Tony Seddon’s new book Type Teams provides the information and inspiration you need to make the best choices when bringing typefaces together. This informative guide includes 149 type combinations with highly detailed, visual examples to help inspire your next design project.
Read an excerpt and see several examples from Type Teams below, or get your copy here.
From the Introduction to Type Teams
Choosing a typeface is a bit like deciding what music to listen to. You run through your collection of CDs or MP3 downloads, something catches your eye, and you press “play”. You might have chosen the album or track because you’re in a contemplative mood, or you’re driving a fast car, or you’re sitting down to eat dinner with your friends.
Typefaces are chosen for specific reasons too: because they’re legible, because they’re indicative of a particular period in time, or because they match the mood of the text. Continuing with the music analogy, most people like at least two or three musical styles; maybe some Bluegrass or Art Punk with a few show tunes thrown in for good measure. If you set up a playlist on your phone, you’ll think about the running order, which probably means not adding a heavy-metal track in the middle of the The Magic Flute. Once again, a similar idea applies when choosing typefaces; if you’re picking two or three to use in combination, it’s important to think about how they relate to one another, and to the subject matter of the text. Even if you’re a fan of both Motörhead and Mozart, the examples above are no more harmonious than if Fette Fraktur (page 153) were paired with SangBleu (page 216).
So to the big question: what are the best typeface combinations? Unfortunately, there’s no straight answer. There are plenty of established principles and tricks that can help you make a decision and many of them are explained in this book, but putting together typefaces in perfect combination is ultimately as subjective as it is scientific, as personal as it is informed, and as debated as it is agreed upon. There are 149 suggested Type Team combinations in this book, and ultimately they’re exactly that—suggestions. Some of them may be perfect for your next project but you may look at others and think, “Why did he put that with that? I would never combine those typefaces,” and that would be fair enough. I also realize that you’ll not have all of these fonts in your own collections—neither would I if it weren’t for the generosity of the type foundries and individual designers who provided their typefaces for use in this book—but there’s a good chance that you’ll have something similar that you can sub in for one of my suggestions, perhaps Clarendon instead of Eames Century Modern, or New Century Schoolbook instead of Farnham.
7 Examples of Typefaces that Work Together
Mojo by Jim Parkinson takes its influence from the lettering style used by artists such as Wes Wilson and Victor Moscoso in the 1960s, and from early twentieth-century Viennese Secessionist artists like Alfred Roller. With legibility taking second place over style, a solid partner is needed for any accompanying text, and Akzidenz Grotesk fits the bill given its late nineteenth-century origins. Syntax’s tactile Humanist sans qualities also offer a good fit.
The 1960s Remembered
Juniper has a distinct 1960s air about it but is in fact an Adobe Originals typeface designed by Joy Redick in 1990. As a revival of turn-of-the-century wood type it’s in tune with Victorian styles which enjoyed a surge in popularity during the 1960s. Try pairing Juniper with a face like Neo-Humanist Sans FF Balance or the quirky Neo-Grotesque Antique Olive, which also feature the less common horizontal axis and reversed stress characteristics.
Hoefler and Co.’s Idlewild is a bit of a chameleon. It can look sophisticated and straightforward at the same time and blend in or jump out as required. Much of its character on the page is governed by the weight selection, for which there are five choices, and it works beautifully with HTF Didot when sophistication is part of the brief. Monotype’s Humanist serif Bembo Book works well as an accompanying text face.
Warm Sans Meets Hot Script
Brandon Grotesque from HVD Fonts has a warmth to it despite its Geometric sans letterforms, which might otherwise be more clinical. Close inspection reveals that the corners of the evenly weighted strokes are slightly blunted, giving the face a softer look when set at larger point sizes. Its understated sophistication can provide a calming influence when flamboyant scripts like Erotica enter the equation.
Sophisticated Poster Design
Client: Sankeys | Studio/Designer: Yolo/Martin Fewell | Web: www.yolo.info | Principal typefaces: ITC Caslon 224, Carousel
Yolo has designed posters for Sankeys nightclub since 2006. This poster, worked cleverly around the theme of the number 9, creates a sense of sophistication around a potentially riotous club event.
Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Although Dynatype from Alphabet Soup certainly has a mid-twentieth-century hand-lettering vibe about it, for me it has something of the Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers vintage sci-fi going on too. It could be the association of sci-fi with comic books but it’s not difficult to imagine the face emblazoned across Flash’s tunic as he hunts down Ming the Merciless. Try pairing it with 1930s inspired sans Brandon Text or the hi-tech FS Sinclair for some stylistic contrast.
May the Face be With You
Hoefler & Co.’s monolithic display face Acropolis may be an historical revival based on nineteenth-century lettering styles but it could also look right at home set large across the side of a rocket ship blasting off for distant galaxies—it could almost be cut from plate steel. As a partner, the gently curving but otherwise sturdy Neo-Humanist sans Museo feels quite futuristic without obviously trying, and Avenir’s relationship to Futura makes it an irresistible choice.
A Game of Fonts
With swords and sorcery preeminent in everyone’s favorite fantasy storylines, Humanist sans Beorcana from Terrestrial Design provides a wonderfully calligraphic option for both display and text setting. It’s practically a script and looks as though it were handwritten with a broad-nibbed dip pen so it’s perfect for magical lost-parchment typography. Sign off your story with Lassigue D’mato, a face that has a genuinely good stab at replicating scratchy handwriting.
Tony Seddon’s book Type Teams includes dozens and dozens of type combinations in addition to the ones you’ve seen here. Learn more and order the book here.