Combining Typefaces: Free guide to great typography

Originally published by Five Simple Steps in 2013, my Pocket Guide to Combining Typefaces has sold thousands of copies, been used in college curricula, and been cited in conference talks by industry-leading designers.

Unfortunately, Five Simple Steps closed its doors this month. Because this pocket guide is no longer available for purchase, I’ve decided to make it available for free here on the Typekit blog. Download the PDF, and enjoy.

Here’s the official marketing material:

This very brief “pocket guide” is for designers and developers who want to make better choices about type and build their typographic expertise. Successful typeface combinations are partly a matter of good taste, which can be tough to develop. And finding typefaces that work well together often takes more time than we (or our managers, or our spouses!) think it should.

The guide will give you a framework for efficient practice, lead you to founts of knowledge, and help you judge the work you see, including your own work. It will also encourage you to be selective, patient, and reasonable, focusing on web contexts and your design goals.

Table of contents

  1. Type: Some background on type and typography, covering designers, anatomy, families, classification, and the jobs that typefaces do.
  2. Context: A brief look at web compositions as coordinated chunks of typeset elements, shifting among many states simultaneously.
  3. Choosing typefaces: Strategies for selecting typefaces based on real design goals, to truly understand why a combination works or doesn’t.
  4. Judging combinations: Practical advice about identifying successful typeface combinations by using them and looking at them carefully.
  5. Critique: An appraisal of five different sites’ type choices and typesetting, noting the relationships between their successes and the strategies and advice in this guide.

So go ahead, take a copy of my Pocket Guide to Combining Typefaces (PDF). I hope you like it. And if you do read it, please let me know what you think.

38 Responses

  1. Thanks for making this available, Tim! Such a good book. Glad it gets to live on.

  2. Seth Taylor says:

    Thanks for sharing your insights Tim. I look forward to reading and teaching the material to our studio.

  3. Richard Fink says:

    Thanks Tim! I’ve posted about this on my FontFriday page on FB.
    Can’t wait to read it.

  4. magalhini says:

    I can’t thank you enough for this. Will certainly find a quiet and sunny spot this week to devour it at once and make the most of it in my upcoming typography projects. Thank you!

  5. Well done, Tim. That’s a kind and charitable thing to do!

  6. john melven says:

    Lovely. Thank you🙂

  7. Karen says:

    Very kind of you to do this. Thank you!

  8. Brian Wood says:

    Thank you so much, Tim. I understand what it takes to write a book—no matter how big. So thank you for sharing it!

  9. Urs says:

    Thanks for sharing.
    Regards from Zurich, Switzerland

  10. Thank’s from Kazakhstan! Good luck!

  11. Thank you from San Marcos, Texas!

  12. Lisa D. says:

    Thanks so much for offering up your insight for free. I look forward to learning what you have to say.

  13. Greg Comfort says:

    Thank you so much for this. Very handy and useful tool for my information design students here in Christchurch, New Zealand.

  14. Denise Wolber says:

    Thank you, Tim! Very nice of you to make this available.

  15. Thanks a lot for this! It just came at the right time for my next project🙂

  16. Theo says:

    Thank you very much!

  17. Karla Webb says:

    Thank you.

  18. Jon Ewing says:

    I just scanned through the 60+ pages and, fittingly and unsurprisingly, it’s a beautifully-designed book and I look forward to reading it. Thank you for sharing from Reading, Berkshire, UK!

  19. Ricardo Zea says:

    Gold comes in different shapes, this piece comes in electronic format.

    HUGE Thank you Tim!

  20. Jessica says:

    Thank you kindly for your thorough guide!!

  21. Yo! Majorus thankitudinal. Totally.

  22. Maria says:

    Thank you very much from Argentina!🙂

  23. Gene says:

    Thank you for sharing this. God Bless…

  24. Liam Quin says:

    Thank You Sir😀

  25. Robin Turner says:

    Thanks for sharing! I’m about to rebuild my website from scratch, and well definitely consult this book when I choose my fonts.

  26. Pete Y. says:

    Thanks for making this available!

  27. Jan Šablatura says:

    Awesome work! Thanks for sharing!

  28. Thanks It would be very helpful!

  29. Thanks this is really helpful Tim.

  30. bea says:

    Thank you for help. Big job for others. Great

  31. Dave Husbands says:

    Thanks for this Tim it’s much appreciated.

  32. This was really helpful, thank you for shearing this with all the people on te web🙂

  33. growdigital says:

    big thank you🙂

  34. My web design and multimedia students will benefit from your awesomeness! Thank you so much, from stillorgan college!! Dublin Ireland.

  35. Charmaine says:

    Thank you very much for sharing! This is very helpful. Appreciate the good gesture.

  36. James R. Charlton says:

    Hey Tim………..thanks for the book, it will be a great help I can see. I started in printing when I was just 17, when they were still setting type by hand, learned how to set pages, and everything up, different furniture, spacing etc. Learned Linotype and other letter press methods and moved on to offset, finally retiring some 50 years in the biz. Again thanks Tim…30

  37. Stephen says:

    What a fantastic guide, Tim! You’ve very kind to have shared it with us, and thank you!

Comments are closed.

Tim Brown

Head of Typography for Adobe Typekit & Adobe Type. Practicing typography and web design every day. I write, speak, and make tools to share what I learn. I try to be helpful. I love my wife, kids, family, friends, teachers, and dogs. I'm a volunteer firefighter.

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