The quest for the perfect non-web font

At university, I write down most of what the teacher says during a lecture, and given that I do so on my MacBook and was feeling generous at the time, I decided to make these lecture notes available to all 400 other students in my class, by putting them online and putting a link to them on the class webboard. Turns out my notes were downloaded over 3300 times during a three-month time-span, because over here in Belgium, lecture notes are the way to go if you want to pass an exam. Especially if the teacher doesn’t provide you with a syllabus.

So I decided I would do the same this term, though this time, we had far fewer courses in common. And at the end of the term (a week ago), I was thinking about how I would make the notes available: Word .doc and Adobe PDF, as usual, or just PDF? I work in Pages ’08, so converting to .doc is always a bother. At the same time, I noticed that the course titles were in Times New Roman. And I thought: “Eugh.”

So began my quest for “the perfect font”.

I’ve amassed a substantial collection of “quality” free fonts over time, and Leopard, along with a number of other applications (probably many I’m not even aware played a role), has provided me with a great deal of “quality” commercial fonts too. But flipping through my font collection, I stumbled upon a font that rendered my titles really nicely: Avenir. I can’t believe I never used that before, because it is very, very pretty.

Anyway, following this “discovery”, I decided to compile a list of my favourite fonts, in the hopes of finding the best among them. And here are the results:

Legend: * = commercial; ** = free

Indeed, you won’t find any “classic” ones among this list. Times New Roman, I feel, is outdated (and I get the impression I’ll change my default font soon enough). Lucida Grande is great as a system font on OS X, and it’s the “perfect web font” right now, given that it’s the most elegant widely-used font, but it’s not the best for printing. And well, I won’t even mention the others (except Calibri, Microsoft’s new font, which almost made this list, and is the first positive thing I’ve seen from Microsoft in a while).

So there, you have my personal choices. If I can find the money, I’ll seriously think about purchasing part of the new “Avenir Next” typeface, because Avenir seems to have made it into every single category mentioned (and it’s my personal favourite, despite the very limited version I have of it).

But yes, there are high quality, very readable fonts out there. And many of them are free.

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