Desert Island Fonts - Final Round | July 5, 2005

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

Mike Davidson

Akzidenz Grotesk

The original sans-serif superstar, Akzidenz was turning tricks back when Helvetica was just a twinkle in Max Miedinger’s eye. I much prefer the elegant yet unrefined quality of this typeface’s letterforms over the newer, overused swiss variants. It’s sort of like an LP record… but it never skips.

Engravers Gothic

For a period of about two years, I attempted to inject this font into every single project I worked on. Even if I couldn’t fit it into the main scene, I screened it back somewhere in the distance just to feel better about myself. For a brief time, I was actually creating design projects for the sole purpose of using Engravers Gothic in them. It was at this point that I sought professional help.


It’s quite simply the most readable sans-serif typeface ever invented… for print at least. On the web, that’d be Lucida Grande, but thanks to Apple, I don’t really have to buy that now, do I…


Designed by Christian Schwartz for House Industries, Neutraface captures the 1950s stylings of architect Richard Neutra in a beautiful typeface meant for application on the screen, in print, and in metalwork. If you are ever in need of a classy retro face, they don’t get any more polished than this.


Like a good mullet, this typeface has something for everyone. Its clean lines make it ideal for logotype, headings, and other professional applications, but its curvy flourishes keep it from looking sterile or uptight.


Originally designed in 1932, and then expanded to multiple weights and widths in the 1990s by David Berlow, this typeface can be made to look futuristic or retro. I’m partial to flexible faces, and Agency is second-to-none in this regard. Use it for old movie posters. Use it for your pathetic Star Trek Convention flyers. Agency feels at home in any environment.

Cameron Moll


Avenir, Avenir, Avenir. I’ve abused this typeface in both web and print work, and it’s held up to the abuse with flying colors.


Also abused in both web and print work, Palatino is undeniably versatile and (imho) a much better option overall than Times.

Proxima Nova

I’m counting down the minutes until this typeface is available. No joke.

Dynasty Light

Someone please give me an excuse to use this in my next project. I take that back — no excuse needed.

Trajan Pro

I’m a sucker for classic Roman letterforms, and it doesn’t get much better than Trajan.

Warnock Pro Light Italic

I stumbled across this gorgeous typeface just recently, and it’s one of the hottest italics I’ve had the pleasure of using in recent months.

Andy Budd

Akzidenz Grotesk

Akzidenz Grotesk is the classic alternative to it’s dowdy and overused relation, Helvetica. If you ever feel the need to use Helvetica, resist the urge and try Akzidenz instead.


Originally designed for the signage at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, Frutiger is a beautifully fluid and legible typeface. Without doubt the most influential typeface in the past 30 tears, Frutiger has been the inspiration for many amazing fonts including the excellent Myriad Pro.

Avenir Next

Futura is a wonderful typeface, although is can feel slightly sterile at times. Adrian Frutiger set about “humanizing” Futura and created Avenir in 1988. Avenir is a beautiful typeface but is restricted to just 12 weights. In 2004 the typface was completely revised and Avenir Next was released with a stunning 96 weights. If you are looking for a modern sans, you need look no further.


Tired of Futura and Gill Sans? Neutraface is a beautiful art-deco alternative. Modern yet retro, this typeface comes with loads of ligatures and 7 beautiful figure styles. If this typeface was a drink it would be a Vodka Martini, shaken, not stirred.

DIN Schriften

DIN stands for Deutsche Industrie-Norm, the German industrial standard. Originally used for German road signage, this typeface was the darling of 90’s graphic designers, and like FF Meta, is starting to make a comeback. With it’s wide open letter forms DIN is am extremely clear and legible typeface, great at any size.

Mrs Eaves

If I had to choose one serif typeface it would be Mrs Eaves. Named after John Baskerville’s wife, this stylised version of Baskerville is loved by graphic designers around the world. Mrs Eaves is a modern serif that retains an air of antiquated dignity. Playful without being too scripty, it’s a fully featured typeface with a beautiful collection of ligatures.

Posted at July 5, 2005 10:54 PM


Mike D. said on July 6, 2005 12:50 AM

My what great taste you have, Mr. Budd! We share 3 out of the 6 (I’m including Myriad/Frutiger since they are so damned close).

Also, I forgot to mention that another great use of Neutraface is to decorate the outside of Todd Dominey’s house.

Manlio said on July 6, 2005 8:11 AM

My biggest complaint with many sans-serif typefaces mentioned in these interesting articles is that they lack old style figures and a true italic.

Andy Budd said on July 6, 2005 9:20 AM

Those Neutraface numerals really are slick.

FF Meta was also on my shortlist but in the end I went with DIN in all its utilitarian simplicity.

Richard Rutter said on July 6, 2005 9:27 AM

Cameron mentioned Trajan. As a historical aside, the name is derived from Trajan’s Column in Rome, an inscription on which is ‘one of the most beautiful examples of classic Roman letterforms’. It’s not hard to see where the inspiration came from.

And Manlio, can you name many san-serifs that do have a true italic? Gill immediately comes to mind but what others are there? By their very nature, the grotesques mentioned would not come with an italic - but then that’s probably your point.

Thomas said on July 6, 2005 12:32 PM

I see that Proxima Nova is available for ordering… Really nice work on Mark’s part! I plan on making this my next Sans-Serif font purchase. Thanks Cameron!
Andy: I’ve really enjoyed following each round - great idea.
To the Designers: Thanks for the insipiration and insight into your choices. I’ve bookmarked a number of fonts for later purchase!

Manlio said on July 6, 2005 1:37 PM

Yes Richard, it’s my personal idiosyncrasy for slanted roman. I know it’s in the nature of grotesque but IMHO it lacks a distinctive character. Frutiger is a masterpiece and, as Andy pointed out “has been the inspiration for many amazing fonts including the excellent Myriad Pro”, but whenever I need the italic I choose Myriad.
Legacy Sans, Scala Sans and Cronos have true italic too.

inguna said on July 6, 2005 1:41 PM

I truly enjoyed all the favorite fonts series. Thanks.
I’m sure all of you know “The Elements of Typographic Style” by Robert Bringhurst, it’s one of my all time favorite books.

mark s said on July 6, 2005 5:54 PM

Two brutal incidents of Helvetica bashing on one page! Overused, well OK I can take that. But dowdy, what a kick in the nuts! You guys should show some respect.

Jason said on July 7, 2005 6:26 PM

You guys need to get fucking lives. ‘fonts on a desert island’? WTF is that? You guys are just fucking sad and pathetic.

Andy Budd said on July 7, 2005 7:32 PM

Thanks for your productive and insightful comment Jason. However you may be taking this post literally rather than figuratively.

Obviously if I was on a desert island I’d choose to bring something for making fire, a knife, fishing equipment etc. You wouldn’t have much luck capturing your dinner with a nicely kerned typeface after all, although you could use it to design the dinner menu if you were that way inclined.

This series of posts is actually a reference to the BBC radio program called desert island disks where well known personalities discuss what music they would take with them to a desert island. The desert island metaphor is simply a plot device that allows people to talk about their favourite music.

In the same way, I’ve asked several well known designers to discuss their favourite typefaces, for the interest and inspiration of this sites readers.

Sure it’s probably not as exciting as talking about the latest episode of your favourite soap or what your favourite boy band is doing. However designers are a funny bunch and actually like spending time learning and discussing their craft.

Marc said on July 8, 2005 7:49 AM

Eh Andy, I’d guess that if Jason had the requisite html skills his comment would be be wrapped in the following tags;
<style=”font-face:rage italic; color:green” abbr title=”moron”>

mark s said on July 8, 2005 8:49 AM

wow! in the light of jason’s comments i feel i need to point out that i was sort of joking. i don’t think you’re sad or pathetic - just a f***ing poor f***ing judge of f***ing dowdiness.

Su said on July 9, 2005 4:10 AM

Named after John Baskerville‚Äôs wife[…]

I thought it was his mistress.

Eddie said on July 10, 2005 1:32 AM

All nice, but I don’t see a finite world of fonts without a single monospace version in the bunch. There are just times where you need guaranteed character alignment.

Andy Budd said on July 10, 2005 10:44 AM

Apparently she was first his housekeeper, then his lover and later they married.

Wynne Hunkler said on July 11, 2005 7:36 PM

I have always been a fan of Emigre; however, when it comes to the choice of Mrs. Eaves, I would have to pick Adobe Jenson. I agree the ligatures in Mrs. Eaves are elegant; however, the open type Jenson includes a number of ligatures, as well.

I really appreciated this read, as I have not studied typography or examined many letter forms closely for some time (and really miss it). I started a typeface in my father’s handwriting a couple of years ago and just kind of “put it down to rest”.

This read might give me back that kick start I need to get back to the outlines …


SHAHYAR MANSOUR said on July 13, 2005 8:11 AM

waiting to download textile

richa said on July 13, 2005 9:23 AM

This is a cool site.richa

cartooncarolyn said on July 15, 2005 7:30 PM


Brian said on July 18, 2005 4:28 AM

If I ever see Neutraface again, I will die. It is a gorgeous typeface, but I’ve seen it used properly only once: in the pathetic excuse for a movie Robots. Every other time, it’s been used because the designer wanted a geometric sans. Neutraface is a very specific geometric sans, and it looks ridiculous when you ignore the fact that it’s retro as hell.

I believe it was a car commercial that got me so enraged with it that I vowed never to buy a car from that brand. I’ve since forgotten what brand it was. Damn, foiled again.

Jack said on July 19, 2005 10:34 AM

I like all of these. Waiting to download them. Visit me at the link below.

ducky said on August 5, 2005 4:22 PM

Meta blows. It was rejected by the post office that commissioned it and it should continue to be rejected.

Akzidenz Grotesk is nice as a display face, but Helvetica blows it away as a text face. Helvetica gets trashed the way Times and long ago Palentino did, simply because they came with nearly every computer. The realty is that Helvetica is used so often because it simply works so well. Now that Avenir is the free font, it will get trashed as over used soon enough.

Interesting note, no Optima (though Avenir was tossed in as a humanist font) and not much of a showing for serif fonts beyond display faces.

Did I mention I do not like Meta.

Vitaly Friedman said on October 14, 2005 11:38 AM

It would be great to create a commen Roundup of license-free fonts, not every freelancing designer is able to pay 300-400$ for a font even if it’s worth it. A perfect example - however, there aren’t so many fonts in the collection - is