How to mix fonts?
April 19, 2009 5:34 PM   Subscribe

How do you pick fonts that go well with one another? I recently decided to rewrite my resume, and I'm trying to decide what font to use for the body. My name, and the headings, are in Copperplate Gothic Bold. How do I find a second font for the body that will look good with Copperplate Gothic? Are there rules? A cheat sheet? Thanks
posted by LDL707 to Grab Bag (30 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Hmmm. I would suggest going with something other than Copperplate Gothic. Something I've done successfully in the past is go with all Times New Roman, just using two different font sizes of caps for the headers to make a facsimile of the small-caps thing Copperplate Gothic makes possible—without actually having to use that font.

posted by limeonaire at 5:51 PM on April 19, 2009

I'm not a fan to of Copperplate myself, but even if I was I really wouldn't recommend it for a resume. It looks unprofessional. For a resume I would keep everything clean, uncluttered and functional. Don't be picking fonts that you think look nice. Pick fonts that are legible and undecorative (unless it's a creative job you are going for?). But that's just my opinion and it's a bit tainted by recent experience.

I had a prospective design job and the client required I use two typefaces for a business card - Copperplate (his logo, so that's fine, can't be helped) and comic sans for the body. After getting really frustrated at how his card was just going to look crap, I sent him a couple of other ideas. Never heard back from him. So yeah, my experience of Copperplate has not been good recently.
posted by twistedonion at 5:57 PM on April 19, 2009

I like the small-caps version that limeonaire suggests. I would shy away from using Copperplate Gothic; it's a bit much for a resume, and if I were a hiring manager, I'd roll my eyes if I saw it.
posted by runningwithscissors at 5:58 PM on April 19, 2009

(That is to say, going with something other than Copperplate Gothic in the headers, thus eliminating that font entirely from your resume. It's misused too often to look very professional, IMHO.)
posted by limeonaire at 5:59 PM on April 19, 2009

I've been working with type for many years.

Don't fake the small caps thing - sorry, limeonaire. You can never get the sizes and weights to look quite right in relation to each other.

One thing to match is era. Don't put Handel Gothic headers on a classic Garamond text. If you have an urge to use a slightly kitsch retro-modern header font, stick to a sans-serif body text. Having fonts laughing at each other is a fundamental mistake unless you're very confident of why you want to do exactly that.

Match fonts that sit similarly in their space. A web-based example: Verdana is a smidge wider than Arial, in how each letter appears to the eye. Copperplate, having those weeny serifs leading your eye horizontally, will react better with Verdana than Arial.

But don't match fonts that are too similar. I flinch when I see layout with Futura, Optima and Helvetica all jostling for the eye, and it happens. You're going for an agreeable contrast between the fonts, but not a clash. I saw a crazy layout the other day with Italia body text and Arnold Böcklin drop caps, worked beautifully because of some subtle similarity in their curvature.

Another clever thing to do is match up fonts by the same designer. Put Optima and Palatino together, or Gill Sans and Joanna, and see what I mean. Stone Sans and Stone Serif is a bit obvious, but it works too.
posted by zadcat at 6:06 PM on April 19, 2009 [30 favorites]

Oh, but I do agree: don't use Copperplate, and don't use Verdana for print work. That was just an example. In fact, you should use Palatino (aka Book Antiqua) for the body, and Optima, if you have it, for the headers.

No fake small-caps. And don't use Arial - ever.
posted by zadcat at 6:08 PM on April 19, 2009 [8 favorites]

Resumes need to be conservative, and everything needs to be focused on one thing - transmitting information in a quick and easy way.

Arial or Times New Roman should work just fine. I personally devote most of my time to editing the actual copy, as well as the layout.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:39 PM on April 19, 2009

I'm partial to Mercury. It's pretty expensive, US$499, so you would probably want to find a professional to print it for you, but it's very versatile.
posted by netbros at 6:43 PM on April 19, 2009

Copperplate is so ten years ago...

Be careful with using san-serif fonts for copy. In particular, Century Gothic might make a decorative font for a heading, but the huge empty spaces (for example, on the lower case d or b, among many other letters) make it a nightmare to read. Use a simple serif font for the body copy - if you have it, I'm partial to Garamond. (I'm going to start a war with that one once other designers chime in :) ) I'm assuming that you are working on a PC, and I can't remember what fonts are on them these days.
posted by azpenguin at 6:49 PM on April 19, 2009

I'll reinforce something that zadcat said - Don't use Arial. Ever.
posted by azpenguin at 6:50 PM on April 19, 2009

The typical rule is a San-Serif font (Helvetica) for Heads, Serif font(Times) for text. If you have Franklin Gothic, use that for the heads, it's a great workhorse font.

If you don't know what you're doing, and I'm going to politely say you don't if you're using Copperplate Gothic, then quit trying to find the perfect font. You're fretting over details you don't understand and that's a bad thing to with a resume. Spend time writing and rewriting it to show that you'll make your prospective employer's life easier.

If you use Comic Sans I will know and come to your house and beat you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:52 PM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

The fantastic Elements of Typographic Style says this:

"Pair serifed and unserifed faces on the basis of their inner structure."

Basically, look for similar shapes when pairing fonts. The lower-case "e" is a good character to consider. Check out the basic form of the letter, its proportions, and its overall aesthetic. Bodoni and Futura, for example, might not seem like a natural fit, but their letterforms are proportionally similar, and they work well together. (Copperplate may not be unserifed, but it is definitely too decorative to use as a workhorse body text, so the rule still applies.)

But, as everyone has said, Copperplate is a bad choice for resumes. I just did mine up, and after trying all sorts of sexy sans-serif faces with different widths, weights, and small caps, I finally settled on a basic serif solution: Name in all caps, section heads in bold, subheads in italics. I'm using Georgia for the web and Bembo for print. Classly, simple, and clear.
posted by martens at 6:53 PM on April 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

@ zadcat (or anyone who can answer/explain!):
can you clarify what you mean by faking small caps?
I'm actually editing my resume (currently in Times New Roman) now, and I just use the "small caps" setting in the Fonts menu of MS Word.
Still a faux pas?
posted by NikitaNikita at 7:25 PM on April 19, 2009

Try Trebuchet MS for headers and Georgia for body. Good stuff.
posted by disillusioned at 8:08 PM on April 19, 2009

Some fonts have properly designed small caps as an alternate set.

Some applications have a means of faking them by simply scaling down the size to 75% or so. But the smaller size has thinner strokes and doesn't match well with the caps, and it's often too small for the aesthetics.
posted by zadcat at 8:23 PM on April 19, 2009

Another rule: don't use fonts designed for screen use (like Verdana, Georgia, Trebuchet) for print work. You didn't say which you were going to do, but it's a good rule (just as it's a good rule never to use Times on screen - Georgia is much more legible).
posted by zadcat at 8:25 PM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

no arial, no times new roman, no copperplate. process of elimination. no comic sans either. and you don't really need it to be 12 pt.
posted by apostrophe at 8:52 PM on April 19, 2009

From the fact that everyone is saying "no Arial", here is an ignorant question: why no Arial? Is it because it is sans serif and that is harder to read in print? Or is it just played out?
posted by rio at 9:25 PM on April 19, 2009

Simple, but sound advice here.
posted by dirm at 9:37 PM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, The Scourge of Arial gives some history as to why 'designers hate it'.
posted by dirm at 9:50 PM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you're going to send your resume electronically, pick fonts that are guaranteed to be on all users' computers. If you pick a font that someone might not have, Word or whatever program they use will do some substitution for the next best font, and your resume will look all weird.

Having said that, Copperplate Gothic is a weird font to pick. You could go with a serif font for the headers and a sans serif for the content, maybe?
posted by gchucky at 9:51 PM on April 19, 2009

I used Frutiger 75 Black for the headings (caps, letterspaced, and a pt size smaller), then Palatino & ital for the body. But Futura Xtra Bold Cond or Franklin Gothic for the heads would work as well.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:55 PM on April 19, 2009

I really have to agree with those who urge you to go with something simpler and concentrate instead on your wording.

And unless you're going for a job somewhere on the design continuum, Arial is perfectly acceptable. Not because I may not agree with the designer take on it, but because it's very, very mainstream. There are jobs for which a fancy-looking font on a resume will help you stand out, but they are probably fewer than you think and yours is not likely to be among them.
posted by dhartung at 11:24 PM on April 19, 2009

At a workshop I recently attended, put on by the career center at my state university, they said to stick with one font for the whole resume. This might have been because none of us knows how to choose fonts, but it was probably because it's just easier on the eyes and whatnot.
posted by philomathoholic at 11:55 PM on April 19, 2009

Here is a nice resource:
posted by leigh1 at 1:34 AM on April 20, 2009

You might try the Esperfonto, an online tool for finding and matching fonts.

You can find fonts based on several criteria, such as relationship or impression. Or, you can enter a font name and see a list of suggested pairings. For example, when I entered Copperplate, the suggested pairings were Bodoni, Village OldStyle EC, Galliard, Baskerville, Garamond, Revival 565, Berkeley OldStyle, Perpetua, Lapidary 333, Joanna, and Cheltenham.

Here's an extra tip: If you use a font on your resume in Word, and send the resume electronically, the other person must also have that font installed on their computer. If they don't, your selected font does not display -- instead, it displays a different font that may (or may not) be similar. To get around this and save the font with the document, in Word with your document open:
1. On the Tools menu, click Options.
2. On the Options dialog box, view the Save tab.
3. On the Save tab, select Embed TrueType Fonts.
4. Click OK.

This will make your file size bigger, because it's saving the font to the file. So, if you automatically upload it to and the like, it may be too big. But, it will be perfect for people who get your resume via email. To upload it to Monster and others, open the file, clear the check box, save the file, then upload. Then, go back and select the check box again so it's always ready for email.
posted by Houstonian at 3:27 AM on April 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

I used Century Schoolbook for a presentation recently and it both printed and displayed really well. However, I went for it more for the 1950s feel so it was a happy accident.
posted by mippy at 7:55 AM on April 20, 2009

I'm a fan of garamond, recommended to me for resume use by a printmaker I lived with.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:42 AM on April 20, 2009

I want to echo the other advice here -- use a mainstream font, focus on making your resume clear and readable (appropriate headers, spacing, etc) and make sure that you are concise and to-the-point. A fancy font can be very distracting and stir up very negative reactions in the person doing the hiring. Choosing a very attractive but conservative font is generally the best rule of thumb. If you have a portfolio, you can get much more creative there. A resume is a document first, designed to tell a very important story and get your foot in the door. Lastly, you didn't ask about this but if you don't have access to a good printer, make a run to Kinko's for your resume printing -- clear and crisp makes all fonts look better. Good luck!
posted by amanda at 1:36 PM on April 20, 2009

can you clarify what you mean by faking small caps?

For example, using the Small Caps setting in Word, rather than using a small caps font (often labeled "SC+OSF", "small caps and old-style figures").

When you shrink full-size capitals down and try to make them serve the duty of small caps, the "small caps" are thinner and lighter than the full-size caps. Using a proper small caps font avoids this problem and looks correct.
posted by kindall at 1:47 PM on April 20, 2009

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