5 More Fantastic Fonts For Commercial Signage

21st April 2020

Typography for commercial signs (Part 2)

The typography used on your signage can make a world of difference to how your business is perceived by visitors and customers.

Following on from our earlier post highlighting a selection of great fonts for business signage, we’ve put together another roundup of classic typefaces. Each has its own unique characteristics that make it ideal for certain types of businesses, and in this post, we’ll look at the best options for companies across a wide range of industries.

So what are some good font choices for signage? Let’s start with...

Bodoni

Bodoni example

Image: Jim Hood, licensed under Creative Commons Sharealike 2.5.


Bodoni is an old classic.

Designed in the late 1700s by the Italian typographer Giambattista Bodoni, the typeface has been long noted for its contrast between thick and thin line widths. At the time, its creation was in response to advances in printing technology, because a face like Bodoni wouldn’t previously have been possible to reproduce.

These days, we call fonts like this ‘Didones’ (a sort-of portmanteau combining the names of Bodoni and Didot, a similar typeface). Fonts in this genre all have contrasting thick and thin strokes and strong vertical lines.

The narrowness of some of the lines in Didone typefaces can make them hard to render and read on small electronic screens, but they work extremely well when printed at large scale on signage - where they are often very well suited to boutiques, fashion labels, jewellers, upmarket hotels, and other businesses who favour elegant, aspirational branding.

Frutiger

Frutiger example

Image: Public domain.


Continuing the theme of eponymously named typefaces, Frutiger was designed by Adrian Frutiger - a very well-known Swiss typographer who created many of the world’s most famous fonts (such as Avenir and Univers).

Fruitger is an excellent choice for signage as it was designed with readability from a distance as its number one priority. The designer went on to say that he had sought “total clarity - I would even call it nudity - an absence of any kind of artistic addition."

Despite its emphasis on function, Fruitger is a font that still manages to have a distinctive charm and character. It is a good example of what a typographer would call a humanist sans-serif typeface - in other words, its proportions seem to suggest the influence of human personality rather than being too mechanical or geometric in form.

Frutiger is a great choice for any business that needs to project modern reliability, but also friendliness. This can make it a great choice for medicine, care homes, law firms, dentists, estate agents, or any other businesses that need to take care of important matters and win the trust of their patrons.

FF Din

FF Din example

Image: Lestatdelc, licensed under Creative Commons Sharealike 4.0.


For no-nonsense readability on signage, FF Din is the way to go.

In fact, that’s how it originated; type designer Albert Jan-Pool based it on an official German typeface known as DIN 1451, which was used for road signs and other public applications all over the country. The original face was mostly designed by committees of German engineers focused on producing an extremely clean, easy-to-read, functional typeface.

In the mid-90s, FontShop designer Jan-Pool was tasked with turning DIN into an electronic font, expanding the character set and adding additional weights. Erik Spiekermann - who commissioned the font - later remarked that “[Jan-Pool] did it so well that it looks exactly like the original, but much better, especially in smaller sizes… FF Din looks as if DIN had always had those weights because Albert didn’t let his ego interfere with the job.”

The result is that FF Din has (again in the words of Spiekermann) “since become a favourite of designers around the world, even in places where nobody connects it with the signs on the German Autobahn.”

FF Din is a great choice for any business or organisation that handles administrative matters, or which needs to appeal to a wide variety of customers. As such, it might be favoured by a wide range of businesses from banks and accountants to supermarkets and post offices.

Clarendon

Clarendon example

Image: Deviate-smart, licensed under Creative Commons Sharealike 3.0.


Anybody in need of a sturdy, classic typeface for signage need look no further than Clarendon.

Designed in the mid-Nineteenth century by an English typographer named Robert Besley, Clarendon is one of the most famous examples of a slab-serif face - in other words, a style where all of the serifs (the decorative projections at the tips of the letters) are blocky and slab-like, rather than the more delicate serifs used in other typefaces.

Unmistakably clear and readable from a distance, Clarendon is a perfect choice for any business wanting to make a strong impression. Its classic form also implies culture and education, and is a great choice for institutions such as bookshops, libraries, schools, museums and government buildings.

As an aside, if you’ve ever seen an old-fashioned Western, you’ve likely come across a popular American variant of Clarendon known (perhaps confusingly) as French Clarendon. This tall, narrow, blocky font was a popular choice for Wanted posters in the old West - much to the dismay of many typographers of the day, who saw it as more of an unattractive novelty face than something you should use for serious projects.

Franklin Gothic

Franklin Gothic example

Image: Public domain.


We tend to assume that sans-serif typefaces like this one are modern inventions, but in fact Franklin Gothic’s history goes back a long way. Originally designed in 1902, it was named after Benjamin Franklin - the famous American founding father and printer.

The ‘Gothic’ part of the name (as in many other sans-serif fonts, such as Century Gothic and Bank Gothic) reflects the historical tradition of using the word ‘gothic’ to unfavourably describe new and challenging design trends, as is also the case for ‘gothic’ architecture.

At the time, letterforms without serifs were thought by many to be ugly and undesirable. In a way, it was used in the same non-literal sense that we still use words like ‘luddite’ or ‘philistine’ today (and the same is also true of the word ‘Grotesque’ in many font names).

Designer Morris Fuller Benton has had the last laugh, however - Franklin Gothic has been one of the world’s most popular and ubiquitous typefaces for over a hundred years, and is perfect for use on signs due to its distinct, clear letterforms.

Whichever typeface you choose to represent your business on your signage, you can’t go wrong with an old classic. Each of these fonts comes with a proven track record for appeal, readability and timelessness, and your company will be able to wear its signs with pride.

If you’re not sure what you need, our experienced designers will be only too happy to help you pick the perfect typeface for your new sign. Please contact us today on 01233 625383 or email us via the website.