We live in amazing times if you’re a typeface addict like I am. My current collection reaches into the five figures, and yet I still venture out on the web to look a new “fix” a couple of times a month.
There are many sites that feature new typefaces for purchase and for free, and this is one of them. But how do you know if you’ve found a well-designed typeface? And what can you do if your font falls short?
Use these guidelines as you peruse typeface samples so you can choose to fall in love with a typeface that will love you back.
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The first place to check quality in your newest typeface is in the letter forms. Are they even and regular? Look at the spaces inside the rounded letters. Are they drawn consistently from one letter to another?
Check the angles on serifs and swashes, too. They should be drawn to work together and blend. Straight lines should be consistent from letter to letter. The overall effect should be one of unified, regular elements with no particular letter sticking out from the rest.
A well-designed typeface isn’t all about the letter forms. The spaces between letters are just as important.
Fitting letter pairs together by adjusting the spacing so they look right is called kerning. Typeface designers who take the time to carefully kern their letter pairs improve the perceived quality of their work.
A typeface that isn’t carefully kerned may have certain letters that pull away and stand separate from the rest of the letters. Your readers have to slow down to capture words because rather than seeing the word shape all at once, they have to interpret what they’re seeing.
Look for odd, open spaces between capital and lower-case letters and avoid these typefaces. A well-kerned typeface has letters that are nested together so they fit like puzzle pieces.
If you’ve fallen in love with a badly-kerned typeface you can make manual adjustments to the spacing using most design programs. You wouldn’t want to go to the trouble for body text, but if you have an important headline you just have to see in that quirky font, you can adjust spacing so that it’s visually consistent.
It’s painstaking, but these are the things we do for love, right?
There’s nothing more frustrating than to type something out with a fantastic new typeface you’ve found, only to discover it doesn’t come with basic punctuation marks. I’m not talking about ñ or ü. I mean typefaces that don’t have necessities like question and quotation marks.
I’ve never had it happen with a typeface I’ve paid for, but I’ve seen it plenty of times with free fonts. Some type designers seem to think that their work stops once all 26 letters are drawn. You can’t blame them: there’s not much to get excited about when it comes to parentheses and apostrophes.
When this happens to me, sometimes I ditch the typeface altogether. If I’m determined to use it, I will borrow punctuation from another font and use it for the job. It’s not practical for long text passages, but it may be worth the effort for a few words or a headline.
You know you’re dealing with a high-quality typeface if you’ve found one that offers:
Is it too late? Are you already head over heels with a typeface from the wrong side of the tracks? Take the tips above and do some fine tuning so that you can polish up that font that’s rough around the edges and present its best face to the world.
While compiling this list, it’s always a possibility that we missed some other great tips. Feel free to share it with us.