Use OpenType fonts (OTF) for any project that contains a print component. TrueType fonts (TTF) are not suitable for print applications. ALL comprehensive, cross-media projects should use OpenType fonts.
Don’t use the fonts that came with your computer or software. This is one of those warnings that often goes unheeded because people mistake it for snobbery. It isn’t. Here are just a few reasons why you shouldn’t use them:
They will get you pre-judged. Creative Directors screening portfolios will stop at the first instance of Comic Sans or Papyrus and move on to someone else. Don’t let someone ignore your work before they’ve even seen it.
Many of them are poorly designed versions of more comprehensive typefaces.
Many of them are built for screen use only and not suitable for comprehensive projects.
They’re ubiquitous. Sometimes fonts are designed well enough, but the fact that they’re bundled with operating systems or design software makes them severely overused and less-than-professional. Nothing says “I ran this design up quickly in Microsoft Word” like using Times New Roman. Nothing says “This design is worth no more than an internet meme” like using Impact. Nothing says, “I wanted this to look just like the iMovie my kids made for me” like Zapfino. Nothing says, “I chose this just because it was in the dropdown menu” like Myriad.
They may not be intended for English. With today’s global media, many international fonts come with your machine. You may not know that a certain typeface is meant for Thai or Devanagari or Cyrillic text, because it has a basic Roman character set.
Try as much as you can to stick with large, versatile font families—real type workhorses, and to avoid decorative fonts with limited use (like scripts, grungy fonts, and “Old English” type), except very sparingly, in treatments like headlines.
Never stretch or compress type. It should always be used at its original proportions.
You should never answer the question, “What type are you using?” with, “I don’t know,” or, worse, “Some font I downloaded.” Type must be professional-quality and of good provenance, from a named designer with an eye toward traditional typographic standards (as regards metrics, proportion, etc.).
There are very few OpenSource/free comprehensive type families available in both web and OTF format. Here are a few:
Alegreya, by Juan Pablo del Peral
Amaranth, by Gesine Todt
Delicious, by Jos Buivenga
Exo, by Natanael Gama
Fontin, by Jos Buivenga
Fontin Sans, by Jos Buivenga
Gentium, by the Gentium Project
Kaffeesatz (FF Kava prototype), by Yanone
Lato, by Łukasz Dziedzic
Signika, by Anna Giedryś
Titillium, by the Academy of Fine Arts, Urbino
“Web-safe” fonts are a thing of the past, except as the last resort in your CSS font stack. You should be serving your users the primary fonts in your site design. The vast majority of Google Fonts are sketchy, and uploading “your own” on FontSquirrel is, frankly, illegal.
You should be subscribing to a webfont service and using it regularly by the second level of your Web Design courses.
We recommend Adobe’s TypeKit as a baseline webfont resource. You can sign up automatically during your Creative Cloud download, and from there, it’s easy to subscribe to one of their plans. Their Portfolio plan affords you use of their entire font library, with half a million discrete pageviews per month at $50 per year. That’s a pretty great deal. You probably spend exponentially more on coffee.
If you eventually want to move up a level, Hoefler & Frere Jones’s cloud.typography service probably best represents the next generation of web type—it’s browser- and size- responsive, and looks beautiful to boot.