Four Techniques for Combining Fonts

Building a palette is an intuitive process, and expanding a typographic duet to three, four, or even five voices can be daunting. Our approach for mixing font families is to keep one quality consistent, and let the others vary.

A palette with wit

Use typefaces with complementary moods to evoke an upbeat, energetic air.

It’s the interplay between fonts that gives them energy. The more distant the moods in a typographic palette, the friskier the design will be. Here, three fonts with distinctive silhouettes have been chosen for their contrasting dispositions: the unabashed toughness of Tungsten is a foil for both Archer’s sweetness, and the cheekiness of Gotham Rounded.

A palette with energy

Mix typefaces from the same historical period whose families have different features.

Three type families with nineteenth century roots, thrown together in a cheerful typographic riot. Choosing type families with different features helps prevent redundancy: here, the brawny variations of The Proteus Project are reserved for headings, Sentinel’s six weights of romans and italics recommend it to text, and Knockout’s nine different widths helps the sans serif fill in the cracks.

A palette with poise

Mix typefaces with a similar line quality if they offer different textures.

What do a neoclassical modern, a suave sans serif, and a sporty slab have in common? All are meditations on precision, though each has a different texture. HTF Didot achieves its crispness through the thinnest possible serifs, Verlag through its insistently geometric motifs, and our new Vitesse typeface through its pairing of machined edges and racy curves. Together, these three mechanical faces create a dramatic typographical tension.

A palette with dignity

Mix typefaces with similar proportions and give each a different role.

A clever way to combine typefaces with similar proportions is to assign each a different purpose, and to limit each to a specific range of sizes. Here, two hard-working typefaces are assigned supporting roles: the seriffed Mercury serves for text, and the sans serif Gotham furnishes all the annotations. The star of the show is the sophisticated Hoefler Titling, which preserves its spotlight by appearing only occasionally, and always in large sizes.

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