Serif fonts for designers

With the thousands of different typefaces available, it’s critical to have a select few that act as the base of your collection. Listed below are dozen popular fonts ( and a little history ) that you’ll find in many designs.

designer typeface bembo

Bembo is the name given to an old style serif typeface based upon a face cut by Francesco Griffo, first printed in February 1496 (1495 more veneto).

Griffo worked in the Venetian press of the humanist printer Aldus Manutius. The face was first used in the setting of book entitled De Aetna, a short text about a journey to Mount Aetna written by Italian Cardinal Pietro Bembo.

The typeface would serve as a source of inspiration for typefaces of the Parisian publisher Claude Garamond, that are collectively called Garamond.

The typeface Bembo we see today is a revival designed by Stanley Morison for the Monotype Corporation in 1929. Read more about Bembo.

designer typeface bodoni

Bodoni is the name given to a series of serif typefaces first designed by Giambattista Bodoni (1740–1813) in 1798. The typeface is classified as didone modern.

Bodoni followed the ideas of John Baskerville, as found in the printing type Baskerville, that of increased stroke contrast and a more vertical, slightly condensed, upper case, but taking them to a more extreme conclusion.

Bodoni’s typeface has a narrower underlying structure with flat, unbracketed serifs. The face has extreme contrast between thick and thin strokes, and an overall geometric construction. Read more about Bodoni.

designer typeface caslon

Caslon refers to a number of serif typefaces designed by William Caslon I (1692–1766), and various revivals thereof.

Caslon shares the irregularity characteristic of Dutch Baroque types. It is characterised by short ascenders and descenders, bracketed serifs, moderately-high contrast, robust texture, and moderate modulation of stroke.

The A has a concave hollow at the apex, the G is without a spur. Caslon’s italics have a rhythmic calligraphic stoke. Characters A, V, and W have an acute slant. The lowercase italic p, q, v, w, and z all have a suggestion of a swash. Read more about Caslon.

designer typeface clarendon

Clarendon is an English slab-serif typeface that was created in England by Robert Besley for the Fann Street Foundry in 1845. Besley went as far as trying to patent the typeface, and Clarendon is now known as the first registered typeface. However, the patents at the time lasted only three years; as soon as the typeface became popular, it was copied by other foundries.

The original matrices and punches remained at Stephenson Blake and later resided at the Type Museum, London. They were marketed by Stephenson Blake as Consort, though some additional weights (a bold and italics) were cut in the 1950s.

It was named after the Clarendon Press in Oxford. The typeface was reworked by the Monotype foundry in 1935. It was revised by Hermann Eidenbenz in 1953.

designer typeface courier

Courier is a monospaced slab serif typeface designed to resemble the output from a strike-on typewriter.

The typeface was designed by Howard “Bud” Kettler in 1955. The design of the original Courier typeface was commissioned in the 1950s by IBM for use in typewriters, but they did not secure legal exclusivity to the typeface and it soon became a standard font used throughout the typewriter industry.

As a monospaced font, it has recently found renewed use in the electronic world in situations where columns of characters must be consistently aligned. It has also become an industry standard for all screenplays to be written in 12 point Courier or a close variant. Read more about Courier.

designer typeface excelsior

Excelsior is a serif typeface, designed by Chauncey H. Griffith, and presented by Mergenthaler Linotype in 1931. It is one of five typefaces in Griffith’s ‘Legibility Group’ which contains typefaces especially well-suited to newsprint.

Before designing this font, Griffith consulted the results of a survey of optometrists regarding optimal legibility.

Opticon and Paragon were released in 1935 as slightly heavier and slightly lighter versions of Excelsior designed for newspapers that deliberately underink to favor halftones, or overink to favor text and headlines.

The News 702 typeface by BitStream is almost identical to Excelsior.

designer typeface garamond

Garamond is the name given to a group of old style serif typefaces named for the punch-cutter Claude Garamond (c. 1480-1561). A majority of the typefaces named Garamond are more closely related to the work of a later punch-cutter Jean Jannon.

A direct relationship between Garamond’s letterforms and contemporary type can be found in the Roman versions of the typefaces Sabon, Granjon, Stempel Garamond, and Adobe Garamond.

Garamond’s letterforms convey a sense of fluidity and consistency. Some unique characteristics in his letters are the small bowl of the a and the small eye of the e. Long extenders and top serifs have a downward slope.
Read more about Garamond.

designer typeface lucida

Lucida is an extended family of related typefaces designed by Charles Bigelow and Kris Holmes in 1985.

There are many variants called Lucida, including scripts (Blackletter, Calligraphy, Handwriting), serif (Fax, Bright), and sans-serif (Sans, Sans Unicode, Grande, Sans Typewriter).

Bigelow & Holmes, together with the (now defunct) TeX vendor Y&Y, extended the Lucida family with a full set of TeX mathematical symbols, making it one of the few typefaces that provide full-featured text and mathematical typesetting within TeX. Read more about Lucida.

designer typeface minion

Minion is the name of a typeface designed by Robert Slimbach in 1990 for Adobe Systems. The name comes from the traditional naming system for type sizes, in which minion is between nonpareil and brevier. It is inspired by late Renaissance-era type.

A unique feature is the support of Regular and Display optical sizes in Regular and Italic fonts. Different optical sizes have different stroke contrasts and details, designed to optimise texts for specific applications. Minion Black does not have italic counterpart. Read more about Minion.

designer typeface perpetua

Perpetua is a typeface that was designed by British sculptor, typeface designer, stonecutter and printmaker Eric Gill (1882–1940).

Though not designed in the historical period of transitional type (the hallmark of transitional type was John Baskerville’s type designed in the last half of the 18th century), Perpetua can be classified with transitional typefaces because of characteristics such as high stroke contrast and bracketed serifs. Along with these characteristics, Perpetua bears the distinct personality of Eric Gill’s letterforms.

Gill began work on Perpetua in 1925 at the request of Stanley Morison, typographical advisor to Monotype. Morison sought Gill’s talent to design a new typeface for the foundry. By 1929, Perpetua Roman was issued as Monotype Series 239.

Gill designed two companion faces for Perpetua. The first was a typeface called Felicity. That design was met with mixed reactions. A second italic, called Perpetua Italic, was drawn by Gill and subsequently issued by Monotype along with Perpetua Roman.

designer typeface sabon

Sabon is the name of an old style serif typeface designed by the German born typographer and designer Jan Tschichold (1902–1974) in the period 1964–1967. The typeface was released jointly by the Linotype, Monotype, and Stempel type foundries in 1967.

Design of the roman is based on types by Claude Garamond (c.1480–1561), particularly a specimen printed by the Frankfurt printer Konrad Berner. Berner had married the widow of a fellow printer Jacques Sabon, the source of the face’s name. The italics are based on types designed by a contemporary of Garamond’s, Robert Grandjon. The typeface is frequently described as a Garamond revival.

An early first use of Sabon was the setting of the Washburn College Bible in 1973 by the American graphic designer Bradbury Thompson. All books of the King James biblical text were set by hand in a process called thought-unit typography, where Thompson broke the lines at their spoken syntactical breaks.

designer typeface trajan

Trajan is an old style serif typeface designed in 1989 by Carol Twombly for Adobe. The design is based on the letterforms of capitalis monumentalis or Roman square capitals, as used for the inscription at the base of Trajan’s Column from which the typeface takes its name.

Since lower case forms were not in use in Roman times, Trajan is an all-capitals typeface. Instead, small caps are commonly used, and a more complete set of glyphs contained in Trajan Pro (a 2001 update of the original typeface) includes a lower case of small caps.

All images and descriptions are courtesy of Wikipedia.

What are your thoughts?

What are your go to fonts? If you have another font that you think should be on this list let me know.