Typography | Basics

Combining typefaces

Almost all publications will contain headlines and body copy, or at least subordinate textual information. Commonly you’ll need or want to use different typefaces for the various levels of information in the publication. This presents a new problem—how do you effectively combine typefaces within a publication?

There are several possible outcomes when you combine typefaces in a publication—they may complement one another, contrast with one another, or conflict with one another. The first two outcomes are usually good, the last one is usually bad.

Here are a few guidelines to help you choose:

Avoid using an excessive number of typefaces in a single publication. Some experts recommend using no more than two typefaces on a single page, while others set the number slightly higher. Judicious use of typeface variety helps the reader sort information and navigate through a document. Too many competing faces create chaos.

Avoid using two or more similar fonts on a page. Selecting fonts that are not different enough can cause conflict. For example, it’s usually a poor idea to use two script typefaces on a single page, or a script face and an italic, or two different slab serifs, or two different old faces, etc.

Remember that fonts are part of the overall design of a publication and should be chosen to match (or contrast with) the design style of the publication. Readability is important, but so is design!