Design theory10 Most used typefaces and how to recognize them

10 Most used typefaces and how to recognize them

Let’s face it: as designers, we expect from ourselves that we can recognize typefaces. We should at least be able to keep Arial apart from Helvetica. But ultimately, we recognize a few others when we see them as well, right? 😉

This post started as an educative endeavor for myself but might be helpful for all designers. The result: an overview of the most used typefaces and how we can recognize them.

Enjoy! If you have any additions, let me know!

(I’ve added a fun little test at the end to test your knowledge 🙂 )

Helvetica

There are a bunch of typefaces like Helvetica. Univers. Akzidenz Grotesk. Arial. The Helvetica Neue and Now variants. And I’m probably missing a lot. We won’t go into most, except for the difference between Arial and Helvetica. Because Arial is ugly. Helvetica isn’t. So take note.

 

One thing to keep them apart is the recognizable horizontal cuts in Helvetica. Arial contains a lot of angled elements.

Arial

Let’s not speak of this hideous abomination. 😉

Gotham

“The Gotham typeface was initially commissioned by GQ magazine, whose editors wanted to display a sans-serif with a “geometric structure” that would look “masculine, new, and fresh” for their magazine.”

“Since creation, Gotham has been highly visible due to its appearance in many notable places. This has included Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign,”

By now, the font is used quite often. 

It is kind of easy to recognize, but it comes close to Proxima Nova. The square dot on the ‘i’ and the moderate stroke contrast, seen in ‘d’, ‘g’, ‘n’ or ‘a’, is helpful to keep them apart.

Added the i here, which help to recognize it.

Proxima Nova

Personally not really a fan of this typeface, especially because of the large stroke contrast seen in the ‘a’, ‘d’, and ‘g’. 

Montserrat

It’s been used on 15 million websites in the last decade, so perhaps I’ve grown tired of it. I’m not sure what it is, but for some reason, I’m not a big fan of it. 

It has quite a tall x-height, which is one of the things to keep it apart from Avenir, a typeface that is very similar. Most people won’t be able to keep them apart (I did research, I asked my wife).

(The capital R and P help you to distinguish this one. The vertical balance sits quite low, making it look somewhat retro-like).

Images below help you to keep them apart. I’ve added the ‘tfy’ here, which are characters that are recognizable compared to Avenir.

The characters 'tfy' help to distinguish it from Avenir

Avenir

An impressive font in my opinion, and quite popular as well. Montserrat is either too thick when used in Regular or too thin when used in Light. The Avenir’s stroke-width is much more pleasant.

The characters 'tfy' help to distinguish it from Avenir

Gilroy

Extremely popular on Dribbble, a very friendly geometric modernist typeface. Recognizable by its round look, single story ‘a’ and low stroke-contrast, and angled lines in the lowercase ‘e.’

I’ve used this typeface myself in this branding project.

Futura

Recognizable by its somewhat narrow characters and small x-height. But most of all: the pointy elements in the ‘v’ and ‘w’.

Didot

Recognizable by its straight serifs. Nowadays, you might not consider this worth noting, but in its own time, it was a very bold design choice. Very often used for expensive brands.

Bodoni

Used for expensive brands as well is Bodoni. The easiest way to keep this one apart from Didot is the humanistic qualities: these refer to the organic way the stems move into the serif (referring to some characteristics occurring when writing by hand).

Test your typeface skills with a little test

I’ve created a test in Figma that help you put your knowledge to the test. Right now it contains these 10 typefaces, but perhaps I’ll add more in the future. Perhaps we can recognize all fonts we see around us, some day? 

 

Link to the awesome free test.

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