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Create a Starter Type Library with Google Fonts


You don’t need a new font for every design.

But you probably feel like you do. We designers are obsessed with finding new fonts.

The buzz surrounding typography trends and the constant reposting of font pairing guidelines can subtly persuade you to think you need new fonts on the regular. But you don’t. Here’s why.

Typography has two determining factors: which font you use and how well you use it. The typeface design itself is only part of the equation. The other part is you.

You can have the perfect typographic representation of your brand’s emotions and values and still fail to create a nice design if you don’t use the typeface well.

Fonts can’t do all the work of typography for you. This might seem obvious, but it’s so easy to get lost in that mad quest for new fonts and forget what really matters—the design you create with them.

We also too easily forget that a high quality typeface can be used for many different aesthetics. Many designers—notably Massimo Vignelli—only used a handful of typefaces.

[It] is not the type but what you do with it that counts.

Clearly it’s possible to create awesome design without getting a new font for every project if you have enough skill with typography.

So, I have a crazy suggestion for you: take back all those hours that you would spend searching for new fonts and practice using the fonts you already have instead. Build yourself a small library of fonts you use repeatedly and focus on building up your typography skill.

Every designer needs a library of high quality, go-to fonts. Your library should include fonts you are comfortable using and that you return to frequently. While reusing the same fonts across different projects and brands might seem like deviant behavior in today’s design industry, it’s a valid approach and it can free you from the endless search so you can focus on gaining skill in using typography. A type library can free up your energy so you can focus on the other half of the typographic equation: your own skill and decisions.

And—okay—sometimes you do need a new font. Finding a new typeface can be the perfect way to find new inspiration or kick off a new project. Typography inspiration sites and recommendations are great for this. But having a small library of solid fonts gives you a reference to compare everything against. Your library serves as your typographic reference point; you might use your collection each time you begin a project to explore rough typographic directions, or as a standard to compare every new typeface against.

Many designers end up with a hodgepodge of fonts, most of which were only ever used for a single logo or project. And the search for new niche fonts only expands on that hodgepodge.

Here’s how to create a starter type library of solid, timeless font families you can use for your typographic reference point.

Build a starter library of high quality typefaces using the best Google Fonts

Right now is an incredible time to be a designer with so many high quality type families available for free on Google fonts—and these are not the cheap, freeware, lackluster free fonts of yesteryear.

The library includes both extremely high quality commissions from veteran type designers and many hidden gems from lesser-known type designers.

There are also, of course, some less useful options. It’s a big library, and sorting through all of it is a lot of work.

So I did the work for you. I pored over the entire Google fonts library to find the most resilient, timeless typefaces you can add to your collection.

In this guide, you’ll find flexible, high quality fonts you can use to create a starter typographic library—entirely for free.

What are the best google fonts?

The issue of which fonts are “best” is obviously very subjective. It depends on the project, the designer, and the purpose.

Further, which fonts are “best” has nothing to do with which fonts are the most popular. Many quality options on Google Fonts don’t rank amongst the most popular, and many of the most popular fonts are incredibly limited in usefulness.

So, rather than just assemble a list of the most popular fonts like every other typography post, I created simple criteria:

1) The font family must have 3 styles minimum: normal, bold, and italic.

Google fonts includes numerous single-style fonts. Further, many of the single-style fonts in Google fonts are just advertisements from type foundries. They give away a single weight hoping you’ll buy more styles. (This is great for designing logos, but not especially useful for larger projects.)

For that reason, the font families in this list must not be a single weight and they must include at least a normal, bold, and italic style so that they can be used in a variety of ways.

2) Prefer fonts made by proven type foundries and typeface designers.

Designing typefaces and producing fonts is tricky work. High quality typeface designs can end up delivered in low quality font files that suffer issues such as unequal or unreliable kerning, antialiasing, or even have missing characters.

The selections in this list include work by type designers who have several releases to verify they know how to create both reliable fonts files and typeface designs.

3) No display typefaces.

As I mentioned, Google Fonts includes numerous single-style font families. In the case of display typefaces this is totally fine, but display faces don’t match the purpose of a reliable starter library. Display typefaces should be supplemental, not the foundation of your type library. So they are not included here.

This list includes only fonts that can be used in a large variety of ways, both as headlines and text.

Best Google Font Pairings & Selections for Your Type Library

Instructions to Download the Entire Library: Click here to download directly from Google Fonts. Or, customize which fonts you download.

Super Families

Super families include both serif and sans serif versions (and sometimes more). Having a few of these on hand can provide you with numerous high quality directions for a new design. They are incredibly reliable and versatile.

PT Serif + PT Sans

Type specimen for the PT Serif font family
Type specimen for the PT Sans font family

Alegreya + Alegreya Sans

Type specimen for the Alegreya font family
Type specimen for the Alegreya Sans font family

Merriweather + Merriweather Sans

Type specimen for the Merriweather font family
Type specimen for the Merriweather Sans font family

Roboto Slab + Roboto

Type specimen for the Roboto Slab font family
Type specimen for the Roboto font family

Noto Serif + Noto Sans

Type specimen for the Noto Serif font family
Type specimen for the Noto Sans font family

Serif Fonts

Google Fonts also includes some very sophisticated and flexible serif options. These typefaces work well both for text and headlines, and add a lot of personality and sophistication.

Lora

Type specimen for the Lora font family

Crimson Text

Type specimen for the Crimson Text font family

Spectral

Type specimen for the Spectral font family

Vollkorn

Type specimen for the Vollkorn font family

Neuton

Type specimen for the Neuton font family

Sans Serif Fonts

The offering of Sans Serifs on Google Fonts is incredible—there are numerous quality options. Here are a few flexible, high quality choices.

Source Sans Pro

Type specimen for the Source Sans Pro font family

Open Sans

Type specimen for the Open Sans font family

Rubik

Type specimen for the Rubik font family

Lato

Type specimen for the Lato font family

Libre Franklin

Type specimen for the Libre Franklin font family

Build a More Robust Type Library

For more typeface recommendations on Google Fonts and Typekit, check out TheorySprints, my course on design theory. There’s an entire section teaching how to use fonts well plus more in-depth recommendations for slab serifs, display typefaces, and more.


Written by Jarrod Drysdale.


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