Choosing the right font for your next or current project can be a timely and stressful process, especially if you don’t already have a few go to options. Whist there isn’t strictly a specific category for architectural fonts, there are certain type faces that work better than others.
A good or bad font can make or break a presentation and severally contribute to its level of engagement …So here we offer a list of our favorite fonts (and the ones that we consider to be the best) that will hopefully help you to decide a little quicker and stop the endless scrolling through all the “free” font sites!
What is a font?
The term font comes from metal typesetting and was a specific size, weight and style of a typeface. The typeface would consist of a range of these fonts that would all share the overall design (the typeface).
Today however with digital typography now very dominant, the term font is more commonly associated with/to a typeface, where each font file is a different design.
For example the typeface “Futura” may include the fonts “Futura light”, “Futura italic”, “Futura bold” and “Futura extended”, but the term “font” might be applied either to one of these on their own or to the Futura font as a whole.
As well as the above variations (light, italic and bold), fonts can be categorized by their type of box (higher and lower case), by source, Sans – serif (without serif), Serif (with serif), Script (cursive) and Dingbat (ornamental), in addition to numerous other identity features of the same style.
Why are fonts important?
In terms of architecture, fonts form a fundamental graphic communication device for presentations with nonverbal reading. This is particularly relevant when a project is publically presented and on show, or for competitions and critiques where the work presented is assessed without its author present.
…The go to architectural font
Hopefully you have never experienced a architectural presentation written in Comic Sans! but we can almost guarantee that you have seen (maybe even without knowing) a lot in Helvetica.
It’s an obvious one to font nerds but when you’re pressed for time and/or struggling to find the perfect scenario, Helvetica will rarely let you down.
For those that haven’t come across this font before, there is an excellent film about typography, graphic design and visual culture, that looks at the proliferation of Helvetica.
It explores the way the font affects our daily lives and invites everyone to take a second look at the thousands of words written in it that we see and experience every day.
Our favorite architectural fonts
The below selection of 9 fonts are the fonts that we have had the most success with, and that we feel can be used in just about any architectural situation.
A few of them are paid fonts, and so if don’t wont to pay and cant find a free version hiding somewhere, then Google have a huge array of free fonts where you’ll be able to find something similar here
Designed in 1931 for the German standards body DIN – Deutsches Institut für Normung (German Institute for Standardization) – this font uses all of the principles of the Bauhaus and as a result has not dated in anyway.
It has strong characteristics that make it perfect for architectural use, the first is its condensed nature, that’s means the font creates a strong mass and form when used as text in paragraphs. This results in the type becoming more of a shape on the page and presentation board.
Produced by the American type designer Morris Fuller Benton (1872–1948) in 1902, it reflects and speaks of confidence, boldness and expressiveness.
Franklin Gothic has more character than other sans serif fonts, and works best when accompanying a more subtle and sensitive font, forming either the title or sub-titles of text.
Released in 2000 by Hoefler and Frere-Jones, this clean and modern sans serif typeface was inspired by the lettering found on the architecture of New York City, and has become one of the most popular fonts for designers over the last 13 years.
Created by Paul Renner in the 1920s, this font is a favorite for architects with its classic modern design. Similar to Din 1451 this is inspired by Bauhaus techniques, and uses straight lines and curves that provide balance when used in short paragraph grouping.
It’s best however to avoid using this for long text, as it can it certain circumstances appear over powering and visually distracting.
So adopt this font for titles, subtitles and short paragraphs on your architectural boards and drawings.
Graphic designer Christian Schwartz created this font in honor of the world renowned modernist architect Richard Neutra.
The iconic architectural photographer Julius Schulman and Dion Neutra also participated in the process.
Making it a very popular and highly used typeface in the works of architecture and design and as a competitor for Futura.
Designed by Lucas deGroot, This fonts clean aesthetics and proportions make it a great option for long texts that won’t tire the reader.
It’s widely used in books and specialized Architecture magazines, making it perfect for descriptive texts on presentation boards and for competition entries.
As described above this is a personal go to of ours and widely used due to its minimalistic and straight lined appearance by architects and firms everywhere.
Together with Colsolas this is among one of the most used texts, and is notorious among professionals. Built in the twentieth century, by Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffmann, it is strongly associated with modern graphic design, due to its set of lines and layout its designer sought a neutral and concise design.
Developed by Mike Abbink at IBM in collaboration with Dutch type foundry Bold Monday who are in their own words “the typographical equivalent of a so called “indie” record company”. The front aims to IBM’s brand spirit, beliefs and design principles.
It is the corporate typeface for IBM worldwide. Plex was released as an open source project in 2017 and includes Sans, Sans Condensed, Mono and Serif.
Released in 2015, Lato is a free humanist sans-serif typeface designed by font designer Łukasz Dziedzic. The name “Lato” is Polish for “summer”.
As of August 2018, Lato is thought to be used on more than 9.6 million websites, and is the third most served font on Google Fonts, with over one billion views per day.
Font for architectural portfolios
The above fonts can be used for any type of architectural presentation or document and that certainly includes architectural portfolios.
As touched on, don’t be scared to combine two fonts together (this is a very normal process), one for your titles and one for the main body of your text.
As much like layering your scaled drawings together to form a coherent presentation, layering fonts achieves the same principle.
For some further reading we recommend both “Just My Type: A Book About Fonts” by Simon Garfield and “Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students” by Ellen Lupton