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From logos to letterhead to websites, a consistent look helps your customers identify you. But branding your business can be expensive, and many small businesses can't justify the outlay. To create a consistent look for your business—without breaking the bank—consider using the same typeface for all of your communications and materials. We found five fonts to set the right note without blowing your budget.
Getting down to business with fonts
Certainly, a popular typeface or font like Arial, Times New Roman, or many of the others included with Microsoft Word will be Web-safe—but will it set you apart as the go-to company? Your typeface needs to be more than just legible: It helps define your business. Your customers will have an emotional response to your typeface, and unless you're a preschool, they may not appreciate the levity of Comic Sans.
Make sure you're choosing a typeface that comes complete with italic (or "oblique," identical glyphs that slant just as italics) and bold faces at the very least. Many popular sans serif fonts—for example, Tahoma—do not have separate italic or oblique faces. When you apply "italic" formatting to Tahoma, your operating system creates a synthetic version of the font in the oblique style. You'll encounter the same problem with many of the display fonts—serif or sans serif—you can download. Synthetic fonts won't print as expected on many high-end devices, so if you want to print commercially, either now or down the road, choose carefully.
For businesses who want to grow, and brand well right from the get-go, these five typefaces offer some great options, from classic to modern, with expanding options. All are free to download and try out, but check the license before sending out an all-staff email announcing the new company font.
To see all the software in a more compact arrangement, see our chart of the file downloads.
Gentium speaks many languages
Gentium, a TrueType typeface designed by J. Victor Gaultney, is part of SIL International's Non-Roman Script Initiative. The ultimate goal of Gentium is to provide diverse ethnic groups around the world with a digital resource to present their complex languages. Even without that lofty goal, the typeface itself is refined and modern, yet classically elegant.
To the casual observer, Gentium may seem similar to Times New Roman, with a stacked letter-press type lowercase, delicate serifs, and legibility at very small sizes. But Gentium has more rounded glyphs, and a much less harsh overall appearance. Gentium supports a wide range of Latin- and Cyrillic-based alphabets, and is available in a number of versions to fit all your business needs.
Gentium Basic includes upper and lowercase, numbers, punctuation, special characters, and a limited Latin character set. Gentium Book (designed by Gaultney with Annie Olsen) is a slightly heavier version. Both Gentium and Gentium Book include italic, bold, and bold italic faces. In addition, Gentium Plus offers extended Latin glyphs, archaic Greek symbols, and full extended Cyrillic script support; but currently includes only regular and italic faces. Gentium Alt includes more than 2400 kerning pairs and flatter diacritics designed to improve appearance when writing non-English (and offers fun options that may not be typographically correct, but add flair).
Gentium fonts are free for both personal and commercial use, in addition to being open source under the SIL Open Font License (which permits both redistribution and modification). Embedding is installable.
Take your business on a smooth journey with Jura
Jura is a contemporary serif TrueType font designed by Ed Merritt from Ten By Twenty. There are no hard edges in Jura. All the corners and angles are elegantly smoothed, which brings to mind the Isle of Jura (in Scotland's Inner Hebrides) more than the sub-alpine Jura Mountain Range.
Jura has much more even line thickness than many other serif fonts. Jura is much less of a calligraphic type than traditional Times New Roman, but it's not marker-drawn either—and the serifs blend easily into the strokes, giving Jura a unique look. Like most serif fonts, Jura includes the letter-press style lower case a and g, although the g has an interesting flat bottom that matches the modern, short ascenders and descenders of this typeface.
Jura is quite legible at very small text sizes, but it's also interesting enough to be used for display purposes. The Jura typeface has regular, bold, an oblique italic-style, and bold-italic faces, which in turn all include all upper and lowercase, numbers, punctuation, diacritics, some special characters and mathematical glyphs. Jura is donationware that's downloadable for free for personal and commercial use; but if you're making money, consider donating to Merritt via the ten by twenty Web site. Embedding is installable, meaning the font will be installed on other's systems when you embed it into a file they then open.
Museo Slab looks sharp for more than museums
Designed by Jos Buivenga of Exljbris, OpenType (PostScript) font Museo Slab is the offspring of popular—and also free—Museo. As Museo Slab's name suggests, this is a slab serif typeface, but don't let that fool you into thinking Museo Slab is purely a display font. Museo Slab is legible at tiny sizes, and includes more than 25,000 kerning pairs.
If you are looking for a modern edge, but want to retain legibility and clarity, Museo Slab is a good place to start. Museo Slab includes all upper and lowercase letters, numbers, punctuation, special characters, and diacritics. The italic face retains the stacked letter-press type lowercase a of the regular version (unlike many serif fonts, which switch to the handwritten a in the italic face), but converts bottom serifs to smooth curves in some of the lowercase letters (m, n, p, for example), giving a more delicate look.
Museo Slab 500 and Museo Slab 500 Italics are both available for free for personal and commercial use. Other weights (Museo Slab 100, 100 Italic, 300, 300 Italic, 500, 500 Italic, 700, 700 Italic, 900, 900 Italic, 1000, and 1000 Italic) also are available to purchase. Various weights and faces of complementary Museo and Museo Sans also are available for free.
Blind Prophet Tiresias sees all
In Greek mythology, Tiresias was a blind prophet. This TrueType typeface was designed for the Royal National Institute of Blind People, a UK charity. Tiresias was originally distributed to allow blind and partially sighted people better access to information through a well-designed typeface that's easy to read and can be machine-read. This goal yielded a typeface that works beautifully at both large and surprisingly small sizes.
Tiresias is a sans seriffont, and includes all upper and lowercase, numbers, punctuation, mathematical symbols, some diacritics, and special characters. Tiresias is a nice alternative to Comic Sans if you're looking for a typeface that's very easy to read, although Tiresias uses a stacked letterpress lowercase a (but a regular lowercase g). Tiresias is available in a number of versions with slight variations. All come with regular, bold, and oblique faces. Tiresias LPfont includes very tiny curves on the edges of all glyphs (regular and oblique) which gives it a stylish upper hand; and its relatively narrow glyphs add to its distinguished nature.
Tiresias is free for personal and commercial use under the GNU General Public License (published by the Free Software Foundation); you may also redistribute and adapt Tiresias under this license. However, if your business becomes hugely successful, consider making a donation to the Royal National Institute of Blind People to support their programs.
There's an Aller for every business
OpenType (TrueType flavored) Aller was created by Dalton Maag Ltd. for the Danish School of Media and Journalism. Aller Standard Edition is available for free (for up to 25 users within each organization) in three different versions: Aller and Aller Light, which include italic faces; and Aller Display.
A modern sans serif typeface family, all versions of Aller include some interesting variations: in the regular form, the tail of the uppercase Q floats just below the baseline and ordinarily joined angles just barely touch in lowercase letters k, x, and y, giving the typeface a very airy appearance.
Aller Display is a heavier weight, and includes complementary quirks: the lowercase letters in Aller Display are a combination of bubbly uppercase and lowercase glyphs, which give Aller Display somewhat of a dated look (reminiscent of a font created in the 1970s to try to look futuristic). All versions are legible at text sizes, and also work well at display sizes; plus they include upper and lowercase letters, numbers, punctuation, mathematical symbols, some diacritics, and special characters.
All variations of Aller Standard are free for personal and commercial use for up to 25 users within an organization. For additional users, please contact Dalton Maag. Preview and print embedding is allowed.
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