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Free Fonts: Display Typefaces

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In this sixth part of the free font series about the various categories of typefaces, we’ll now be featuring the Display Typefaces. Display fonts are usually very heavy versions of more traditional faces. The distortions created by the increased weight separates these faces into this special group.

The purpose of display type is first, to attract the reader’s attention, and second, to draw that reader into the text. To do this correctly, you need more than just a good typeface – it has to be a good display typeface. Once you’ve chosen your type, you’ll still have to set your display text properly to maximize its effectiveness. Color is used for its emotional effect in conveying the tone and nature of subject matter.

Display type refers to the use of type at large sizes, perhaps 28 points or larger. Some typefaces are considered useful solely at display sizes, and hence are known as display typefaces. For typefaces used across a wide range of sizes, in the days of metal type, each size was cut individually, or even if pantographically scaled would often have adjustments made to the design for larger or smaller sizes, making a “display” font have distinct differences.

When digital fonts feature a display variation, it is to accommodate other stylistic differences that may benefit type used at larger point sizes. Such differences, which were standard in metal type, are rare in digital type, outside of the very high end of type design. They can include: a lower x-height, higher contrast between thick and thin strokes, less space between letters, and slightly more condensed letter shapes.

Decades into the desktop publishing revolution, few typographers with metal foundry type experience are still working, and few digital typefaces are optimized specifically for different sizes, so the misuse of the term display typeface as a synonym for ornamental type has become widespread; properly speaking, ornamental typefaces are a subcategory of display typefaces.

Here’s what to look for when choosing a display design. We’ll also discuss what simple adjustments you can make when setting your type, this will help your display copy look and function at its best.

Design characteristics

A good display typeface should have a distinct, assertive personality, it should make a powerful and specific first impression.

Consistency of design still matters in display typefaces, it’s important that the characters you’ll actually use in the headline look good and work well together to express the tone of the piece.

Legibility

Legibility in a display setting is only as important as your design objectives need it to be, this is a big difference between text and display settings. When choosing a display type, go for impact and expressiveness, rather than legibility alone.

Letter spacing

As type gets larger, the letter spacing tends to look more open. A typeface that was designed for display sizes might not need much in the way of letter spacing adjustments. However, if you’re working in large sizes with a typeface that was primarily intended for text, the letter spacing will probably appear too open.

Tip: Use your design application’s tracking feature to tighten the letter spacing.

Word spacing

Like the space between letters, the space between words gets to be “too much” as type size scales upward. Reducing excess word spacing improves appearance and readability.

How much is enough? Leave enough space to create a separation between the words, but not enough to create gaping white holes.

Kerning

Kerning also changes with scale. A letter pair that seems perfectly kerned at a smaller size might look unbalanced and uneven when set larger. The bad news is that clumsy letter pairs will be all the more obvious at large sizes. The good news is, since there are fewer words in a headline setting, it’s easy to add your own custom kerns. Always look your display text over carefully and adjust any uneven combinations.

Free Display Typefaces

Yep, and here is the fun-part again .. FREE FONTS! As mentioned above, by choosing your display font carefully and then making the necessary adjustments to letter spacing, word spacing and kerning, you’ll be on your way to creating strong, effective display copy that will get your piece noticed. What are you waiting for, .. go frab ‘em!

League Gothic

League Gothic is a revival of an old classic, Alternate Gothic No.1, a condensed sans serif display font. It was originally designed by Morris Fuller Benton for the American Type Founders Company (ATF) in 1903. The company went bankrupt in 1993. And since the original typeface was created before 1923, the typeface is in the public domain. Balanced & structured, this font is gainly popularity quickly with good reason. Made by the open source type movement group The League of Moveable Type.

Designers: Caroline Hadilaksono, Micah Rich, Morris Fuller Benton

Download

League Ghotic Extended “Italic”

This italic version of the above League Gothic is made by Dannci, a 27 year old Font and WordPress designer based in Slovakia.

Designer: Dannci

Download

Franchise Bold

Franchise is a powerful new display typeface meant to communicate your message quickly and with power. The characters were meticulously drawn to achieve a unifomity without compromising style. This typeface is kerned properly so you won’t be spending all day fixing the space between A’s and Y’s.

Designer: Derek Weathersbee

Download

Nevis

A bold, geometric sans serif with a limited character set, it features 96 of the most commonly used glyphs (characters). This font is pretty much suitable for anything, it has thick block lettering and looks great i the uppercase version.

Designer: Ed Merritt (tenbytwenty)

Download

Bebas

Bebas is a very nice all-caps news gothic style bold sans face from Ryoichi Tsunekawa at Flat-It foundry in Japan.

Designer: Ryoichi Tsunekawa

Download

Bebas Neue

Bebas Neue is new and improved version of Bebas originally released in 2005, and also this beautiful sans serif typeface comes only in a uppercase version. The kerning between some of the letters is much better with Bebas Neue then in Bebas, just see the kerning around the letter ‘A’ in our example.

Designer: Dharma Type

Download

Graublau Sans Web

Graublau Sans Web regular and bold were designed by Georg Seifert. The fonts are optimized for screen use and support a wide range of character encodings Graublau is a moderate contrast sans that performs excellently at large sizes. The Bold version is extremely nice to use as a display typeface!

The commercial version (7 weights and over 1000 glyphs per style) is a type family that suits all typographic tasks. For the use in headlines or logotypes Graublau Sans Pro offer 6 additional display styles with rounded corners and tighter spacing.

Designer: Georg Seifert

Download

Coda Font

This beautiful black, bold and heavy sans serif is extremely suited for Headlines and for use on posters. Coda Heavy is built around a simple modular system of geometric shapes and spaces. The concept behind Coda was to create a simple geometric typeface to enbolden web pages and enhance image rich content.

Designer: Vernon Adams (Fonthead Design)

Download

Delicious (Bold)

The Delicious is a complete font family Jos Buivinga designed because of his admiration for typography. Special attention was given to character spacing to obtain a homogenic appearance. The Bold and Heavy weights are more than ideal to use for your headings, titles, etc.

Designer(s): Jos Buivinga (Exljbris )

Download

Days

Days is another neat and free typeface, love the curves, the rounded edges, the compact ‘squared’ feel. Days is a display typeface available in one weight with a slightly Russian feel about it, .. probably because the designers are Russians ;-P

This free font comes in 1 weight and available for Mac and PC as a OpenType format. Includes all basic latin and cyrillic letters, numbers and symbols.

Designers: Aleksey Maslov, Ivan Gladkikh, Alexandr Kalachëv

Download

Kilogram Font

Kilogram font is designed by Kalle Graphics and was based on a font called Anagram by Nick Curtis. Kudos to Karl for designing such a stunning font and not charging for it. Not to mention the work Karl has put into creating the various promo designs for Kilogram, some of which are great.

Designer: Kalle Graphics

Download

AW Conqueror Inline

Several titling typefaces made their appearance at the start of the 20th century, notably Acier and Bifur, both created by French poster artist Cassandre. Later, in the Netherlands, S.H. de Ross designed a version of Inline for its Nobel family called, naturally, Nobel Inline. AW Conqueror Inline pays homage to this beautiful version.

Designer: Jean Francois Porchez

Download

Musa Ornata

This typeface, with its cheerful characters, could be a good fit for event announcements, grocery stores and public transport signage.

Designer: Carvente Dice

Download

Chunk (Five)

Chunk (Five) is an ultra-bold slab serif typeface that is reminiscent of old American Western woodcuts, broadsides, and newspaper headlines. Used mainly for display, the fat block lettering is unreserved yet refined for contemporary use. Chunk is bold & confident, set this type at larger sizes to maximize potential, .. that’s why I have used this typeface in my corporate website. Also I like the slight resemblance with Rockwell .. one of my favorite typefaces ever!

Designer: Meredith Mandel

→ Download

Romeral

Romeral, which was designed all the way back in 2004, is a true display typeface and therefore gorgeous in a header. Romeral is designed to produce a noticeable visual impact that invites the audience to the reading due to its sizable thickness.

Designer: Juan Pablo De Gregorio

Download

Adelle

Adelle Bold and Bold Italic can be downloaded free of charge at TypeTogether’s website. While Adelle is conceived specifically for intensive editorial use, its personality and flexibility make it a real multiple-purpose typeface. The intermediate weights deliver a very legible and neutral look when used in text sizes.

Designed by: Veronika Burian and José Scaglione

Download (registration required)

akaChen

This font bears a marked resemblance to the Clarendon typeface, which was first designed in the mid-19th century and has been used frequently in display work.

Designer: James Milligan (AKAType)

Download

Bodoni Ultra

Though there are many modern revivals of Bodoni’s orginal typeface that align it more readily with Times New Roman than times past, Bodoni Ultra is a striking exception. The dramatic alternation between thick and thin strokes echoes Chauncey H. Griffith’s 1929 Bodoni Poster typeface, used widely in popular print media.

Designer: Casady & Greene

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Communist Serif

And last but not least, the font Communist (Serif ), designed by shamrock in 1993. Communist comes in 4 weights, this is the font that I use in the gonzoblog .. so take a good look around to get the feel of this type! Communist also has a sans-serif in the download-package, but I truelly love the serif, .. very cool!

Designer: shamrock

Download

Where and How to Use Display Typefecase

Display typography suits best for: headlines, book covers, typographic logos and wordmarks, billboards, packaging and labeling, inscriptional and architectural lettering, poster design and other large scale lettering signage, advertising and kinetic typography in motion pictures and television, vending machine displays, online and computer screen displays.

 

Author: Jan Rajtoral

Jan Rajtoral AKA Gonzo the Great is the Founder of and Designer at gonzodesign, providing design services across the full spectrum of Brand Identity, Graphic Design, Print and Advertising Design & Website Design.

8 comments

on this article: “Free Fonts: Display Typefaces”
  1. Love these fonts, thanks for tips !

    • Hi Alex,

      thanks for your comment, glad you liked it! BTW: love your blog, well done!
      Hope to see you a next time? Cheers & Ciao ..

  2. This was a cool look into good display fonts. Thanks!

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