The 8 Fonts Graphic Designers Can’t Live Without

By Jenn Rose Smith

There are a few things you need to know before talking with a graphic designer. Number one: it’s a typeface, not a font. (Or if you really want to be cool, just “face” for short). Number two: while graphic designers are often introverted people who prefer to work behind-the-scenes, get them talking about type and you’ll find that they open up with a passion. It’s a bit like hearing a chef talk about food. There’s nothing like hearing a real expert talk about their medium, and it’s particularly interesting when that medium is something we subconsciously interact with all day every day (like typography). We tracked down eight incredible designers to find out which typefaces they’re loving right now. So scroll on down and get ready to meet your 8 new fave ‘faces.

featured image via artists atelier

Marian by Commercial Type

Marian is a true beauty, with her wispy flourishes and hairline letters. Because it’s so lightweight, it’s only meant to be used at large sizes—perfect for a big headline! 

— Chelsea Fullerton Jones, Designer and Founder of Go Forth Creative

Livory available from Linotype

My selection is Livory. Since I do so much custom lettering, I don’t get much call to use fonts these days, but when I do I have a handful that I love to return to, and Livory is high on the list. It was designed by Hannes von Döhren – who also completely coincidentally designed another of my favorites, Brandon Grotesque. It feels classic in all the right ways, but has a breathability and quiet informality that gives it a slightly utilitarian, outdoorsy feel. I’m sometimes asked to suggest to my clients fonts that work with my logos – which are often of the rugged, vintage-leaning variety – and Livory often comes through for me in that regard.

— Simon Walker, Freelance Designer and custom typographer at Simon Walker Type

Hoefler Tilting from Hoefler & Co. 

My current favorite type face is Hoefler Titling which is a contemporary, very refined version of two classics, Garamond No. 3 and Janson Text.  This beautiful Roman type face designed by Jonathan Hoefler can make anything look sophisticated, elegant and intelligent. It’s become a real workhorse for me.

The above is a design I created for the Texas Book fest that utilizes Hoefler Tilting and a painting by Marc Burckhardt. 

DJ Stout, Partner at Pentagram

Gotham by Hoefler & Co.

Gotham is classic but modern. It comes in a variety of weights and makes a great compliment to more elaborate, calligraphic fonts. I literally use it on everything.

— Joy Cho, Founder and Creative Director of Oh Joy!

(type specimen by zahoor sultan)

Univers available from Linotype

One of my favorite typefaces is Univers. Along with many other classic Swiss faces, like Helvetica, Univers is based on Akzidenz-Grotesk (another favorite).

I chose Univers because of its systematic origins. It was one of the first typefaces to be launched as a family: meaning it was a matching set of fonts in various styles and weights. Additionally, the fonts within the family were labeled with numbers rather than names—creating a system of numeric classification that has since been put to use for other typefaces.

Much of my work has a systematic element to it, so I appreciate the disciplined nature of the typeface. I know that I can place any version next to any other version because of that discipline.

The original marketing of Univers even referenced the breadth of the typeface in a systematic way.

— Maria D’AmatoAssociate Creative Director at GSD&M

DF Custom Font

I developed this display font last year in collaboration with Tal Leming of Type Supply for a special Adventure issue of Condé Nast Traveler. It was inspired by a quirky old street sign I came across in Mexico City and was intended to maintain all of the quirks and charm of the original with alternates for each character. I love it like a child. 

Caleb Bennett, Design Director for Condé Nast Traveler

GT Sectra from Grilli Type

For the last couple of years, I’ve been having a lot of fun with GT Sectra by Grilli Type. All of Grilli’s faces are great, but I find the bold, sharp nature of Sectra gives a strong and contemporary touch to a piece. It’s comes in several different weights too making it super versatile.

Jennifer James Wright, Freelance Designer and former Design Director of Kinfolk

ITC Clearface available from Linotype

Lately, I’ve been really into ITC Clearface. It’s classic and quirky at the same time—feels a bit ’70s (which I love). I discovered it while reading the blog OK Real, and I’m currently using it for headlines on a freelance project. I also love classic typefaces like Caslon, Hoefler and Baskerville. I got the Baskerville ampersand tattooed on my wrist when I was 22, so I guess that one always come to mind too.

— Avalon McKenzie Haltom, Senior Designer at Whole Foods Market