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"Font" used to refer to a complete set of characters of one typeface (set of characters that share a common design structure) in a specific size and style. So for a typesetter from 40 years ago, a typeface would be Times New Roman, a font family within it would be Times New Roman demi-bold, and a font within that would be 12-point Times New Roman demi-bold. Since the advent of digital media, the two terms are considered synonymous.
In order to correct visually uneven spacing between two particular characters in a font, there is a process called kerning. It adds or subtracts space between characters.
It can be confused with letter-spacing or tracking, which refers to the amount of space between letters in a piece of text. Tight spacing usually benefits large types, but it has a subjective feeling ("fast talking like in advertising") whereas wider spacing increases legibility of small fonts, and creates an association of a more “objective voice”. In excess, the text can look affected.
Serif: Serifs are embellishments details added at the extremes of the strokes of some letters.
- Times New Roman. A formal font accused of being so okay it's average.
- Georgia. A heavier Times New Roman, with old-style figures, designed for on-screen legibility.
- Trajan is the film poster font.
- Garamond and Baskerville (an updated Caslon, a British font used in the American colonies and in historic documents, like the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Still used and highly considered today). They offer formality and elegance.
- Clarendon. Common in wanted posters (like the "REWARDS" text in ) of The Wild West, logotypes and old traffic signs.
- Computer Modern, the LaTeX font. Is a didone type (horizontal lines are thinner than the vertical parts).
- Bodoni. Also a didone, this historic font is suitable for posters, headlines or logos.
- Cambria Math is the default, and only shipped, font for the current Equation Editor in Word. Other fonts, such as the Times-like XITS Math, are available for download and sort of compatible with Equation Editor.
- Palatino. Classic one, easy to read.
Sans Serif: While serif fonts are more usual in print, sans serifs are widely used online. There is no agreement in which of the two has better readability (facility to read text) and legibility (to recognize characters).
- Helvetica. Designed to be the 'perfect' typeface; meaning it could be used on almost any design or purpose. By the end of the 20th century, it and its clones has been overused by amateurs and professionals alike.
- Helvetica is the font used for most things on TV Tropes (when stuff isn't set to the individual browser default). The monospaced font we have is Courier.
- Arial. Suspiciously Similar Substitute.
- Univers. The Rival: Both were created the same year (1957) and are extremely legible. Univers has wider letter-spacing.
- Futura. Geometric type (therefore a very modern look) used extensively as a general purpose font.
- Its Bauhaus style is good for a movie set in The Fifties and you want to show signage at a research laboratory or tables in a science textbook (even though it is considered more a font from The Thirties, where it may also be found, but more in the context of something high end, like a fine arts publication).
- Frutiger. Quite popular, it has a clean modern look.
- Century Gothic. Geometric counterpart to ITC Avant Garde. For headlines and short texts.
- Gotham. Commissioned by GQ magazine to be geometrical and look "masculine, new, and fresh".
- Verdana. Sans serif counterpart to Georgia. Both were created by Microsoft.
- Replacement Scrappy: Some felt that Ikea lost part of his identity when Verdana, in 2009, replaced Futura as the default font for their catalogs.
- Franklin Gothic. Makes sense for headlines and minor design elements.
- Lithos gives a primitive-ethnic feel. Good if you have a movie set in The Nineties and want to show a restaurant menu.
- Calibri. In 2010 became the default typeface in, among others, Microsoft Office, substituting Times New Roman and Arial.
- Roboto. The "Android font" as of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). Released for desktop systems by Google in 2012.
- Segoe. As "Segoe UI", the Microsoft user interface font for Windows Vista and 7, along with Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010. A slightly-different version of Segoe is the font for Windows 8 and Windows Phone.
Script: Meant to imitate handwriting or calligraphy.
- Comic Sans MS. An informal script font for funny stuff. Almost never used appropriately.
- Love It or Hate It: Most designers are on the hate wagon but its users show their love writing everything in it. Especially in pink.
- One reason Comic Sans MS is bad even for comics is that the capital I has serifs. Properly lettered comics only have bars on the I when it's being used as the first-person pronoun or in initialisms (see "crossbar I" section), not mid-word or at the start of a sentence. It's also a very wide and round font, whereas many comics do better with something narrow. A better font for comics is Digital Strip, as it has the slight slant and thickness variations common in hand-lettered comics.
- Monotype Corsiva. To add a casual feeling to invitations, personal cards and short sponsored texts.
- Kuenstler Script and Snell Roundhand. Highly formal, based on elaborated calligraphy from the 17th and 18th centuries.
- Kaufmann, Mistral, Dom Casual (which has a freehand effect similar to Comic Sans) and Brush Script. Casual script typefaces (they emulate informal handwriting). Very popular in advertising and entertaining magazines.
- Dom Casual peaked in popularity in the mid-'50s to early '70s, when it was (over)used much as Comic Sans is now. Today it's most often used when a "retro" look is desired.
Monospaced: Each character occupies the same amount of horizontal space.
- Courier New. Looks like typewriting. Great for plain text e-mails, screenplays and code.
- OCR-A. Bar code or credit card font. Was created in 1968 to be easily recognized by computers. It has a retro-futuristic look, so it's also used in advertising and display graphics.
- OCR-B: Also for optical character recognition, but has a less technical appearance.
- Lucida Console is the typeface used in the blue screen of death in Windows XP and Windows CE, as well as the default font for Notepad. It's also the only font that can replace the default one in the Command Prompt. In other platforms there is Lucida Typewriter.
- Impact. Considered amateurish, is good for making lists or standing text out. White-with-black-border Impact is used in an awful lot of image memes.
- Haettenschweiler: An alternative.
- French Clarendon. Apart from Clarendon, this variation was used in the wanted posters to highlight a word or phrase.
- Anonymous TrueType and Anonymous Pro. Initially designed for Macs, these got exported to other operating systems. Popular with coders and some developers, they have a very clean look. Often overlooked because of compatibility issues.
- Papyrus. Ancient-looking font.
- Curlz and ITC Viner Hand seem to have become the stereotypical gothic typefaces.
- Wingdings and Webdings. A series of Microsoft dingbat (symbols instead of letters and numbers) fonts. Not to be confused with the Unicode symbols, these fonts use symbols on actual letters (such as J for a smiley face).
- Marlett is a symbol font used internally by Windows to create user interface icons.
- Broadway, created in 1927. Popular with works set in the 1930s.
- Helvetica--a documentary about typography.
- Thursday Next: In the Bookworld, different fonts are regarded as different languages.
- Achewood. Lyle finds the guy who invented Comic Sans, and the rest of the cast drop what they're doing so they can beat the tar out of him.
- Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff is the deliberately terrible creation of Homestuck's Dave Strider. So all text in the comic is Comic Sans.
- Xkcd shows us how to exploit a font. This strip deals with the frustration in recognizing bad kerning.
- Wondermark features a character obsessed with this trope.
- College Humor has created two shorts based on fonts, Font Conference and Font Fight. Different fonts are personified by different actors, assuming personas suggested by the font names. Thus Comic Sans is a superhero, Wing Dings is a mental patient able to speak only using the names of symbols ("diamonds candle candle flag!"), Futura is a time traveler from the future, Century Gothic is a goth, etc.
- If you're using Firefox, a handy add-on to tell what fonts are used on a Web page is fontinfo; highlight and right-click on text to use it.
- An interesting kerning exercise can be found here.
It also provides examples of:
- Discredited Trope: For professional print design, most of the default Windows fonts and their Mac equivalents fall into this. However, they are very common in Web design because of their high compatibility rate with most browsers.
- To overuse and misuse script fonts, especially Brush Script.