be free, lance / finding fonts

I’ve had a few people ask me what my typography process is like when it comes to working on projects. I’ve shared a few free* goodies in the past, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Great typeface pairing is a learned skill, but I’ll go over some tips + tricks to help you get started out!

KNOW YOUR AESTHETIC Most of the time, font usage shouldn’t be based on what you think “looks cool” on a whim. The best thing you can do before starting any project ( even if it’s just for a blog post collage ) is to think about your aesthetic. Are you trying to be simplistic + modern?? Try something in the sans serif family. Or maybe you need a little bit of funk thrown in … keep your eye pealed for some unique typefaces. They’re out there! Serif fonts, on the otherhand, are perfect for many things including classic and vintage design. Always keep your key aesthetic in mind when trying to visually represent your project. Make sure your final choices feel right.

READ UP ON TYPOGRAPHY If you’re not a designer, I would suggest reading up on typography – even if it’s just a little bit. This is especially important if you’re in the creative business, have a blog, or market yourself on the daily. By educating yourself, you’ll start to learn balance and how type feels in a variety of situations. You’ll get a good sense of what works and what doesn’t. And beyond that, simply keep your eyes open. Whether you’re browsing pinterest or noticing a really cool menu design, take note of what looks good.

STAY FRESH To avoid repetition and assure that I’m starting from scratch for each new project, I always go through all of my fonts first. Sure, this may seem tedious, but it will stop you from using your favorite “go-to” fonts over and over again. What I do is open up Font Book ( which comes with any MAC ) and simply scroll through my typefaces. You can use the “custom type preview” to put in the words you’re looking to design and get a better feel for what you like. As you scroll, keep your aesthetic in mind and pull out any fonts that you think work. At the end, you’ll have a great assortment of options that work!

So there you have it – a few simple ideas for picking out fonts. I love starting discussions within the Be Free, Lance column, so if you’d like to share your own process, simply comment below. I’m sure others would love to hear what you have to say!

  1. I recently have been contemplating making my own font to possibly make cake pop toppers or more so this was really helpful! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Nesha says:

    Thanks for sharing this with us! I’ve been realizing more and more lately that great typography choices are crucial in creating something beautiful. After a year of striving hard with typography choices and learning about typography, I think I’m starting to get the hang of pairing fonts wisely.

  3. João says:

    Nice post, as usual.

    Just want to recommend a great web application for font selection that completelly changed the way I choose fonts (I´m not a MAC user): http://wordmark.it/

    You have an excellent eye for desing in general, great job.

    Cheers,
    João, from Brazil.

  4. alina says:

    this is a really cool idea, just picking out fonts before ever getting to a blank photoshop page.
    i usually write out some key words, duplicate and go through the font list in illustrator from top to bottom. just b&w, no graphics. it helps me see what those exact words look like in certain styles, since the message they’re conveying is just as important.
    that’s my process and it honestly kick-starts every single brand new project.

    x
    alina

    • breanna says:

      I do the same! Once I scan + find a font I think will work, I type it out ( in black & white ) in illustrator. So I have a running list of examples that I can then compare. :)

    • Sarolta says:

      I do the same, Alina. And I love the idea of going through my fonts BEFORE I start the design process. Never thought of this before.

  5. joy @ oss says:

    ah thanks so much sharing this! you’re incredible.

  6. Toni says:

    I use Font Explorer and archive all the fonts I used for each project into folder. Like that I avoid repetition and can create a little organised collection of fonts for different projects, styles and looks. xx

    • breanna says:

      Very cool idea, Toni! I think that’s the cool thing about Font Explorer is that you can get really organized. I had it for awhile and just got overwhelmed, went back to Font Book. I’m such a simpleton sometimes. ;)

  7. Thanks for the resources, Breanna! :) I like searching for fonts at Dafont.com, as they have just so many fonts! And one of the things I love about Font Squirrel is their Web Font Generator.

    Thanks for sharing WordMark.it, João. Looks pretty cool! I’ll play with it right now.

  8. Mandy says:

    I use Fontcase for mine and organize them per project and style. For myself, I like the interface much better that FontExplorer or Font Book. More visual, easier to keep track of everything. I also have a set list of tags I use (Friendly, Quirky, Modern, Formal, etc.) that I’ll attach to each font family so I have a starting point to go off of.

  9. juliet says:

    I always question myself about font choices. Specifically, pairing two or three fonts together!

  10. alicia says:

    Typography doesn’t usually get the credit is deserves, yet alone typographers!
    For all designers/freelancers out there I highly suggest you watch this creative mornings talk with Jessica Hische. It’s not just about type but about art and technology and where they intersect.
    http://vimeo.com/44045435

  11. Caitlin says:

    I am SO HAPPY you wrote a post about this! I’ve been thinking of jumping into the font party and starting to do some simple designs of my own for my blog. Super helpful :)

    http://caitlinliz.com

  12. Niina says:

    Maybe you could help me…I have tons of fonts in my Font Book but I’d like to have them in printed form. Do you know or can you think on the spot a quick way of making a “real life” font book? I started making one by writing a text and then changing the font after printing but that’s just doesn’t feel plausible for amount of fonts that I have. Any thoughts? Am I trying to do something impossible?

    • breanna says:

      Oh man, good question! I have no idea actually other than manually doing it like you are now. Maybe if somebody reads this, they may have some suggestions!?

    • Casey Lynn says:

      O my goodness I would love to have a printed font book as well. I would love to know if you find something that can do that or figure out a way that does not take up so much time!

    • Noor says:

      They have font software that you can download and you can actually print a list of what you have. Google font management software.

  13. Katie says:

    It’s so easy to automatically go to my favorite fonts for a project. Scrolling through fonts before even starting a project is a good idea- thanks!

  14. Dara says:

    I use Font Book as well. Even though it has a semi-bad reputation in design/tech communities for being too simple, I still find it useful! I like to make use of the Collections pane, so I have collections for different types of fonts (e.g. Slab Serif, Sans Serif, Retro, etc.) as well as collections for different services (e.g. Google Web Fonts). It makes it easy for me to browse small collections instead of always going through the entire list each time!

  15. […] my own just to design some things for my own blog, and I was so excited that Breanna Rose wrote a post today about fonts. I think a good font is the most notable aspect of a design and I can’t wait to jump […]

  16. jensen says:

    I always find that making a list of characteristics I’m looking for in a typeface helps a great deal in not just choosing ones that I love or am comfortable using.

  17. alyssa says:

    hey breanna! this post is great. very insightful. thank you SO much for sharing!

  18. Noor says:

    Typography is probably my favorite part of graphic design. I really agree about buying books, etc for those who want to learn more. I have so many and have read them over and over since I enjoy that and its so exciting to really learn about type and just how old it actually is.

    When it comes to buying fonts I usually go for myfonts.com because I am able to keep up with what I have in a folder on the site, for me its so much easier.

    Also one of my favorite apps is fontbook you all should download it. As far as picking fonts I am usually really into more plain sans serif but sometimes a client will want something more fun or romantic but I always try to pair them with something plain to not make it look gaudy.

    • Kelly says:

      Noor, I am a total nooby when it comes to typeface. Do you have any favorite books you would recommend?

  19. Niina says:

    I found out a way to print from Font Book. I haven’t tested it yet but here’s the link: http://www.macworld.com/article/1144946/printing_font_samples.html

  20. jessie says:

    ohhh that can be really hard if you have a lot of fonts haha. that seems to be the most difficult challenge when you look for fonts i think – to find a match out of hundreds*

    how do you manage your fonts?

  21. […] my own just to design some things for my own blog, and I was so excited that Breanna Rose wrote a post today about fonts. I think a good font is the most notable aspect of a design and I can’t wait to jump […]

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