Daily Archives: June 27, 2012

Advice #46: How Do I Build My Font Library?

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How do you build up your font library? Buying fonts one by one seems to be a very expensive endeavor. And what is the anatomy of a bad font? My teacher said that all free fonts should not be used. Granted a lot of them are gimmicky, but dismissing all of them just like that seems shortsighted.

advice typography

RBNo2 by Font Fabric

It’s good to start building up your font library as early in your career as possible. My advice is to invest in what you can, when you can. Bookmark your favorite fonts and when you start making money off your services, view purchasing fonts as an investment in your business. If you’re a freelancer, they’re considered an expense and therefore, a write-off. Save those receipts! I swear by Veer, House Industries, YouWorkForThem and Hoefler & Frere-Jones for high quality font options.

I was lucky to get off to a great start with my personal font library. During my first semester of college, my instructor provided us with a handful of the tried-and-true classics including Bodoni, Garamond, Caslon and Avant Garde. Having access to this limited but high quality collection of fonts got me going down a solid path and I used these over and over again in early design projects. From there, I gathered more during my first internship at an ad agency and as I began profiting from client work, I kept building my collection.

Instead of asking what the anatomy of a bad font is (design and typography can be so subjective, just like fine art — one person’s trash is another person’s treasure!), focus on what the anatomy of a good font is. When I applied for a design program back in 2006, the first book I went out and bought was The Elements of Typographic Style. This book is often referred to as the “Typographer’s Bible” and for good reason. Penned by Robert Bringhurst (who also happens to be a poet), his attention to detail when it comes to typography is unparalleled. This book will teach you to appreciate even the smallest details in typography all while absorbing proper etiquette.

advice typography

Valentina by Pedro Arilla

When it comes to free fonts, don’t write your teacher off completely — they are making a point that has some validity! I heard similar advice back when I was in school and with good reason — we’d all go crazy on free font sites, downloading and installing without much thought on our school computers and most of the time, we got lucky. But, there was that occasional misfire that screwed up our machines! Admitting that we’d installed a bad font and having our teacher call up the tech guy yet again was embarrassing. And so not cool.

Over the last few years though, the tide has began to turn and the abundance of high quality free fonts is pretty unbelievable. To prove my point, here’s the 100 greatest free fonts of 2012! Seriously, this is the best roundup I’ve ever seen.