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Give Free Fonts a Chance

Don’t be so quick to dismiss “free” fonts.

Back in the day a good designer wouldn’t be caught dead using “free” fonts. And with good reason—most free fonts were amateurish at best and total abominations at worst. But my, how times have changed. In an online column for Smashing Magazine, Jeremiah Shoaf encourages designers to take a fresh look at free fonts. According to Shoaf, “large companies such as Adobe and Google, have been commissioning fonts for open-source projects and making them available for free on the web.” These open-source fonts are created by competent, professional typographers and are of a much higher quality than those of the past. Most are specifically designed with the web in mind, having multiple weights and matching italics, making them ideal for both headlines and body copy, as well as insuring they render well on all screen sizes and resolutions.

Here is a handful of the fonts Shoaf recommends:

1. Alegreya. A reader font designed by Juan Pablo del Peral, this award-winning font is a hidden-gem and has garnered several awards.

2. Source Sans Pro. This is a versatile, modern, open-source font from Adobe and is available in 6 different weights. It was designed by Paul D. Hunt and intended to work well in user interfaces.

3. Open Sans. Google commissioned Steve Matteson for this “flat design” font. It has become one of the more popular open-source fonts on the web. Available in five weights – with matching italics – it’s a workhorse that can be trusted in almost any circumstance

4.  Merriweather. Here’s a nice serif font designed by Eben Sorkin. It’s great for online reading and has a companion sans-serif version.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Be sure to tool around Google fonts yourself and see what you can find. You can also check out Jeremiah’s article in its entirety here.

One final caveat: even though these fonts are “free” they’re the result of a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. It’s a good idea to support the designers who created them by either purchasing other fonts they have created or making a financial donation.

Jeremiah Shoaf is a freelance designer from Colorado. He is the curator of Typewolf and creates flat-file CMS themes for his other side project, Type & Grids. He also continually updates a curated list of open-source free fonts.

Michael Chuchvara, our team’s graphic designer, is our creative genius, designing eye-catching flyers, inserts, and e-blasts.

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