Universal Principles to Combine Typefaces

Design is all about type. One of biggest challenges is to combine different typefaces. If you are looking for universal principles how to combine typefaces without to make mistake then I can recommend you book Non-Designer's Design Book, The (3rd Edition) from the author Robin Williams.

Design and Typographic Principles
Design and Typographic Principles


When designing with type there are three relationship that can be established:
  • Concordant - when using only one type family without much variety in style, size, weight… Concordant designs tend to be rather calm and formal.
  • Conflicting - when combining typefaces that are similar but not the same. The problem is because similarities conflict.
  • Contrasting - relationship occurs when you combine separate typefaces and elements that are clearly distinct from each other. Contrast attracts our eyes. There are many ways type can be contrasted: Size, Weight, Form, Direction, Color.
Combining typefaces
First you must familiarize yourself with categories of type then you can start combining them. Robin's Rule: never put two typefaces from the same category on the same page. You can use two serifs as long as one is from old style and other from modern or slab serif category of type. Off course you must emphasize the contrast. Note that modern and slab serif fonts are similar in shape with old style fonts so be careful when pairing them.

Another tested combination to combine typefaces is serif old style for body copy for print design and sans serif for headlines. You need to emphasize the difference by combining it with other contrasts, such as size or weight. Old style fonts are basic black of fonts and they go with everything. Sans serif fonts are neutral and play nicely with other fonts. Sans serif fonts are also best choice for web and on screen viewing.

Do not pair decorative (
and script) fonts because they compete with each other.

Another very good book which covers how to use and combine typefaces is White Space is Not Your Enemy.

PS: if you are looking for free fonts read this post - Absolutely Free Fonts for Personal and Commercial Use. Other free design elements you can find on freebies page.


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