by Yael Miller
Over the last several years I've been using many different fonts when designing brand identities and packaging. I like to think of fonts as having their own personality - just like people. Fonts can be brash, silly, elegant, refined, cool, delicate, straightforward, austere, lush or honest. Good use of typography goes a long way, and your choice of fonts will have a significant impact on getting the product/brand's message across appropriately. I've thought about what fonts I've used more than once and why I like them. Out of the countless fonts I've used, here are 15 of my favorites (in no particular order). Enjoy!
Foundry: Positype • Buy
Kari is a great-looking, confident display font that works well in packaging. It stands out and is easy to read, yet has the warmth and vitality of a brush script.
Foundry: Linotype • Buy
Didot is a classic-looking font that's bold enough to stand on its own. The thick-and-thins don't seem to take away from its readability. I like to use this font for gourmet packaging. It's also more distinctive than New Baskerville or Times New Roman, yet has a similar sensibility.
Foundry: IHOF • Buy
Pooper Black is an excellent, versatile brushscript font that's easy on the eyes. It's casual, friendly style makes it useful in all kinds of packaging - including mass supermarket type packaging. Its sidekick, Sneaky, is a newer font designed to work together with Pooper Black. It's connectors are elegant and work well interspersed with Pooper Black to create some variation. Both are great together or on their own. It works well with multiple effects and when set on a curved path.
Foundry: Bitstream • Buy
Engravers Gothic is a useful font for elegant applications. It's readable at small sizes and works well as a backup font for larger, display fonts. Its clean and classic styling allow it to fit in with lots of different packaging styles.
Foundry: Hubert Jocham Type • Buy
Schoko, a newer font, is a lightweight and stylish brush script. Its usefulness in packaging is its relative readability (which isn't always easy to find in a script). It's not too bulky, so it works where you need something a little more light footed, but can't sacrifice on readability.
Foundry: Adobe • Buy
Rosewood is an old-fashioned font style - I actually like the 'fill' variation (shown above). When I look at this font, I keep thinking of barbecues and beef jerky. But, don't judge this font too quickly. When you juxtapose Rosewood with design elements that don't seem to obviously go together, you get a quirky and fresh look. It's great to experiment with and see what kind of effect you get.
Foundry: Berthold • Buy
Akzidenz Grotesk is a great multi face san serif font, similar to Helvetica. It's useful for a variety of applications. I used this font in the design of shirah wine label.
Foundry: Insigne • Buy
Questal is a newer font that has roots in traditional typography, but doesn't take itself too seriously. This quirky unicase serif font family is interesting in display sizes. I find this typeface useful in premium packaging. It would do well on wine labels or high-end gourmet food.
Foundry: Insigne • Buy
I think Chennai is a cute font, but can hold its own. It's very sensitive to context. The smooth curves and absence of any corners make it a lighthearted and almost girly font. Depending on how its used, it can take on a clean, modern sensibility (think: hip gelato shop) or a fun, friendly look (think: toys). I recently used this font for rebranding a supermarket. It definitely gave it a more contemporary feel.
Designer: Pia Frauss • Download
Among the many badly-designed free fonts out there, there are always some gems. Jane Austen is one of them. This elegant, confident handwritten script adds character and energy to the right design. Use Jane Austen in a subtle way in the background of a design to add some texture, with a tone-on-tone effect. You may need to tame some of the extenders on the lower case 't' - they are really long. I usually expect to tweak free fonts, but they can be very useful anyway.
Foundry: Exljbris • Download
Another free font, Fontin, is by the same designer as the popular Museo (which is used in the dieline's logo!) Fontin is terrific in gourmet food packaging - its clean readability makes it useful in body copy, and the attention to detail make it equally effective at display sizes. Its rounded forms and gentle serifs keep this font fresh and sets it apart from more traditional serif fonts.
Foundry: Letterhead Fonts • Buy
One of my favorite type foundries is Letterhead Fonts. They have the most prolific collection of vintage and modern sign lettering fonts anywhere. The high quality and uniqueness of the fonts makes any purchase from them worth the money. Tideway Script is a great font for packaging. It's got an old fashioned look that works well in display uses. The alternate characters are useful, too.
Foundry: Font Bureau • Buy
When you need something super elegant, Sloop Script is perfect. Its smooth shapes and voluptuous upper-case letters are gorgeous in any context. This font would be appropriate for premium chocolate packaging or wine/spirits.
Foundry: Adobe • Buy
Helvetica Neue is the most practical and versatile font on the planet. When it comes to packaging, this font shines. It ca be used in display type and for utilitarian purposes, like nutrition facts panels and legal copy. I use the condensed versions very often for stuff like that.
Some Rules of Thumb
Keep # of Fonts to a Minimum. Try to keep the number of fonts on a package at 2-3 typefaces total. It's best to keep the number of fonts used in a design to a minimum. Sometimes there are exceptions, but use your best judgment.
Kerning is Mandatory. No font, no matter how expensive or good it is, is immune to irregular kerning. You should always double-check the spacing between letters to make sure they're even. This will make the difference between amateur design and professional work.
Fonts are Not Infallible. If a specific letter looks weird or somehow 'off', use your judgment to repair or replace it. Some fonts (especially hand-written scripts and free fonts) have strange-looking characters. You should use a critical eye and replace or tweak a character until it looks right.
Readability is King. If you can't read it, it probably doesn't belong on packaging. Again, there are exceptions to this rule, but it's rare. No matter how 'cool' a font is, if you can't read it, the package is handicapped in conveying its message - what's inside and why you should buy it.
About Yael Miller
Yael is a brand identity and packaging designer. Her studio, Miller Creative, provides brand naming, brand development, packaging design and consulting on packaging and product development. She specializes in gourmet food, chocolate, luxury and health/beauty packaging. She is senior editor at The Dieline and lives in NJ with her husband, Reuben and their adorable kids.