Desert Island Fonts - Round 1 | June 15, 2005

If you could only buy 6 fonts, what would they be?

John Hicks


It has to be doesn’t it? THE timeless classic - not the most beautiful typeface (more utilitarian), but certainly the most adaptable, and the full family is essential. Helvetica Neue Light has been overused on anything to do with health/lifestyle, but its still good.


I’ve only recently cottoned on to this one, but works as good as a display font as it does for body text. What’s good enough for Veer…


A bit of Identikal goodness, this is the face I’ve adopted for my logotype, so that’s an must.

Apex Sans

The other sans-serif that I use. Thirstype’s contemporary sans-serif, but not one that will date too quickly. Hopefully this will be an Open Type font soon, and save the current nightmare of my font menus.

Mrs Eaves

I guess I had to include a serif in this list, so this gorgeous face from Emigre with it’s sumptuous ligatures gets my vote. What’s good enough for Radiohead…


A very useful dingbats font. Mainly map symbols, but many make a good starting point for little icons.

Josh Williams


If I were stuck with one sans serif font for the rest of my life, this would be it. No one ever got fired for using Futura in a logo. Maybe its not too creative, but you can’t argue with its elegance.

Ocean Sans

More people ask about my use of Ocean than any other font. You don’t see it used much at all, but it’s truly beautiful. Note the subtle diamonds on the “i” and “j”. We use the font at for our headline text.


Another Firewheel favorite… works great at large and small sizes. Great ligatures.

Mini 7

The quintessential pixel font. Gotta have this if you’re into digital design.


Quite possibly the best looking pixel font there is. If I have a little more space to work with, I’ll use Odyssey over Mini 7.


Because sometime you’re going to need a script-ish font, and this is my current favorite.

Greg Storey

Myriad Pro

Take Helvetica and throw it in the trash. Myriad has long been my sans-serif pick up truck and no overuse by Apple websites is going to change that. With Myriad around there is simply no need to be using Helvetica or that awful Microsoft knockoff Arial.


If anything Frutiger makes the list because this was the primary typeface for Studio Archetype, which is my all time favorite web design shop. Frutiger is a nice change of pace from using Meta FF throughout the years.


It’s the only serif family that I care to use anymore. Unlike other Times New Roman forgeries, Minion has it’s own look and feel that gives off a nice hot metal type look from the days of academia. The small caps alternate makes titles a joy.

Bickham Script

There’s always a need for a good script font and after running through the gambit, Bickham continues to please the eye with it’s clean curves and plethora of alternate beginning and endings.

TV Nord

I love condensed type and EF Nord stands tall among other, more popular faces but this one has a killer ‘g’ and that makes it worth having alone.


I have tried several times to buy this font without success. Designed by an independent font designer who lives in Japan and doesn’t read/write English. I even enlisted the help of Steven from and his global network but never got through.

Posted at June 15, 2005 9:04 AM


David Hughes said on June 15, 2005 8:36 AM

What an interesting and for me timely article.

I’m new to the design side of web design and typography and fonts is an area I have much to learn about.

The links in Jon’s FAQ to two font sites has helped me start to find ‘cool’ fonts.



Kev said on June 15, 2005 8:45 AM

Wait a second - no comic-sans?

And you people call yourself designers.

Martin Smith said on June 15, 2005 9:29 AM

Trade Gothic Condensed
I’ve been using this font for years. The condensed version does it for me, I can take or leave the rest of the family.

Meta Plus and Meta Plus Caps
Another great all-rounder with some subtle little quirks that make it stand out.

Snell Roundhand
Reach for the scripty all-rounder. Not overly elegant this sweet little font is happily applied to most jobs that require script.

Oh c’mon… you would!

Another font I er.. picked up many years ago. This is a large family and every variant is lovely. You could produce a whole set of fairly diverse literature without leaving the LeMonde family.

Garamond any cut
Tried and tested - we only have six fonts right? This old stalwart should plug the gaps nicely.

Richard Earney said on June 15, 2005 10:49 AM

The Helvetica Meditations!!!

Myriad Pro is lovely.
Gill Sans Light but not bold - gets ugly as it gets bolder.
News Gothic - some lovely shapes
Lucide Grande

Matt Carey said on June 15, 2005 11:10 AM

Some safe ones…

Akzidenz Grotesk

Tony said on June 15, 2005 11:56 AM

Mrs. Eaves

The first five were easy. I’m torn on the last one. Script font? Display? I’m pretty open to the last option, it would depend upon my mood that day.

What an excellent post.

AkaXakA said on June 15, 2005 11:56 AM

Comic Sans

‘nuff said.

mearso said on June 15, 2005 1:15 PM

I’ve always had a soft spot for Eurostyle
and Cooper Black

Neither is subtle, but formative years poring through Letraset catalogues have left their mark.

Zeerus said on June 15, 2005 1:40 PM

I lean more towards graphic design, so luckily I don’t have to worry about chooisng “web-safe” fonts.

when building pages I generally use Verdana as my body font. It’s nice clean, and easy to use.

Headlines I like Trebuchet MS or a Georgia variant font

For pixel or bitmap fonts I use either Bitlow or Visitor. Two great pixel fonts that always look great, though bitlow is very limited.

other than that I try to go for unique fonts. Porcelain and Selfish from Misprinted Type are two of my favorites.

If I had to make a list of six essential fonts it might take a little while. I’m not very creative when it comes to font use on the web. I guess that’s one of the only problems I have with design.

Rob Cottingham said on June 15, 2005 5:49 PM

A desert island, you say? Easy.

Any two Howells
The Professor
…And Cirrus, by MaryAnne

Kevin said on June 15, 2005 6:54 PM

I would pick Copperplate on my gravestone. Because it is timeless, plus it makes me look important.

Achilles283 said on June 15, 2005 8:24 PM

When designing for the web I use Lucida Sans Unicode or Tahoma.

Nicholas said on June 15, 2005 10:27 PM

Just a beautiful font, make me feel good just using it.

Trade Gothic
My default utilitarian font. I probably use this too much :D

Great all-around serif face, great italics and small caps. Also has beautiful swashes.

Old Claude
Great for the quickie faux worn type look.

My favorite script/handwritten face. Good set of alternates.

Jim Renaud said on June 16, 2005 12:43 AM

I think I smell a MEME brewing…

Bruno Girin said on June 16, 2005 12:04 PM

I only need one, with its 5 variants: Computer Modern. Then I have serif, sans-serif and monotype all in one.

Bruno Girin said on June 16, 2005 12:06 PM

I meant monospace but I’m sure you understood :-)

cdharrison said on June 16, 2005 1:15 PM

My favorites are Courier New, Microsoft Sans Serif, Mistral, Monotype Corsiva, Papyrus, and Playbill.


I’m a Myriad Pro guy too…
Univers, News Gothic, Helvetica Neue - great font families.
TRAJAN Pro - a must have. Classic, elegant. Just a beatiful font.
Lucida Grande - great for the web.

Stephanie said on June 16, 2005 9:15 PM

I think Amplitude could handle just about anything.
Caslon or something classic is necessary.
Mrs. Eaves is a personal favorite… but don’t abuse her. Keep her meaningful and beautiful.
I use Verdana for the web.
A clever Veer script… Hucklebuck maybe.
& Farao is hot!
But I would trade any for the extreme usabilty of Thesis.

Josh Williams said on June 17, 2005 2:55 PM

I’m not sure if Andy listed both John’s and Greg’s fonts in the order they sent them to him, but he listed mine in order… that said, I find it interesting that each of our top fonts is a utilitarian sans serif.


Myriad would definitely have to win out if you needed a sans for large body copy use.

For me a lot of the pixel font usage has to do with the large amount of mobile UI design we’re doing right now. Most phones have real crappy fonts, so high-quality pixel fonts are a must-have for our work right now.

Good stuff, Andy.

Tim Stewart said on June 20, 2005 2:48 AM

Zapf Humanst
Lucida Sans
Jenkins v2.0
Trebuchet MS

Károly György Tamás said on June 21, 2005 5:17 PM

My five favorits:
Garamond, Optima, Franklin Gothic, Eurostile, Bodoni.

jenny said on June 21, 2005 11:01 PM

I’d only need one: Bookman Old Style. Just plain ol’ good stuff. Reminds me of Benjamin Franklin for some reason.

In my humble and very unenlightened opinion, Papyrus is just too overused right now—I see it on everything. And come to think of it, I don’t know that I’ve ever actually seen a papyrus featuring that font, and I’ve been through the Cairo Museum three times. Hmmm….another mystery…

jenny said on June 21, 2005 11:05 PM

I lied. Add Copperplate Gothic Bold. Veddy, veddy uppah clahss, if you know whaht I mean.

jenny said on June 21, 2005 11:10 PM

Oh for Pete’s sake: I actually meant Book Antiqua, not Bookman Old Style. Speaking of Benjamin Franklin, I’ll bet tha—even at his age—his memory is better now than mine will ever be.

Hauke Rehfeld said on June 23, 2005 6:55 PM

most of you would be coding css/html without a monospace font -interesting… ;)

Todd Dominey said on June 24, 2005 8:15 PM

Alright, I’ll jump in.

FF Kievit
A workhorse sans-serif that works well at all point sizes, especially small. Comes with a small caps style too which is essential when working with just about any typeface.

You always need a bitmap for something, and after all these years this is still my favorite for bitmaps. It doesn’t work well in Flash though, so I like to use FFF Corporate or the Miniml fonts for that.

A strong, solid sans-serif with a beautiful x-height that works well online.

You’ll always need a good, strong body typeface for longer passages, so you may as well go with old faithful.

Over used, but with good reason — it’s strong, reads well, and comes with a huge array of weights.

Vitaly Friedman said on September 5, 2005 8:13 PM

From my side I’d like to add some fonts which aren’t only nice, newspaper-headers-like and quite… official, but also free.

Vera Sans Mono
Yanone Kaffeesatz
Lido STF
Day Roman
District Thin and Cardo

With warm greetings from Saarbruecken, Germany,
Vitaly Friedman,
hp | Web-Dev-Bookmarks | { Web Developer’s Handbook }

Dylan said on October 15, 2005 4:16 PM


Good enough.