People often ask me how to pair typefaces so that they look great together. It’s part art and part science, but it boils down to three basic ideas:

  1. Contrasting styles
  2. Similar shapes
  3. Similar era or the same designer

Use Contrasting Styles

It’s easy to create unity and variety in your design by using one font with variations in weight or style. For example, use the regular weight for the body text and the bold or italic in all caps for headings and subheads.

And of course, pairing serif and sans-serif is an easy way to do it. But what if they clash with each other? Try the next tip.

Use Similar Shapes

Notice how Didot and Gotham are both based on a similar structure where the height and the width are very close to each other.

Then look at how Univers and Garamond are slightly more “vertical” than Gotham or Didot.

This overall shape and structure keeps harmony between the two fonts despite the obvious differences, one being serifed and the other having no serifs.

Use Fonts from the Same Era or the Same Designer

If you look at mid-20th Century typefaces, you will see they have more in common with each other than mid-19th Century typefaces. So it makes sense to put fonts from a similar era together.

Also, type designers have a tendency to do things the same way in different fonts. Adrian Frutiger’s fonts have a similar flavor to each other and pair nicely sometimes. (Though I would never put his Univers, Frutiger, or Myriad on the same page. They are *too* similar.) As you get to know type houses you’ll find similarities in their offerings that become emblematic of that particular font house.

Now Watch Me

I recorded a little Blab video about this, and showed off a magalog we got in the mail from Lowe’s the other day:

For further reading, this article from Hoefler & Co. covers some great advanced techniques for pairing type.

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