Most important fonts

FontShop Germany created a special website,, which lists the 100 best typefaces of all time. An international jury assembled the overview based on sales numbers, historical relevance, and aesthetic qualities. The nice-looking site and matching PDF-file provide many interesting details about the choices that were made.

I have taken the liberty of listing their 33 first entries below. For more detailed information, check the full overview, which is also available in German.

important fonts - helvetica

Helvetica is a true classic that was created in 1957 by Swiss typeface designer Max Miedinger. Today it is still one of the most widely used sans-serif fonts.

important fonts - garamond

This classic old-style serif typeface was named after the French type designer Claude Garamond.

important fonts - frutiger

Originally this was only available as a sans-serif but Adrian Frutiger also created a serif version.

important fonts - bodoni

With its outspoken contrast, Bodoni alternates between being fashionable and outdated once every decade. A bit like Madonna.

important fonts - futura

Although this creation of Paul Renner is already ninety years old, Futura is still as popular as ever.

important fonts - times new roman

Commissioned by British newspaper The Times in 1931, this serif typeface is also frequently used in book design.

important fonts - akzidenz grotesk

‘Grotesque’ refers to an ‘early sans-serif’ and ‘Akzidenz’ is the German word for jobbing – the printing of brochures, cards, stationery, etc. Read more…

important fonts - officina

Definitely a typeface for the 1990s, Officina was designed for the contemporary office.

important fonts - gill sans

Originally designed for the fascia of a bookstore, Gill Sans is popular for posters and other signage.

important fonts - univers

With its clean lines and wide variety of faces, Univers is a personal favorite. Many companies use it as their corporate typeface.

important fonts - optima

Classic yet modern looking, Optima is one of the many creations of German typeface designer and calligrapher Hermann Zapf.

important fonts - franklin gothic

Gothic was a contemporary term meaning sans-serif. The above example is a bolder version of Franklin Gothic.

Bembo typeface

Bembo is a 20th-century revival of a 15th-century typeface. The typeface got its name from being used in a book authored by Cardinal Bembo.

important fonts - interstate

Optimal for signage but suitable for setting text as well, Interstate is a versatile typeface.

important fonts - thesis

The large and versatile Thesis typeface family includes the TheSans and TheSerif variants.

important fonts - rockwell

A Monotype classic from the thirties

important fonts - walbaum

Its unique character quirks make Walbaum open, warm, and very graceful.

important fonts - meta

Meta is mainly popular as a corporate typeface.

important fonts - trinite

Trinité was one of the first typefaces to be specifically designed for digital typesetting.

important fonts - din

Widely used for signage and technical applications. Read more…

important fonts - matrix

Constructed in 1986, using as few interpolation points as possible.

important fonts - ocr

OCR A and OCR B were optimized for automatic reading devices.

important fonts - avant garde

Designed for the magazine with the same title. Read more…

important fonts - lucida

Pity I cannot show all the variations of this versatile typeface. Read more…

important fonts - sabon

A design from the early sixties by typographer Jan Tschichold.

important fonts - zapfino

In this long list Zapfino really stands out, doesn’t it?

important fonts - letter gothic

Letter Gothic was originally created for use on IBM Selectric typewriters.

important fonts - stone

One of the first typefaces designed entirely on a computer, Stone dates from 

important fonts - arnhem

Readability was the main design goal for Arnhem.

important fonts - minion

Minion was one of Adobe’s first OpenType Pro fonts.

important fonts - myriad

I find Myriad intriguing.

important fonts - rotis

Released by Agfa in 1988, rotis was later reissued by Monotype.

important fonts - eurostile

Even today Eurostile is still popular in science fiction novels and film artwork.

Quite surprisingly some classics such as Avenir, Palatino, Caslon, or Benguiat don’t show up at the top of the list, even though they make it to the Top 100. The last font to make it to the list at place 100 is Mistral. Obviously others may have another opinion about these fonts, so it also pays to look at the list of most hated fonts. Looking for an alternative list? Typographers typefaces is an interesting article.

10 thoughts on “Most important fonts

  1. Thanks for this article. I was wondering which font works best for numbers that need to be legible at a single glance during extremely arduous physical conditions? Imagine a list of 26 numbered times in the following format:

    1 7:30
    2 15:00
    3 22:50 etc etc, finishing at, say,
    26 4:07:31

    1. Lauren, thanks for that good idea. Subsequently, I’ve realised how very little research is available.

  2. Not to be a crazy person but I love LOVE Courier. It is a classy readable, elegant monospaced font that dominated Industry, government, and science for 30 or 40 years. It conjures up the overbuilt, straightforward American design that built the flying fortress and invented the computer. For decades U.S. diplomatic transcripts were addressed in the font that stated clearly: We are a simple people, but we are not stupid.

    Blown up in vector format one finds its utility is founded on elegance and grace in design. It is a great, and rare success in the application of modernist principles. And to top it off, it has aged exceptionally well. Even today, the programmers of the world find themselves falling back on typewriter Courier, which has born pixelation with the grace of a sharp and beautiful elder woman at the head of a multi-billion dollar military contractor.

  3. A bit serif-shy there.

    Whatever happened to Clarendon?

    As an EFL teacher producing materials for foreign students, clarity is important. I settled on Clarendon by way of Century, Century Oldstyle and Times.

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