There was a time—back in letterpress printing’s heyday and prior to halftone screening—when a printer would “design” a broadside with every typeface he had in house. Today, we usually lean instead to the Mies van der Rohe principle of “less is more.”
But even with a more conservative approach, choosing typefaces that work together seems to be a challenge for many budding typographers. It’s also Peatah’s observation that this aspect of typographic teaching is rarely given enough attention. Until now.
Before you read any further, be advised it’s best to have reviewed the type classifications section first. So, I’ll wait here while you go back and study that.
Back already? Okay, let’s proceed. First, here are three general rules of thumb about combining type. And, yes, rules were made to be broken. But, it’s good to have a starting point ...
1. Go for contrast.
If you mix something similar, like a Transitional and a Modern typeface, it may appear like a mistake.
2. Mr. Obvious says, “Combine a serif and a sans serif.”
This would build in automatic contrast; but, there are still proper choices to make beyond this initial decision.
3. If one is a display font, keep the other(s) simple.
Look again at the list on the left. Everything under the Display heading should be set at larger sizes (16 points or larger). And, since they command attention, it’s best not to compete with them. Combine them with either a geometric or grotesque sans serif. With that, it’s safe to say the rest of the combinations teaching will be based on the serif and sans serif categories.
On the next page, Peatah has created a handy type combination table. Don’t think of these as your only options—remember what we said about rules? Just consider these as good, safe bets!