Most fonts are licensed when needed, selected specifically for the job at hand. But when my (less font-addicted) friends are seeking versatile, workhorse typefaces for future use, I send them this list.
Of course, there are dozens of reputable outfits that make and sell good fonts. It’s almost irresistible to list every little foundry I love, but most of them are available via one of these outlets and a set of links longer than the one above is often more overwhelming than useful. Think of this list as a shopper’s starting point for building a lasting typographic toolset. These sites offer most of the best fonts available, and — crucially — present them well, too.
The focus here is on downloadable desktop fonts for print use, but most of these shops offer webfonts as well, either through a hosted service or as a self-hosted download. Noted next to each provider is the kind of webfont licensing they offer. Other webfont providers include Typekit, Webtype, Fontdeck, and Fonts.com. MyFonts and FontShop also offer downloadable, self-hosted webfonts.
Speaking of typeface recommendations, our very own Typographica.org reviews are also a good introduction to a few of the best new typefaces. After an unforgivable two-year hiatus, we’re wrapping up the 2011 edition now.
July 1, 2013 – Updated with webfont licensing info.
May 30, 2015 – Updated to include Fontstand and other changes.
What about Underware and TypeTogether?
The goal of this list is to be as concise as possible. Like many other foundries that aren’t listed, Underware and TypeTogether are both top-notch with only good stuff in their libraries, but because their fonts are available at FontShop, MyFonts, and Village (Underware), they don’t get a place on this shortlist. If they offered something extraordinary and exclusive on their sites I would consider mentioning them separately. Meanwhile, you’ll find many of their typefaces are represented in my favorites on MyFonts.
Ah, that makes perfect sense. In hindsight, silly question. Sorry. And, I did notice that as I made my way through your list of favorites.
This was very useful. I never realized how many font websites there were. The one I only really new of was Dafont.com. This will definaitely help me with college projects and my career after school.
What about YouWorkForThem? I find them to be much nicer than the MyFonts site you mention.
YouWorkForThem offers many of the same fonts available at MyFonts. Those that they offer exclusively are not good enough to warrant a special mention. The YWFT site itself is aesthetically appealing to many designers, and its functionality is improving, but MyFonts still offers much more information and faster, more flexible sampling — not to mention thousands more fonts of a professional-level quality.
Thanks for this, I always go back to this list when looking for a new font to buy. I would only add the absolutely excellent fonts from Jean François Porchez.
You should definitely check out http://www.fontspring.com. They are pretty new but they have grown a lot. Their selection is pretty complete, but the real winner is they keep things simple. Licensing is one affordable fee without all the requirements. I have also found their web font hinting to be superior to some of the other distributors.
I’d love to hear what fonts and what distributors you’ve tried. The hinting is going to vary quite a bit at Fontspring as there is no single production flow for every font. Some are probably quite good, as they offer some of the same fonts available at higher end retailers, but many are very poor.
Surely Stone Type Foundry could be included. Cycles, Stone, Magma all are excellent typefaces. It may not be a huge collection, but a very beautiful one.
Terminal Design fonts are only available on the Terminal Design web site. Does that get me on the short list?
I like your stuff, James. I like a lot of stuff from the many foundries who offer fonts only from their own site. But this is still a shortlist. A longlist would be a different thing.
I would speak up for Matthew Butterick. Limited range of fonts, of course, but the common-sense licensing terms are likely to be popular with businesses.
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Typographica is a review of typefaces and type books, with occasional commentary on fonts and typographic design. Edited by Stephen Coles with Caren Litherland and designed by Chris Hamamoto. Founded in 2002 by Joshua Lurie-Terrell. Relaunched in 2009 by Coles and Hamamoto.
Set in Bureau Grot by Font Bureau, Nocturno Display by Nikola Djurek, Fern (unreleased) by David Jonathan Ross, and JAF Bernini Sans by Tim Ahrens.
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