What fonts are in your tool belt?

over 7 years ago from , Designer at Subvisual

Jason Santa Maria once said that you should be able to hand-pick a few eclectic fonts, really get to know them and use them all around your work. You don't need to get a new font for every project, unless the project requires something really exquisite.

I've been trying to establish my 'tool belt' for some time, so far i've come up with: Proxima Nova, Proxima Nova Soft, Calluna, Futura and Freight Text Pro.

Which fonts would you consider to be part of your tool belt?


  • Oliver JohnstonOliver Johnston, over 7 years ago

    Comic sans & Papyrus

    29 points
  • Benedikt LehnertBenedikt Lehnert, over 7 years ago

    It’s typeface, not font.

    Besides that I agree with Jig T. here and would not look at Jason’s comment as a general approach for your typographic design work.

    There are a lot of great typefaces out there, but the choice of typeface needs to follow the unique character of the brand/product (the context) you are designing for. Picking the right typeface means setting the tone for your product’s voice.

    So aside from a pure functional layer (making text readable), typeface provide an emotional layer as well. And that depends on what you are building.

    I’d recommend to deeply study and understand the fundamentals of typography that allow you to pick the right typeface for each individual project at hand.

    6 points
    • João Ferreira, over 7 years ago

      As i mentioned on the first comment, my approach is based on this talk (http://vimeo.com/34178417) of Jason Santa Maria, where we talks about 'workhorse typefaces', meaning typefaces that can be used in very different contexts. Also, he talks about Massimo Vignelli and his typeface palette, and he recommends that designers should build their own personal palette and keep using them. In his own words: "You don't have to change typefaces every project, get to know a typeface"

      And i'm sure we can both agree that Jason is perfectly aware of the fundamentals of typography :)

      0 points
      • Benedikt LehnertBenedikt Lehnert, over 7 years ago

        And still I disagree. Even if this approach makes sense for some (maybe even a lot of) projects, it should not be a general design approach. Ideas like that are part of the problem that a lot of brands and products look the same.

        Each typeface has its own character. Your job as a designer is to identify the character and pick the right fit for the voice of the brand or product you are designing for.

        So, I’d rather turn Jason’s approach around and try to find a unique typeface for each project and just in case I can’t find one, there’s a pool of typefaces you can fall back to in case of emergency.

        1 point
        • João Ferreira, over 7 years ago

          I understand your point perfectly and i am considerate about the typeface i'm adopting for each new project, but what i was looking for with my initial question is pretty simple: Which are the typefaces you fall back to?

          Also, it's probably important to distinguish that i'm talking about typefaces to use in the page content and not on logotype.

          By the way, congrats for http://www.typogui.de/, really great work there.

          0 points
          • Benedikt LehnertBenedikt Lehnert, over 7 years ago

            Thank you. I’m glad you like it.

            I don’t disagree that there are typefaces that work in various contexts and can thereby be used as “fall-back” solutions.

            However, the dangerous part is (and you see that every day in work people put out there) that things all look the same. And more than that, a lot of designers use approaches like the one you refer to as a lazy excuse to cut corners.

            We shall not forget, that the quote comes from Jason, who mastered his craft. So in order to follow his example, it’s important to understand the huge impact a typeface has on the perception of a product, no matter if you use it in the logo or the body text.

            That’s what I would like to point out. So, thank you for posting this question, because it’s obviously a really interesting discussion. We should have more of these to raise awareness.

            1 point
  • Luke ModerwellLuke Moderwell, over 7 years ago

    It seems at the end of his talk Jason makes the remark each typeface should be project specific (31:58 in the video). He says that friends often ask him "can you recommend a good typeface?" and he replies that this is a question without context. Seems to me that this would then make him in favor of not having a stable of fonts he uses frequently but rather choosing fonts on a per project basis. Just my observation.

    3 points
    • João Ferreira, over 7 years ago

      Hey Luke,

      I believe that's because asking for a "good typeface" without context is non-sense. He explains it afterwards. He says it explicitly, "you don't need to change fonts every single project".

      Actually, he says "i look for workhorse typefaces" :)

      0 points
  • George HadfieldGeorge Hadfield, over 7 years ago

    How can you have a go-to- font? This is how good typefaces get ruined on the web as people just use 'proxima nova' or 'open sans' with no thought behind as to why they are using them. Sure there are nice fonts and bad fonts but with Typekit etc, our choice extends way beyond a 'tool belt'.

    2 points
    • João Ferreira, over 7 years ago

      You don't. But you may have a few versatile typefaces of your choosing, that will be fit for most of your projects.

      I recommend watching Jason's talk about typography. He's the Creative Director of Typekit ;) http://vimeo.com/34178417

      0 points
    • Jesse PociskJesse Pocisk, 7 years ago

      Maybe good typefaces just get overused because they're good typefaces. Appropriate and contextual to a large margin of projects. Is it absolutely necessary to use an alternate, yet extremely similar typeface just to be different?

      2 points
      • George HadfieldGeorge Hadfield, 7 years ago (edited 7 years ago )

        Good point. I agree.

        IHave I used Proxima Nova, Open Sans, Avant-Garde recently.. of course because they are good typefaces that have been appropriate to recent projects and they are on trend. But on each project I want to achieve something new with the look and feel.

        I just feel that too many designers (look at Dribbble for a perfect example) are using the same typefaces in their projects and a lot of design is looking the same. It just seems a bit lazy. But just my opinion :)

        Also.. Joao, liking the Group Buddies site.. PT Sans used well

        0 points
      • Benedikt LehnertBenedikt Lehnert, 7 years ago

        “Just to be different” should never be an argument. Just to be right is probably the better approach.

        2 points
  • Lucas AlmeidaLucas Almeida, over 7 years ago

    I think mine is Proxima Nova, Source Sans Pro and Brandon Grotesque. :)

    2 points
  • Suleiman Leadbitter, 7 years ago

    When aye were a lad, in my day pixel fonts were all the rage.

    0 points
  • Sindri AvaruusSindri Avaruus, 7 years ago

    Courier Prime.

    0 points
  • Bryan LewisBryan Lewis, over 7 years ago

    I had an obsession with Proxima Nova for a while but recently I've found myself using Source Sans Pro a lot on client work. Mostly just for headlines with some letter-spacing and font weight variations. It's just really clean and I have the @fontface stack set up from past projects so it makes plug and play really easy. Aside from that my typography skills need some polishing. I really admire designers with a great eye for typography and what it can add to any composition.

    0 points
  • Mathieu MayerMathieu Mayer, over 7 years ago

    Proxima Nova, Avant Garde, Meta Serif, Mercury, Gotham+Gotham Rounded, Freight Sans, Garamond Pro Display, Avenir. I like. Although I tend to go a little bit off the tracks lately.

    0 points
  • Jim SilvermanJim Silverman, over 7 years ago

    big fan of Tisa Sans and Serif.

    0 points
  • Vincent Le MoignVincent Le Moign, over 7 years ago

    I like free fonts with a lot of different weight from Google Fonts for my web projects: Open Sans, Lato, etc. But my new favorite is the last eric Spiekermann release for Firefox: Fira Sans. It's like having the Meta typeface, but even more adapted to the web constraints. Work very well at small sizes.

    0 points
  • Joe Blau, 7 years ago

    Nanami, Avenir, Open Sans, Muli, and Menlo right now.

    0 points
  • Harouth Arthur MekhjianHarouth Arthur Mekhjian, over 7 years ago

    The two big ones for me are Open sans and Titillium.

    0 points
  • Maciej ZadykowiczMaciej Zadykowicz, 7 years ago (edited 7 years ago )

    I'm not sure I have such a thing, but my go-to sans-serifs are ITC Franklin, Futura and National, with Plantin and Arnhem on the serif side.

    0 points