Massimo Vignelli is famous in graphic design circles for using only half a dozen or so typefaces his entire career. While this is a bit extreme (and there’s a good counter-argument/commentary regarding it at I Love Typography’s The Vignelli Twelve: We Use Way Too Many Fonts I think the idea of restraint and minimalism is good practice.
With that in mind, here are 20 typefaces that I tend to come back to time and again. They’re good workhorse fonts that work well in many applications.
- Helvetica Neue
- Trade Gothic
- Akzidenz Grotesque
- Caslon 540
- Mrs. Eaves
- News Gothic
- DIN Mittelshrift
Of course, I don’t limit everything I do to these 20 fonts, and some of them don’t get used that often. I admit they run together somewhat, so I alternated sans and serif. And because there are certain similarities between faces, you could eliminate a few. Is it necessary to have Helvetica, Univers, and Akzidenz Grotesque on the same list? You could say the same of Venetian faces like Garamond, Bembo, and Jenson.
The point is not how many typefaces are in your canon, but that you “sift, sift, sift, sift” until you get what is perfect for what you are doing.
The classics are simply a great starting point, and they’re classics for a reason.