applying the Futuristic font and changing the styling as necessary to improve the form and placement of letters on the page
      6m 40s
    3. Choosing a second font to pair with the Futuristic font
      2m 48s
    4. Incorporating a second font with the Futuristic display font
      4m 21s
    5. Setting fallback fonts
      2m 22s
    6. Looking at the set of four ads
      5m 54s
  18. 7m 29s
    1. Exploring resources and goodbye
      7m 29s

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