Portfolio - Fonts



I'm in the process of completely revamping my application portfolio and I just have a general question. What's the general rule for the number of different fonts used in the entire portfolio?]


May 12, 07 3:22 pm

If it makes any difference, I'm applying for 3-year M.Arch programs.

May 12, 07 3:22 pm

i'd stick with one font. be consistent. it gets to be too much if you change up fonts, colors, etc...

May 12, 07 3:35 pm

Two fonts are fine, when they are used for different purposes. For instance project titles and your information (name, program applying to, etc.) may be in a more distinctive font and descriptive information which is generally shown smaller will want to be in a very clear and readable font, and it's ok to have those different. Also, sometimes you find a font which alpha text you like, but the numerics really blow, and it's ok to use a different font for numbers in that case, and nobody will probably notice. It's also fine to use different styles of a font, for instance

Research: For this project, blah blah blah blah blah

or use different point size to make such distinctions.

Basically, it's OK to do a whole lot of different stuff, but be careful that you do it consistantly. If you want dates or awards garnered to be italic, or a larger point size, make sure that they are ALWAYS used in the same way accross the whole portfolio. A wide variety of font conditions become acceptable when they are used in a clear and consistent way throughout the document.

May 12, 07 3:45 pm
Ben Foster

My font breakdown: 75 percent Times Roman, 24% Arial, <1% Helventica?

I used Times Roman for my writings/project objectives, etc.
And Arial for titles, diagrams, etc.

Nothing to crazy in font, but I had some nice texture.

May 12, 07 4:23 pm

Agreed with Rationalist - there isn't a general rule. You can use as many fonts as you're capable of using well.

But I'd add that if you are inexperienced/uneducated [and by educated, I don't only mean that you have classes or a degree - self-taught counts!] in graphic design, your best bet will be to keep it as simple as possible, so you can focus on communicating the work that you are showing rather than inventing a wildly awesome book design. The fact that you are communicating your work in a clear and organized manner will leave you with, at minimum, a competent book design.

So, I'd go with one single clear, readable font like a Times, Helvetica, or something that functions similarly (Galliard, Baskerville, Hoefler, Avant Garde, whatever). Use any combination of bigger/bolder/all caps for titles & headings, and use a readable size of the same font for longer chunks of text.

I would also add that you should generally avoid writing large blocks of text in all caps, because that is more difficult to read.

May 12, 07 4:59 pm

I would suggest looking through your favorite architecture magazines, but also keep in mind that your portfolio is more of a graphic design exercise than architectural. It wouldnt hurt to look through some graphic design publications as well. If you ask any talented designers, Im sure they'd tell you that san sarif typefaces are the only way to go. Furthermore, I have some graphic designer friends who use single font families exclusively for all their work--like helvetica-- and insist that there is no reason to use anything else.

while I pieced together my portfolio I kept reminding myself that the images are most important, not the text. the text shouldn't distract the viewer/reviewer. I went exclusively with Century Gothic, a "geometric" san sarif typeface. furthermore, I used only lower case because it's even softer than caps. I only used caps for the cover and names. no bold, no italic, no condensed. I also went fairly small with my fonts--9,10,11pt.

but thats just me.

good luck!

May 12, 07 5:07 pm
Carl Douglas (agfa8x)

General suggestions:

Instead of Arial, use Helvetica.
Instead of Times New Roman, use Adobe Caslon.

May 12, 07 5:15 pm
"If you ask any talented designers, Im sure they'd tell you that san sarif typefaces are the only way to go"

BZZZZZZZZZZZZ! You have just been eliminated.

As discussed elsewhere on this forum, serifs are actually easier for the eye to read. Slab serifs can be a good compromise between the cleanliness of a sans and the legibility of a serif. Another is using a sans-serif for headings and a serif for body text.

The above does not mean that you should never use sans-serifs for body text, but that you should consider it carefully, and often than you may need to adjust the size of your text depending on which font you choose. Don't go in saying "I'm going to use 9pt type for explanations", because a particular font may be totally unreadable at 9pt, whereas another will be legible down to 7pt (you probably shouldn't go that small though, except for maybe a photo credit). It's just something to keep in mind, and the number one reason why the statement I quoted above is wrong.

I recommend to anybody to go to your library and check out a copy of Thinking With Type by Ellen Lupton. If nothing else, at least read the "Type Crimes" section at the back, it's one of the clearest demonstrations of basic rules that make total sense once explained, but you may not have thought of before.

May 12, 07 5:19 pm

i like book antiqua. bugs me that it looks oldish, but i like how it reads and it sort of feels modern because it's not used often.

May 12, 07 5:51 pm

<<If you ask any talented designers, Im sure they'd tell you that san sarif typefaces are the only way to go. >>
Actually it's probably the less-talented ones who will say that... er.

FYI, there is nothing graphically wrong with system fonts like TNR, Arial, etc. You may feel they are overused or whatever, but they're ok fonts, and some people just don't really have a need to investigate the world of millions of nice fonts when a few usable ones come on most computers for free.

Instead, go over some readers (perhaps rationalist's recommendation addresses this, though I haven't read it myself) about leading (the space between lines of text), kerning (the space between words in text), and tracking (the spaces between letters in a word). I'd guarantee you that when rationalist or I set a paragraph in 8pt Times New Roman, it looks like a completely different font from someone who uses 8pt TNR's default settings in MS Word and doesn't know how to set type. That's not the font's problem.

May 12, 07 5:57 pm

er ok i'm kind of on crack and mixed up some vocab but here is what appears to be a decent explanation that will help you use your plain system fonts in a nicer looking way!

May 12, 07 6:01 pm

whatever you do, for the sake of good design, please don't use city or country blueprint.

May 12, 07 6:04 pm

or comic sans. it's ok to hate comic sans!

May 12, 07 6:06 pm
vado retro

stand out from the crowd and use braille...

[img] width=418[/img]

May 12, 07 6:14 pm

yes, i hate comic sans too!!!

i would always cringe @ the font choices some of my classmates would make.

and bank gothic is played out! it's not 1995! =P

i'm such a design geek/snob... =|

May 12, 07 6:17 pm

vado, that would actually be pretty cool. how would one go about getting braille embossed, i wonder?

May 12, 07 6:18 pm

ooh, braille. there might be a handful of architects that could read that...

'twould be ultra hip to prevent almost everyone from reading your folio... a way of saying,

"eff you, GSD, if you're not going to let me into your "Sacred" halls, i won't let you comprehend my work. and besides, i'm going to the AA instead."

also, i'm kinda digging trade gothic right now.

May 12, 07 6:21 pm
vado retro

just do it yourself. i posted the alphabet for ya.

May 12, 07 6:26 pm

namby, yeah, I was going to let it slide, since you're fighting the good fight. ; P

Explanation follows intended to help any type newbies understand:

Kerning: the spacing between individual letters. Often needs to be adjusted for letter combos such as "fi", "ft", "Ae", etc. Mostly just worry about this for really big headlines- the bigger your text is, the more noticeable bad kerning (or no kerning!) is.

Tracking: the consistant spacing between all the letters in a body of text.

So to illustrate the difference, if in the word "ARCHITECTURE" I chose to tighten the spacing between the "RC" combo (particularly bad in this font), that would be kerning. If I chose to tighten or loosen the spacing between every letter in the word by the same amount to give it a denser or airier feel, thant would be tracking.

May 12, 07 6:28 pm

er, "thant" = "then that"

May 12, 07 6:29 pm

no more than two fonts and three weights. sans, sans serifs, or a combination of both are just fine. in the end and even with these rules you can still make it look like ass if you try hard enough.

May 12, 07 6:33 pm

Visionaire already beat y'all to the braille thing. SORRY!

May 12, 07 7:01 pm

in haste, probably made a very common forum mistake--state my (layman's) opinion as axiom. For that i apologize. what i meant to express by my silly post above is that afrdzak seems to be looking for a particular application and having successfully applied to 3-year m.arch programs this past winter i thought that my opinion may have some pertinence to this discussion. in re-reading my post above, i do seem to come off a little arrogant. my apologies.

As im a newer poster than most, i probably missed out on the great debate on the relevance of serifs. As i do agree that a serif typeface(such as times) is more "readable" than a san-sarif typeface, i also believe that what typeface you ultimately choose depends on the application. since we are talking about a portfolio for an M.Arch program and not a college sociology paper, "readability" isn't as important as the portfolios overall aesthetic quality--again my opinion. For example, i used a san-serif typeface for all of my portfolio except for a number of papers i included, which i used Computer Modern No.20--very heavy serifs. I also used times for my statement of purpose. Im an advocate of simplicity and logic in your type decision, thats all.

lastly, what i meant by "if you ask any talented designers, whatever, whatever" i really meant to say, "afrdzak, you should talk to some designers who you think are talented for their opinion." thanks all.

--type newbie

May 12, 07 8:33 pm

as I have a BFA in graphic design, ill let you know that a general rule of thumb (though obviously there are plenty of exceptions) is to not use more then three different typefaces in a given layout, and that pushing it.

Good fonts to use: these are well made fonts, use them and love them.
Gill Sans
Mrs Eaves(not for large amounts of copy)
Bodoni(not for large amounts of copy)\

Bad fonts to use:
Arial - this is a knock off of helvetica, and a bad one at that.
and obviousy - comic sans, Papyrus, etc...

As for readibility, it depends on the font, whether it be sans serif or serif.

May 12, 07 9:47 pm

Three rules when picking fonts:

1. Helvetica > Arial. (If I'm stuck using a Windows PC, I'd do what it takes to have Helvetica on it.)
2. Be careful when using Times (New Roman). It's a decent font, just used too often IMO.
3. Be prepared to be laughed AT if you use Comic Sans.

May 12, 07 11:01 pm

If it's available- I've had success with a robust font family like Myriad Pro- using it's various levels of myriad light through myriad black, with all the condensed, and italic variations in between allows you to use one font to great effect.

May 13, 07 12:05 am

And please use InDesign...

May 13, 07 12:05 am
Ben Foster

I like making my readers squint- I went one or two font sizes smaller than I think most people used- graphically

May 13, 07 12:09 am

Whatever you choose, just know that Bank Gothic is the worst font ever.

May 13, 07 12:11 am
Carl Douglas (agfa8x)

i beg to differ. matisse makes my eyes water.

May 13, 07 12:33 am

Kern. Make sure you know how to kern and recognize how important it is to kern text when necessary.

Don't use any typeface that a 4th grade teacher would use in their classroom. Don't. Just don't.

May 13, 07 12:45 am

by the way, the use of the term Kerning is incorrect, unless you are using it for metal type setting, which is it;s origin. Its better to just say letter spacing when dealing with desktop publishing. Also don't use the tracking options because that does not make it look better, it just automatically adjusts all the letter spacing which doesent help the bad letter spacing at all.

May 13, 07 12:54 am

Well, of course Matisse sucks. And so does Comic Sans. And whatever other frilly crap is out there (93% of all fonts?).

My point is architects actually use Bank Gothic (still!!!) as if they can't recognize its major suckitude. It reeks of student presentation boards.

But to answer the original post, I'd say 2 or 3 fonts is good, as bdf points out. Each font could organize the work. A title font, a body font, and possible a logo font/something a step above the title in organization.

May 13, 07 1:49 am

one font. change size and make it bold or use caps if you need it to stand out.

May 13, 07 4:22 am

I really don't understand the advocation of the serif fonts. IMO the whole point of using sans serif fonts is to maintain a degree of neutrality; I think this reads (with sans serif) even when used in large text bodies.

I would agree with justavisual: only one font throughout your entire portfolio. There really is no need for more.

My two favorite fonts: UNIVERS (and all its variants), and of course HELVETICA.

May 13, 07 10:57 am

your quite the straight edge :P

I used to be like that but iv'e since discovered the wonders of many typefaces. You should take some Type classes they will kick your ass. Hand drawing typefaces for 5 hours a day will really make you appreciate so many types.

May 13, 07 11:07 am

That would be a good class to take. How long does a class like this take?

Don't get me wrong though... I appreciate many other types, but when it comes down to portfolio work... I would do anything to avoid having one of my spreads looking like a news article or newspaper...

My opinion with portfolios is: stop yourself from inserting ANY type of graphic device that is unnecessary (fancy numbering devices, indexing graphics, horizontal lines, etc). It clouds your work... and gives off an air of immaturity.

Of course... once again... to each his own.

May 13, 07 11:20 am

yeah i totally agree, a portfolio should be simple and fairly neutral to allow the work to speak for itself, but I do believe that it can be done with either a sans serif or serif typeface.

Well I just finished a typography class this semester, at my college. I dont really think they have them outside of undergrad art school, but it was definitly eye opening. We made two complete typefaces and it was alot of work. First half of the semester we designed a sans serif font and the second half was any direction we wanted to take it. The hard part is all the craft though, just alot of painting with guasch and ink all our letters.

May 13, 07 11:38 am

Brewed: most of our terms for type adjustment come from back in the day when type was done in blocks of lead, and 'uppercase', 'lowercase', and 'leading' haven't been abandoned either. Kerning is still very much used.

DEV- the advocation of serifs comes from the fact that those serifs help lead your eye from one letter to the next fluidly, and are technically easier to read. I'm not saying that you should always use serifs, but that to write them all off out of hand is a bit uninformed.

May 13, 07 12:57 pm

Can I just say that I think its funny when people use Papyrus and think they are being original.*

My favorite fonts are Futura (Tw Cent MT on Windows), Gill Sans, and I like using Haettenschweiler for big, bold headers or supergraphics. Partially because I like the look of it and partially because I like saying "Haettenschweiler".

*I was forced to use Papyrus on some wedding invitations I designed a couple of years ago. I tried to steer them in a different direction but they weren't having it.

May 13, 07 1:35 pm

bollocks about serifs being easier to read. If they flow one into the other you are just looking at a bunch of mush! But hey I'm just a humble reader...not a graphic artist

May 13, 07 2:48 pm

, let me introduce you to Michael Bierut, a professional designer who worked for Massimo Vignelli between 1980 and 1990. He describes his experiences with choosing a typeface, before and after working with Vignelli(including subsequent pitfalls). I like this piece because it subtly suggests that typography is objectiveand that graphic design should be playful.

WonderK, number 3 is for you.

May 13, 07 3:08 pm

Ha ha, indeed. Thanks Sconie.

May 13, 07 4:21 pm

"The most distinctive element of the typeface is its enormous lower-case x-height. In theory this improves its legibilty, but only in the same way that dog poop's creamy consistency in theory should make it more edible."

OH NO HE DIIIIINT!!!!!!!!!!!

May 13, 07 4:23 pm

No comic sans, no times new roman, and nothing that has any ornament.

My favorites:

Century Gothic.

May 13, 07 6:36 pm

I agree there is nothing wrong with the basics like Arial. I actually find myself going back to it fairly often.

Whatever you do, stay away from Bank Gothic!! That font was overused!

Generally speaking, san serifs give a more contemporary look and serifs look more traditional. But there are no rules and I've seen them successfully break that idea many times.

Find something good and stick with it. Don't go crazy thinking about fonts, it'll drive you mad!

Err on the side of simplicity and spend the time on how the layout will work as a whole.

May 13, 07 8:32 pm

all in context.
when it comes to portfolios, i WOULD discard all the serif types.
I would agree with Sconie, in that "readability" is not as important. Serif fonts usually do not sit well with linework or complex imagery on a spread. The danger of this mindset is if you push too much for the aesthetic of the text bodies, you end up with a Miralles-esque type which is at times unreadable... but a graphically decadent indulgence (especially when he "infused" text into plans).

May 13, 07 8:33 pm

Rotis, Universe, Avenir, are some good unique font families.

My recommendation would be to utilize the variation within a family first, before using multiple families. Font families are created to have a range of use within the family itself. Take advantage of this as it shows cohesiveness throughout a document.

May 13, 07 10:44 pm

Also, check your kerning and leading, do not set it to auto kern.

May 13, 07 10:45 pm

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