8 famous fonts and designers who made them

The world’s most famous fonts are just about everywhere. When you become a designer, these serifs and line weights begin to pop out and you start to recognize them in the landscape. Each of these fonts you see comes with a story, a creator, a history and a fan base.

See how some of these famous fonts came to be and the designers who took the bold steps to create what would go on to change our visual world.

1. Helvetica

Famous Fonts, New York Subway - Helvetica

Designed by: Max Miedinger and Edouard Hoffman

Typeface style: sans-serif

Origins: Switzerland, 1957, at the Haas type foundry. Miedinger originally wanted to be a painter, but his father told him that he needed to focus on a more practical occupation. Miedinger took up type design and created Helvetica with Hoffman 30 years later. It is intended to fill a need for a neutral font that would work well for signage.

Claims to fame: Often considered the world’s most-seen font. Featured in the film Helvetica. American Apparel branding. Crate&Barrel logo. Lufthansa logo. Jeep logo. New York subway system signage. And so much more.

2. Bodoni


Designed by: Giambattista Bodoni

Typeface style: serif

Origins: Italy, 1798. Bodini was hired as the official typesetter for a number of Italian dukes. These dukes were enamored of his work and encouraged him to start a printing press at the palace in Parma. In his time he held the title “designer to the kings and king of designers”. After his death, his typesetting works were combined to create the font we now commonly know as Bodoni.

Claims to fame: One of the older typefaces still in use as a font today. Vogue Magazine. Mamma Mia! posters. Nirvana logo. Columbia Records‘ wordmark.

3. Times New Roman


Designed by: Victor Lardent

Typeface style: serif

Origins: England, 1931. Commissioned by British newspaper The Times after typeface designer Stanley Morison criticized the paper for their poor readability. Morison assisted in-house designer Lardent to create this font that would come to be highly read for copy worldwide.

Claims to fame: Your college paper. Double spaced. 12 pt font. Often called “the font of least resistance”. Included in every version of Microsoft since 1992. Frequent use in books and newspapers. It’s high legibility makes it great for copy. No list of fonts could be complete without it.

4. Futura

Famous poster fonts: Futura

Designed by: Paul Renner

Typeface style: geometric sans-serif

Origins: Frankfurt, 1927 at the Bauer Type Foundry. Futura is often mistaken as the first geometric sans-serif font. That distinction, however, goes to Erbar, a font from the Ludwig & Mayer foundry. Futura was created as a reaction to this then-popular font. Due to the fact that the Bauer foundry was much larger than the Ludwig & Mayer foundry, Futura was the font that stood the test of time.

Claims to fame: A multitude of film posters, including Gravity, American Beauty, Gone Girl and Interstellar as well as television shows like Lost and Sesame Street. Used exclusively in the highly acclaimed graphic novel Watchmen. It is the favorite font of famous directors Wes Andersen and Stanley Kubrick and is often featured in their films.

5. Frutiger


Designed by: Adrian Frutiger

Typeface style: sans-serif

Origins: 1974. Frutiger, a Swiss designer, was commissioned by the United States’ Mergenthaler Linotype foundry. The company wanted a print version of the Roissy typeface he created for signage at the new Charles deGaulle airport in Paris. Frutiger believed the font had clarity and “nudity” due to it’s lack of additional features.

Claims to fame: The official font for many colleges and universities, including Claremont McKenna College, Cornell University, and the University of Southern California, among others. Featured on signage for public transit systems Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), Amtrak and Sydney’s CityRail. Frutiger’s most notable might be considered its placement on the official Euro notes of the European Union.

6. Garamond


Designed by: Claude Garamont

Typeface style: old-style serif

Origins: One of the oldest typefaces still in use. Estimated to have arisen around 1530 in France. A time of political and social turbulence in France, this was an era in which new typefaces were needed to articulate new ideas. The typeface was later acquired by French and German foundries after Garamont’s death and has been revitalized for use as a font in the 20th century.

Claims to fame: Mostly used for copy. Still the most prominent font in French book publishing. Featured in the Abercrombie & Fitch logo. Famously purported to be able to save the United States $400 million due to it’s lighter strokes (spoiler alert: it was a miscalculation).

7. Akzidenz-Grotesk


Designed by: Berthold Type Foundry

Typeface style: early san-serif (grotesque)

Origins: Creation rumored to be in 1898 at the Berthold Type Foundry. Exact origins are uncertain and many designers have been attributed as creators of this popular font. In 1950, the typeface was reconsidered and broadened by then-director of Berthold, Günther Gerhard Lange. It is this version that is now the most commonly used.

Claims to fame: Official font of the American Red Cross. Wordmark font for the Brooklyn Nets basketball team. Featured in a series of influential Volkswagen print ads in the 1960s. Product font for many Braun electronics.

8. Avenir


Designed by: Adrian Frutiger

Typeface style: geometric sans-serif

Origins: 1988. Avenir is the late-in-life design by Frutiger designer Adrian Frutiger. The designer considers this font to be his best work.

Claims to fame: Official font for the city of Amsterdam‘s corporate identity, including the famous I amsterdam sign. Apple uses Avenir for its Maps program. A version was created especially for Best Buy called Avenir Next for Best Buy.

What are your favorite fonts? Answer below in the comments.

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