How do we talk about type?

We’ve read the descriptions of (nearly) all fonts released in 2023 to get an idea of how we tend to talk about type today — and reached out to graphic designers to ask them exactly what kind of descriptions they might find useful

January 8, 2024

Part 1

Where we explore how type designers told the world about their typefaces

We have noticed that type designers now think not only about how a font looks and works, but also about how to talk about it. For example, in late 2022, Production Type and foundries trained artificial intelligence on 30,000 real font descriptions to generate descriptions of fictional ones. Later, at the Atypl conference, independent designer Arthur Schwarz delivered a lecture on incomprehensibly written licences, while one of tomorrow’s authors Fernanda Cozzi pointed to the fact that certain descriptions and presentations on MyFonts still contain sexist language.

It was when we were launching our store that we first thought about how we should (and shouldn’t) talk about type. Around the same time, we figured out a number of rules for ourselves. For example, we agreed on how to use metaphors — it is fine to compare type to sounds, yet it is not OK to use smell or taste metaphors. We also agreed on how to address the fonts heavily influenced by historic typefaces, which is not to use the structure ‘to be traced back to’. However, our rules are not universal and we’ve decided to find out whether there’s any kind of an unspoken agreement among type designers with regard to how a font description should look.

To that end, we have reviewed descriptions of 376 typefaces Of course, there were way more fonts released in 2023 than just 376 — we have analysed only those mentioned by [TypeCache]({:target=”_blank”}. That said, we have excluded from this selection the fonts released on FutureFonts platform, as its format has a significant impact on the size and tone of voice of posted releases; we have also omitted the fonts that come with no description in English by 138 foundries released in 2023 and made an attempt to find patterns and detect trends: how designers name their typefaces, what they compare them to, how much they go into detail while presenting their specifics and properties.

Some more background story

All the above is why we initiated this research while the actual occasion was a short Twitter thread mocking the repeating patterns in writing font descriptions. Designer Dave Foster wrote that the typeface offered both style and utility, Klim Type Foundry reacted by asking whether it looked good big and small and could be called classic yet modern, while designer Benn Zorn showed up to wonder if the typeface was meticulously crafted.


While these phrases do indeed sound as if taken from a typical font description, we haven’t spotted lots of them in 2023 fonts. So, utility and character (and not style) were mentioned together just one time, in a description written by Dave Foster himself. Other projects promise — along with utility — creative challenge, room for imagination, and distinction.

Only three out of 376 look good big and small — it is much more common for the fonts to work well on both print and screen, 28 use cases. Then there are 33 fonts that are traditional yet contemporary (which is pretty close to classic yet modern) and 78 just contemporary typefaces.

The list contains seven meticulously crafted and three delicately crafted fonts.


The average description size is 1,166 characters (including spaces). That said, five studios posted a link to a more detailed font description at the end of most of their bios — this description includes a review of historical prototypes, story of how the typeface was created and an in-depth analysis of its specifics. Just one foundry in the list, Forgotten shapes, doesn’t provide any brief description and offers a long read instead (~10,500 characters).

Seven studios don’t describe their fonts at all — neither in the specimen, nor on their website and social media. And this is irrespective of how big the foundry is — that’s how both a one-man studio by Benoît Bodhuin and OH no Type, with its four employees, prefer to do things.

The font descriptions are available in an established format: almost any of them first classify a font, then share the specifics of its personality, features and details, its style palette and assumed usage scenarios.

None of the descriptions uses personal pronouns to talk about the typeface (such as he, she, they), but many fonts are defined through human traits. For instance, a font can be a disguised quiet guy, while a number of related typefaces can gather together as a group of friends (type friends rather than a type family or call themselves step brothers instead of a collection.

A first person narrative is only used in extensive detailed stories or when text is published on a website of a foundry that only releases type authored by one designer (David Jonathan Ross’ project really stands out from other websites of this sort — the font description on his page smoothly develops into a lifestyle blog with stories on the author’s psychological state, Massachusetts weather report and ukulele practising).

The descriptions of two fonts from the list feature poems. In CoFo Sona, it’s two AI-generated verses accompanying the main text, while with Lipo font by Suitcase Type, the full info on a font that usually appears in the about section ended up being packed as an entire poem (yet this one is written by a human.)


78 fonts in the list tell about the name in detail as well as explain its choice: if the typeface has been named after a neighbourhood, the bio briefly explains where it’s located, if it’s an abbreviation, it says what it stands for (even if it’s commonly used), and when it’s a revival, there’s a story of why the authors decided to go beyond simply adding Neue to the name of the historical prototype.

Using a real name to name a typeface happens frequently enough (we have counted 38 such fonts), but it was only in three of those cases that the authors bothered to explain after whom exactly they named their project. Those are the fonts named after the pioneer of photography Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, the star of Andy Warhol’s films Edie Sedgwick, printer and publisher Martina Plantijn and Hanae Mori, who was the first Japanese woman to have presented her collection at Paris Fashion Week.


In addition to the adjectives mentioned by Klim Type Foundry, the fonts often happened to be warm, calm, and confident.

Yet there are foundries that didn’t stop at just introducing a set of adjectives. For example, to help the audience better understand their font’s personality, ABC Dinamo suggest to visualise the scene: King sitting in his garden, maybe a bit sunburned, surrounded by butterflies and low hanging citrus fruit, sipping on a (glass bottle) of Coke.

26 Gaisyr by ABC Dinamo

If the authors believe that a certain trait in a font is not pronounced enough to introduce an adjective, they say that the font has a flavour. For instance, the flavour can be rigid, playful, calm, or eclectic.

The typefaces released in 2023 often try to find balance — this phrasing is used by 42 descriptions. The balance gets found between fashion and tradition, opulence and versatility, crispness and warmth.


The letterforms of 45 serifs typefaces out of almost 100 released in 2023 are elegant; the half of the script fonts are described as innocent; and it’s robust when it comes to the sans serifs.

The letterforms and design of glyphs were compared to a lollipop, Swiss army knife and baked bread. The typeset text was likened to the picket fence and items on a conveyor belt.


Only 99 fonts from the list are available in true/actual italics, and in 87 cases these italics are not described at all, mentioned only in a sentence presenting the range of styles (such as from Light to Black with corresponding/matching italics).

The italics are introduced as vibrant (or flamboyant), notable, very often — contemporary. In the Family font by Klim Type Foundry, italics behave like the eccentric cousin.


206 font descriptions out of 376 specify what these typefaces are good for. Most often, the fonts are designed for use in logos, branding, books, screens, headlines, titles — or several items from this list at the same time.

Only 15 bios suggest a more specific use scenario: for instance, a logo of a young fashion brand, an arthouse movie title, or a fashion and beauty magazine.

Designers deploy three ways to describe how well their typeface will perform in a particular environment: 107 fonts will work well, 41 will work great, while 58 will work perfect.


It seems like a typical font description 2023 really does exist. It is most likely to include a commentary on its name, a number of adjectives defining a font’s personality and its letterforms, one informative sentence on its style spectrum and another one on how and where to use the typeface.

While it sometimes happened that the font description served as a room for experiment (for example, when it featured poetry), it is still much less likely to see bios like that than, let’s say, in other formats of presenting a font (such as release specimens.)

Part 2

Where we find out what graphic designers might want to see in font descriptions

The font descriptionis a piece of text addressing a specific audience, which is designers looking for an appropriate typographic solution for their project. That is why we decided to ask graphic designers what they expect to see in a font description and whether they read those descriptions at all or they don’t.

According to our Instagram poll, only 4 designers out of 60 can choose a font just for its name, another 4 say that if the typeface’ name is ironic, they will most likely remember it and get back to it in the future. 5 designers pointed out that the shorter the font name is, the more likely they will use it. That said, 10 out 60 claim that they pay no attention to how a font is named.

An ideal description, according to our respondents, is made up of 2-8 sentences. 50% say it needs to contain information on the font style palette and specify what it is designed to be used for (screens or print, a metal band album cover or an antique art exhibition identity.) Only two people believe that it is a good idea to include a brief background info on what historic typefaces the font has to do with. Another four said that their clients were more likely to agree on paying for a font if its description has adjectives that are in line with the tone of voice of their project (elegant, calm, contemporary).

The descriptions that designers consider useful are less likely to be the most distinctive. Four designers mentioned the descriptions written by the Type Journal for their piece on the best Cyrillic typefaces 2023 as the fanciest font descriptions.

46 Description of Coil by Brownfox written by Type Journal team

That said, according to our survey, none of the designers or clients ever dropped a typeface just because they didn’t find something in its bio or weren’t satisfied with it.