When designing a logo, custom lettering is usually best because it offers the possibility for the strongest branding. The wheel doesn’t always have to be reinvented though. Stock fonts can work just as well, and if you think otherwise then just have a look at some of the largest, strongest and widely-known global brands that use stock fonts in their own branding, like Facebook, which uses the Klavika font, or Time Magazine, which uses Times New Roman.
Choosing fonts can be tricky though. You shouldn’t choose a font for a logo the same way you’d choose it for the contents of a book. Their applications differ. A logo needs to be versatile enough to work in a wide range of applications. It needs to look nice in color on a display, in print, in monotone, embroidered onto a shirt, it needs to scale to small sizes and still be legible, and it needs to avoid trends so it can stand the test of time.
Good fonts to use for logo design can be tricky to find. There’s many sites out there that provide free font downloads, but the overwhelming majority of them are only free for personal, non-commercial usage. To be used commercially, a license usually needs to be purchased from the creator of the font. This proves to be tricky for us as designers because it is against the law to purchase a font license, register it in your own name, and use it for client work. If a client wants to use a font that requires a purchased license, he or she needs to purchase the license themselves and have it registered in their own name.
In my own experience as a graphic designer, clients usually prefer to see what their no-cost options are before considering using a font that requires the purchase of a license. In this post, I’m going to cover 10 of my favorite free fonts to use when designing a logo.
I chose the following fonts primarily because they reflect a specific style in a subtle way. This is important to me as a designer because some of the more elaborate and gimmicky fonts tend wear out fast due to overuse. Lobster and Bleeding Cowboy are two great examples of this. Those fonts would cause problems with branding because they’re so unique and distinguished that it’s not very difficult to identify them when spotted out in the world. The more subtle fonts seem to work a lot better when it comes to branding.
Com4t by Four Typeface is a simple and sleek sans-serif font that does an excellent job of communicating prestige in a very subtle, but effective way. I particularly love using this font for agencies and professional practices that offer some kind of premium service to a higher status demographic. I think it works beautifully in these contexts.
Amatic by Vernon Adams is a font I’ve only recently discovered, but have really enjoyed using since I’ve found it. It’s a hand-drawn type that has a very whimsical feel to it, and I’ve found that it seems to work wonderfully in the context of something that is meant to be casual, fun, natural, or even child-like (think nursery or baby sitting service.) I also like how the letters don’t take up too much horizontal space, which is refreshing when it comes to designing logos.
Michroma, which was also created by Vernon Adams, is very similar to the famous Microgramma font in that it offers a sentiment of technology, but does so without being gimmicky, which is rare for a font like this. What I love about the original Microgramma font is how it’s been used in technical illustrations since the 60’s, all the way up until today, but without seeming dated at all. It works just as great in futuristic films today as it did back in the 60’s. I think Michroma works similarly, and it’s a nice free alternative to Microgramma.
4. League Gothic
League Gothic, by The League of Moveable Type, is a highly versatile font that works wonderfully for logos because of its heavy weight and compact structure. A logo needs to scale — it needs to retain legibility at small sizes, and one of the many things I love about this font is how small you can shrink it and still read it. It also has a very neutral feeling to it, meaning it can be used in a wide variety of applications. It looks great both in caps and in lowercase. League Gothic is one of my favorite fonts to use.
Much like Michroma, Orbitron, by The League of Moveable Type, offers a rare technological vibe, but in a subtle sense that will allow it to age well. This has become one of my favorite fonts to use for technical design lately, and what I particularly love about this font is the wide variety of alternatives it comes in. There’s various weights as well as small caps variations. Since it was designed for display, it has a clean and simple heavy weight to it, which makes it wonderful for use in logo design.
6. Jenna Sue
The Jenna Sue font, by Jenna Sue Design Co., is a whimsical hand-drawn style of type. It’s what you would expect to happen if you were to take your hands off the wheel and allow nature to take control. This font works wonderfully for anything intended to be marketed as natural, organic, or just about anything having to do with nature. Unlike Amatic, it leaves a less “fun” and more serious impression. It’s a long-time favorite of mine.
Chunk, which is also by The League of Moveable Type, is another excellent font that ages well because of its subtlety. According to the creators…
Chunk is an ultra-bold slab serif typeface that is reminiscent of old American Western woodcuts, broadsides, and newspaper headlines.
I’ve found that this font works wonderfully for logo design particularly because of its heavy weight. I like using it for anything intended to be masculine in appeal, like sports or athletics, or hands-on manual labor types of concepts, for example.
8. Optimus Princeps
Optimus Princeps is a beautiful serif font that radiates an authentic feeling of prestige. I particularly like to use this font for law firms, professional agencies, government agencies, or anything that needs to have an official, authentic feel to it. In my own humble opinion, I think it tends to look best with a fair amount of spacing between the letters.
9. Tex Gyre Adventor
Tex Gyre Adventor, by GUST, is a simple, neutral and timeless type reminiscent of the infamous Avant Garde. The font’s versatility, timelessness, and indiscriminate appeal is what I love most about it — so much so that I use it across all of my own branding. This font is so pure in its nature that it can work for just about any concept. It’s at the very top of my go-to fonts list whenever I’m designing a logo, and I’ve found that it also works great as a secondary type for taglines, slogans, or any other context in which the type is meant to take a back seat to a more prominent font being featured.
10. SF Collegiate Solid
SF Collegiate Solid, by Shyfonts, gives off a bold, prominent, in-your-face appeal. I’ve found this font to work really well for sports teams, anything having to do with athletics, or anything that requires a bold, masculine feel. I particularly like how versatile this font is in that it can be arched or reshaped while still maintaining its stature.
Obviously I didn’t cover every single font that I like to use, and of course, I’m sure there’s many others I haven’t discovered yet, so if you know of any great, free fonts that you like to use in your own logo design work, feel free to share in the comments.
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