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A typography primer 

for non-designers
Which font 

should I use?
Version 4.0
KAPTEREV.COM
So, you are designing a presentation
or a resume a poster a document… ok, you name it
KAPTEREV.COM
But... you’ve got a little
problem
KAPTEREV.COM
FONT
SHOULD I USE?
Which
KAPTEREV.COM
There could be a simple 

answer to your question
Don’t panic
That’s it, you’re welcome.
Use Georgia 

or Verdana.
KAPTEREV.COM
Are you sure?
There are, like, 50 slides ahead.
KAPTEREV.COM
Ok, you want to find 

a good typeface, but…
What exactly 

is “a good typeface”?
KAPTEREV.COM
A good typeface 

1) is readable and 2) has character
Maybe too fancyJust rightMaybe too boring
AgAg Ag
KAPTEREV.COM
readable?
It’s a complex subject and for the sake of simplicity 

we suggest adopting one simple rule…
How do we know 

if the typeface is
KAPTEREV.COM
Ag
AgAg
Ag
Avoid typefaces that are 

obviously hard to read
Comic Sans
Blackmoor LET
Brush Script
Monotype Corsiva
KAPTEREV.COM
character?
Ok, but what about
KAPTEREV.COM
Typefaces carry an emotional charge. What emotion are
you trying to convey? Choose a typeface accordingly.
Contemporary
Traditional
or CoolWarm
KAPTEREV.COM
Let’s begin with
tradition
KAPTEREV.COM
R R R RR
Traditional  Contemporary
Novelty
Robust
Simple
Affordable
Classical
Sophisticated
Complex
Luxury
RDidot Playfair Minion Fedra Sans PT Sans Avenir
KAPTEREV.COM
Rates
Why some typefaces have a more traditional look? 

The obvious answers would be “serifs”.
Rates
A serif is a small line attached to the end of a stroke in a letter or symbol. A typeface with
serifs is called a serif typeface (or serifed typeface). A typeface without serifs is called sans
serif or sans-serif, from the French sans, meaning "without."N
Didot Avenir
Traditional Contemporary
KAPTEREV.COM
Bodoni Sans
Wow. What has just happened? The serifs are gone!
Serifs are important — but even if we take them
away, the font on the left still looks more traditional.
RatesAvenir
Traditional Contemporary
KAPTEREV.COM
R
The left R has more difference between thick 

and thin strokes. The technical term is contrast.
More contrast 

More sophistication
Less contrast 

Less sophistication
Bodoni Sans Avenir
KAPTEREV.COM
R
Suppose we add even more contrast… See?
Very sophisticated (also not very readable).
Low contrastHigh contrastExorbitant contrast
Bodoni Sans AvenirBroadway
KAPTEREV.COM
To conclude: tradition and sophistication 

are mostly communicated via serifs and contrast.
Serifs
More contrast
More sophisticated
More historical
No serifs
Less contrast
Less sophisticated
More contemporary
R R R RR RDidot Playfair Minion Fedra Sans PT Sans Century Gothic
KAPTEREV.COM
warmth
The second dimension is
KAPTEREV.COM
Geometric
Distant
Factory-made
Rational
Precise
Calligraphic
Approachable
Hand-mande
Emotional
Imperfect
Warm Cool
More calligraphic typefaces have more warmth.
More geometric typefaces are cooler. They are
also harder to read.
RatesPalatino Linotype Century Gothic
Rates
KAPTEREV.COM
This was done 

by a calligrapher.
Beautiful and 

slightly imperfect.
R R
An engineer
with a ruler.
Calculated.
A fashion designer
with a French curve.
Very precise, lots 

of thought.
RPalatino Linotype Century Gothic Didot
Warm CoolCool
KAPTEREV.COM
RWarm
Once again, it’s not just about serifs! Typefaces that
have more contrast are also warmer.
R Warm
Optima
Cool
Didot
RPalatino Linotype
KAPTEREV.COM
Calligraphic 

Warm
Geometric 

Cool
R R R RR RJannon Swash Palatino APC Garamond Minion PT Serif Didot
RCentury Gothic
RGill Sans
RPT Sans
RCandara
RFedra Sans
ROptima
KAPTEREV.COM
We hope it makes some sense now. Let’s begin with
discussing the four most prominent font groups.
Contemporary
Traditional
or CoolWarm
KAPTEREV.COM
Modern
Geometric
Old Style
Humanist
Readability: Satisfactory Readability: Poor
Character: Warm, traditional Character: Cool, traditional
Readability: Excellent Readability: Poor
Character: Warm, contemporary Character: Cool, contemporary
Star typeface: Garamond Star typeface: Didot
Star typeface: Gill Sans Star typeface: Futura
Contemporary
CoolWarm
Traditional
or
KAPTEREV.COM
Before choosing a typeface decide
Frankly, this is the hardest part. If you can’t decide 

on this, just use Georgia or Verdana (or both).
what emotion 

to convey
KAPTEREV.COM
You’re about to see 40 typefaces
This typeface comes free with Windows 10 This one comes with Mac OS 10.11
Leads to a Wikipedia article. It’s good to know the
story of your typeface and it’s a good sign when a
typeface is on Wikipedia.
Click and download this typeface 

for free at FontSquirrel.com or search 

the site for similarly tagged fonts.
For one reason or another we 

do not recommend this typeface
Here are some neat icons to help you with selection
KAPTEREV.COMPhoto by David Iliff
Old-Style Serif
Classical Roman antiquity, Renaissance 

or Baroque, early printed books
KAPTEREV.COM
High contrast with serifs, calligraphic, very warm and quite complex
Old-Style Serif
Great 20th century design by Hermann Zapf
Based on 15th-century Venetian type by Nicolas Jenson
Designed in the US in 1915, excellent legibility
Hoefler Text
Was used in Wikipedia logo and this should count for something
A very nice design inspired by Garamond. 45 Styles! Free!
Garamond
Based on 16th century design, the most famous old style type
KAPTEREV.COMPhoto by Marc Vassal
Modern Serif
19th century Paris, high fashion, Vogue magazine
KAPTEREV.COM
Modern Serif
Bodoni
Didot
More fonts tagged “modern”…
Late 18th century Italian design, one of the best of its kind
French design, even more refined and geometric than Bodoni
20th century American variation
Sometimes classified as transitional, it is both readable and fancy
Contemporary narrow typeface with historic look
Even higher contrast, very cool, fashionable and calculated. Problematic
readability as the letters are overly complex. Recommended for headings
KAPTEREV.COM
First half of the 20th century, modernism, Bauhaus, Russian constructivism
Photo by Matt Olson
Geometric Sans
KAPTEREV.COM
Geometric Sans
Futura
Avenir Next
More fonts tagged “geometric”…
Century Gothic
It’s on both PC and Mac and that’s the only reason we recommend it
An American take on Futura
The original German Futura, one and only
Aesthetically pleasing and highly readable
A semi-serifed contemporary geometric typeface
Based around simple geometric forms like square, circle or triangle. 

Minimalist, straight-forward, modernist. As a rule, have readability problems
KAPTEREV.COM
Humanist Sans
Print by William Morris
Late 19th and 20th century arts and cra s movement, present-day Europe
KAPTEREV.COM
Humanist Sans
Gill Sans
Verdana
PT Sans
Segoe UI More fonts tagged “humanist”…
Eric Gill’s greatest design, it’s on every pub menu in London
Highly readable and aesthetically decent (used by IKEA!)
Comes with Office, the best of C-fonts
Microsoft uses Segoe family for branding and interfaces
Versatile and stylish
Designed by Erik Spiekermann, a legend in the world of typography
Not a bad font, but it suffers from gross overuse
Calibri
Based on hand-written text proportions. Very warm, friendly and very readable
Corbel
KAPTEREV.COM
Traditional, warm
Contemporary, warm
Modern
Geometric
Old Style
Humanist
We’ve covered groups that have the most character. 

Let’s cover some neutral ones as well.
Contemporary, cool
Traditional, cool
?Less character, 

more neutral
KAPTEREV.COM
Rates
Old Style Serif Modern Serif
Rates
Transitional Serif
Rates
Factory-made
Distant
Rational
Precise
Hand-mande
Friendly
Emotional
Imperfect
Warm CoolNeutral
Mass-produced
Convenient
Practical
Cost-effective
KAPTEREV.COM
18-19th century industrial revolution, newspapers, mass-produced books
Transitional Serif
KAPTEREV.COM
Very readable, practical and non-obtrusive but o en lack distinct individuality
Georgia
Minion
More fonts tagged “transitional”…
Transitional Serif
PT Serif
Century Schoolbook
The best transitional serif available on both platforms
This maybe the first typeface you ever saw in your life
Another timeless design by Eric Gill
Often classified as old-style, it the most popular book font
A well-executed commission by the Russian Government
Times New Roman
Oh, please. Enough is enough. Replace with Georgia or Tinos.
An innovative serif metrically compatible with Times
KAPTEREV.COM
It should be Transitional Sans, right? 

But no, typography is not that obvious.
Traditional, warm
Contemporary, warm
? GeometricHumanist
Contemporary, cool
Traditional, coolTraditional, neutral
ModernOld Style Transitional
KAPTEREV.COM
Late 19th–early 20th century. But also… e 1960’s. Swiss design. Helvetica.
Grotesque & neo-grotesque
KAPTEREV.COM
Quite readable and neutral, the quintessential 20th century typeface group
Franklin Gothic
News Gothic
Helvetica Neue More fonts tagged “Grotesque”…
Grotesque & neo-grotesque
Celebrated American typeface named after Ben Franklin Designed for the Rubik’s Cube Exhibition, released for free
Remember the Star Wars crawl? That was in News Gothic
“When in doubt use Helvetica” was the common rule once
A replacement for Arial
Excellent free typeface from Poland
Arial
A Helvetica rip-off which is just everywhere
KAPTEREV.COM
Modern
Geometric
Old Style
Humanist
Readability: Satisfactory Readability: Poor
Character: Warm, traditional Character: Cool, traditional
Readability: Excellent Readability: Poor
Character: Warm, contemporary Character: Cool, contemporary
Star typeface: Garamond Star typeface: Didot
Star typeface: Gill Sans Star typeface: Futura
Transitional
Readability: Good
Character: Neutral, traditional
Star typeface: Baskerville
Grotesque
Readability: Good
Character: Neutral, contemporary
Star typeface: Helvetica
KAPTEREV.COM
We’re almost done!
But there is 

one more thing...
KAPTEREV.COM
Traditional, warm
Contemporary, warm
?
Modern
Geometric
Old Style
Humanist
Contemporary, cool
Traditional, cool
Transitional
Traditional, neutral
Grotesque
Contemporary, neutral
? ?
KAPTEREV.COM
Slab Serif
Photo by Luca Venturi
Reminiscent of the Wild West signs and posters, it is great for shouting at people.
KAPTEREV.COM
Slab Serif
Low contrast with serifs, which look like slabs — hence the name. Comes in
flavours: geometric, humanist or transitional.
Rockwell Charter
More fonts tagged “Slab”…
Geometric design from 1930’s It’s very readable and totally
looks like a transitional typeface
Contemporary humanist Slab Serif, which
kind of escapes the classification
KAPTEREV.COM
Behold…
The final map
KAPTEREV.COM
Warm
Ag Ag
Ag Ag
Ag Ag Ag
Ag
Old-style serif Transitional Serif Modern Serif
Humanist, Slab Transitional, Slab Geometric, Slab
Geometric Sans[Neo-]GrotesqueHumanist Sans
Neutral Cool
Warm Neutral Cool
Traditional Traditional
Neutral
Contemporary Contemporary
Neutral
KAPTEREV.COM
Go take another look, if you didn’t.
Did you find a typeface 

for yourself?
KAPTEREV.COM
Want to know more about typefaces and typography?
We think these books are awesome for beginners.
Like, 20% of it is for lawyers.
KAPTEREV.COM
www.kapterev.com
alexei@kapterev.com
+7 495 764 1898
Alexei Kapterev
Presentation skills and visual communication
m

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Which font should I use?

  • 1. A typography primer 
 for non-designers Which font 
 should I use? Version 4.0
  • 2. KAPTEREV.COM So, you are designing a presentation or a resume a poster a document… ok, you name it
  • 5. KAPTEREV.COM There could be a simple 
 answer to your question Don’t panic
  • 6. That’s it, you’re welcome. Use Georgia 
 or Verdana.
  • 7. KAPTEREV.COM Are you sure? There are, like, 50 slides ahead.
  • 8. KAPTEREV.COM Ok, you want to find 
 a good typeface, but… What exactly 
 is “a good typeface”?
  • 9. KAPTEREV.COM A good typeface 
 1) is readable and 2) has character Maybe too fancyJust rightMaybe too boring AgAg Ag
  • 10. KAPTEREV.COM readable? It’s a complex subject and for the sake of simplicity 
 we suggest adopting one simple rule… How do we know 
 if the typeface is
  • 11. KAPTEREV.COM Ag AgAg Ag Avoid typefaces that are 
 obviously hard to read Comic Sans Blackmoor LET Brush Script Monotype Corsiva
  • 13. KAPTEREV.COM Typefaces carry an emotional charge. What emotion are you trying to convey? Choose a typeface accordingly. Contemporary Traditional or CoolWarm
  • 15. KAPTEREV.COM R R R RR Traditional  Contemporary Novelty Robust Simple Affordable Classical Sophisticated Complex Luxury RDidot Playfair Minion Fedra Sans PT Sans Avenir
  • 16. KAPTEREV.COM Rates Why some typefaces have a more traditional look? 
 The obvious answers would be “serifs”. Rates A serif is a small line attached to the end of a stroke in a letter or symbol. A typeface with serifs is called a serif typeface (or serifed typeface). A typeface without serifs is called sans serif or sans-serif, from the French sans, meaning "without."N Didot Avenir Traditional Contemporary
  • 17. KAPTEREV.COM Bodoni Sans Wow. What has just happened? The serifs are gone! Serifs are important — but even if we take them away, the font on the left still looks more traditional. RatesAvenir Traditional Contemporary
  • 18. KAPTEREV.COM R The left R has more difference between thick 
 and thin strokes. The technical term is contrast. More contrast 
 More sophistication Less contrast 
 Less sophistication Bodoni Sans Avenir
  • 19. KAPTEREV.COM R Suppose we add even more contrast… See? Very sophisticated (also not very readable). Low contrastHigh contrastExorbitant contrast Bodoni Sans AvenirBroadway
  • 20. KAPTEREV.COM To conclude: tradition and sophistication 
 are mostly communicated via serifs and contrast. Serifs More contrast More sophisticated More historical No serifs Less contrast Less sophisticated More contemporary R R R RR RDidot Playfair Minion Fedra Sans PT Sans Century Gothic
  • 22. KAPTEREV.COM Geometric Distant Factory-made Rational Precise Calligraphic Approachable Hand-mande Emotional Imperfect Warm Cool More calligraphic typefaces have more warmth. More geometric typefaces are cooler. They are also harder to read. RatesPalatino Linotype Century Gothic Rates
  • 23. KAPTEREV.COM This was done 
 by a calligrapher. Beautiful and 
 slightly imperfect. R R An engineer with a ruler. Calculated. A fashion designer with a French curve. Very precise, lots 
 of thought. RPalatino Linotype Century Gothic Didot Warm CoolCool
  • 24. KAPTEREV.COM RWarm Once again, it’s not just about serifs! Typefaces that have more contrast are also warmer. R Warm Optima Cool Didot RPalatino Linotype
  • 25. KAPTEREV.COM Calligraphic 
 Warm Geometric 
 Cool R R R RR RJannon Swash Palatino APC Garamond Minion PT Serif Didot RCentury Gothic RGill Sans RPT Sans RCandara RFedra Sans ROptima
  • 26. KAPTEREV.COM We hope it makes some sense now. Let’s begin with discussing the four most prominent font groups. Contemporary Traditional or CoolWarm
  • 27. KAPTEREV.COM Modern Geometric Old Style Humanist Readability: Satisfactory Readability: Poor Character: Warm, traditional Character: Cool, traditional Readability: Excellent Readability: Poor Character: Warm, contemporary Character: Cool, contemporary Star typeface: Garamond Star typeface: Didot Star typeface: Gill Sans Star typeface: Futura Contemporary CoolWarm Traditional or
  • 28. KAPTEREV.COM Before choosing a typeface decide Frankly, this is the hardest part. If you can’t decide 
 on this, just use Georgia or Verdana (or both). what emotion 
 to convey
  • 29. KAPTEREV.COM You’re about to see 40 typefaces This typeface comes free with Windows 10 This one comes with Mac OS 10.11 Leads to a Wikipedia article. It’s good to know the story of your typeface and it’s a good sign when a typeface is on Wikipedia. Click and download this typeface 
 for free at FontSquirrel.com or search 
 the site for similarly tagged fonts. For one reason or another we 
 do not recommend this typeface Here are some neat icons to help you with selection
  • 30. KAPTEREV.COMPhoto by David Iliff Old-Style Serif Classical Roman antiquity, Renaissance 
 or Baroque, early printed books
  • 31. KAPTEREV.COM High contrast with serifs, calligraphic, very warm and quite complex Old-Style Serif Great 20th century design by Hermann Zapf Based on 15th-century Venetian type by Nicolas Jenson Designed in the US in 1915, excellent legibility Hoefler Text Was used in Wikipedia logo and this should count for something A very nice design inspired by Garamond. 45 Styles! Free! Garamond Based on 16th century design, the most famous old style type
  • 32. KAPTEREV.COMPhoto by Marc Vassal Modern Serif 19th century Paris, high fashion, Vogue magazine
  • 33. KAPTEREV.COM Modern Serif Bodoni Didot More fonts tagged “modern”… Late 18th century Italian design, one of the best of its kind French design, even more refined and geometric than Bodoni 20th century American variation Sometimes classified as transitional, it is both readable and fancy Contemporary narrow typeface with historic look Even higher contrast, very cool, fashionable and calculated. Problematic readability as the letters are overly complex. Recommended for headings
  • 34. KAPTEREV.COM First half of the 20th century, modernism, Bauhaus, Russian constructivism Photo by Matt Olson Geometric Sans
  • 35. KAPTEREV.COM Geometric Sans Futura Avenir Next More fonts tagged “geometric”… Century Gothic It’s on both PC and Mac and that’s the only reason we recommend it An American take on Futura The original German Futura, one and only Aesthetically pleasing and highly readable A semi-serifed contemporary geometric typeface Based around simple geometric forms like square, circle or triangle. 
 Minimalist, straight-forward, modernist. As a rule, have readability problems
  • 36. KAPTEREV.COM Humanist Sans Print by William Morris Late 19th and 20th century arts and cra s movement, present-day Europe
  • 37. KAPTEREV.COM Humanist Sans Gill Sans Verdana PT Sans Segoe UI More fonts tagged “humanist”… Eric Gill’s greatest design, it’s on every pub menu in London Highly readable and aesthetically decent (used by IKEA!) Comes with Office, the best of C-fonts Microsoft uses Segoe family for branding and interfaces Versatile and stylish Designed by Erik Spiekermann, a legend in the world of typography Not a bad font, but it suffers from gross overuse Calibri Based on hand-written text proportions. Very warm, friendly and very readable Corbel
  • 38. KAPTEREV.COM Traditional, warm Contemporary, warm Modern Geometric Old Style Humanist We’ve covered groups that have the most character. 
 Let’s cover some neutral ones as well. Contemporary, cool Traditional, cool ?Less character, 
 more neutral
  • 39. KAPTEREV.COM Rates Old Style Serif Modern Serif Rates Transitional Serif Rates Factory-made Distant Rational Precise Hand-mande Friendly Emotional Imperfect Warm CoolNeutral Mass-produced Convenient Practical Cost-effective
  • 40. KAPTEREV.COM 18-19th century industrial revolution, newspapers, mass-produced books Transitional Serif
  • 41. KAPTEREV.COM Very readable, practical and non-obtrusive but o en lack distinct individuality Georgia Minion More fonts tagged “transitional”… Transitional Serif PT Serif Century Schoolbook The best transitional serif available on both platforms This maybe the first typeface you ever saw in your life Another timeless design by Eric Gill Often classified as old-style, it the most popular book font A well-executed commission by the Russian Government Times New Roman Oh, please. Enough is enough. Replace with Georgia or Tinos. An innovative serif metrically compatible with Times
  • 42. KAPTEREV.COM It should be Transitional Sans, right? 
 But no, typography is not that obvious. Traditional, warm Contemporary, warm ? GeometricHumanist Contemporary, cool Traditional, coolTraditional, neutral ModernOld Style Transitional
  • 43. KAPTEREV.COM Late 19th–early 20th century. But also… e 1960’s. Swiss design. Helvetica. Grotesque & neo-grotesque
  • 44. KAPTEREV.COM Quite readable and neutral, the quintessential 20th century typeface group Franklin Gothic News Gothic Helvetica Neue More fonts tagged “Grotesque”… Grotesque & neo-grotesque Celebrated American typeface named after Ben Franklin Designed for the Rubik’s Cube Exhibition, released for free Remember the Star Wars crawl? That was in News Gothic “When in doubt use Helvetica” was the common rule once A replacement for Arial Excellent free typeface from Poland Arial A Helvetica rip-off which is just everywhere
  • 45. KAPTEREV.COM Modern Geometric Old Style Humanist Readability: Satisfactory Readability: Poor Character: Warm, traditional Character: Cool, traditional Readability: Excellent Readability: Poor Character: Warm, contemporary Character: Cool, contemporary Star typeface: Garamond Star typeface: Didot Star typeface: Gill Sans Star typeface: Futura Transitional Readability: Good Character: Neutral, traditional Star typeface: Baskerville Grotesque Readability: Good Character: Neutral, contemporary Star typeface: Helvetica
  • 46. KAPTEREV.COM We’re almost done! But there is 
 one more thing...
  • 47. KAPTEREV.COM Traditional, warm Contemporary, warm ? Modern Geometric Old Style Humanist Contemporary, cool Traditional, cool Transitional Traditional, neutral Grotesque Contemporary, neutral ? ?
  • 48. KAPTEREV.COM Slab Serif Photo by Luca Venturi Reminiscent of the Wild West signs and posters, it is great for shouting at people.
  • 49. KAPTEREV.COM Slab Serif Low contrast with serifs, which look like slabs — hence the name. Comes in flavours: geometric, humanist or transitional. Rockwell Charter More fonts tagged “Slab”… Geometric design from 1930’s It’s very readable and totally looks like a transitional typeface Contemporary humanist Slab Serif, which kind of escapes the classification
  • 51. KAPTEREV.COM Warm Ag Ag Ag Ag Ag Ag Ag Ag Old-style serif Transitional Serif Modern Serif Humanist, Slab Transitional, Slab Geometric, Slab Geometric Sans[Neo-]GrotesqueHumanist Sans Neutral Cool Warm Neutral Cool Traditional Traditional Neutral Contemporary Contemporary Neutral
  • 52. KAPTEREV.COM Go take another look, if you didn’t. Did you find a typeface 
 for yourself?
  • 53. KAPTEREV.COM Want to know more about typefaces and typography? We think these books are awesome for beginners. Like, 20% of it is for lawyers.
  • 54. KAPTEREV.COM www.kapterev.com alexei@kapterev.com +7 495 764 1898 Alexei Kapterev Presentation skills and visual communication m