The world of typography can be overwhelming. Mastering the basics gets your foot in the door, but mastering the way you use that foundation is what can set you apart as a designer. With hundreds of thousands of typefaces in existence, it can be hard to know where to begin. What’s high quality? What’s in-budget? What expresses the personality I want to represent? And how can I be innovative with type?
Below I’ve outlined three key resources that have made a huge impact on my process and skills as a designer. So, if you’re thinking, “I don’t know where to begin!”…begin here.
1. For Insight: Typewolf
Typewolf is one of the most indispensable sources of information I’ve come across in my career. As one Twitter user put it, “If you’re an art director or designer and you’re not following @typewolf, I’m not sure what you’re doing with your life.”
Typewolf is a shockingly free resource that breaks down hundreds of typefaces, providing an insightful description of each, as well as suggested pairings and comparable alternatives. There are also curated lists, which have frequently topped my Google search results for very specific design quandaries, such as “alternatives to the overused Brandon Grotesque.”
Typewolf’s credibility is demonstrated by countless raving reviews from the creative community, as well as the 19 years of design experience under the belt of founder Jeremiah Shoaf. It has proven invaluable to me and many others as a trustworthy source of type acumen.
Sound too good to be true? Maybe. For the hours of work and hundreds of dollars a day Shoaf puts into the site, don’t forget to support if you can!
2. For Identification: What Font
The best designers are always on the look-out for new ways to hone their craft. It’s an endless field to learn from, so the more we can take in, the more our minds will expand to understand and imagine the possibilities. Personally, I’m constantly observing the typography that surrounds me. It’s amazing how many typefaces you’ll recognize in your daily life once you start looking.
What Font is a browser plugin that identifies the typefaces used on websites. You just click the icon at the top of the browser window, hover over some type, and it reads the source code to let you know what font it’s picking up.
This excludes type that’s been embedded into an image, so it’s not fool-proof, but it has been useful for me on many occasions. Being able to identify typefaces can help you connect the dots among design trends, and broaden your view on what’s available in the marketplace.
3. For Inspiration: Alphabettes
There are so many powerful outlets for type inspiration, I had trouble picking just one. The important thing for me has been to subscribe to many. I follow a lot of type accounts on Instagram, which has been instrumental in opening my mind to the various creative ways type can be used, as well as giving me an even deeper appreciation for the craft of letterform design.
Alphabettes is a special one among the herd because it specifically connects and lifts up the work of women in the field. A different member takes over their Instagram feed each week, and the website provides everything from commentary to research. I especially appreciate this note on their “About” page, which I think speaks volumes to their point-of-view as a media outlet: “All authors hold the copyright to their content, work, spelling mistakes and grammar. (As you can tell, many of us are non-native English speakers, but we think diversity and spontaneïty are more fun than a strong editorial hand.)”