Please stop using Google fonts everywhere

Sep 21, 2019

Or why you should look beyond Google fonts for good typography.

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A couple of months ago we wrote a very popular list of the best Google fonts for use in t-shirt and poster design. The data for this story came from the thousands of designs created and published by users of the oShirt custom t-shirt design app over the last year.

The 10 most popular fonts in t-shirt design
We have analysed the fonts used in designs made with the oShirt app and come up with a list of the best fonts for…medium.muz.li

The story was very well received and we hope it has been and continues to be a valuable resource to help designers produce better looking physical products (including t-shirts and posters) with typography.

The march of time

Fast forward two months and a lot of features have been added to the app. Shortly before writing our first article we actually added support for font sources other than Google fonts.

90 percent of design is typography. And the other 90 percent is whitespace — Jeffrey Zeldman

We felt that although there are some good fonts available through Google fonts we were restricting our user’s creative options by limiting them to a limited collection of fonts — not that Google have a small collection, as of writing there are almost one thousand fonts available but most are better suited for text legibility on small screens (15 inches and lower) rather than t-shirt design. As a result we currently only make available just under 10% of the total collection in the app.

Fonts turn words into stories

To test out the app’s new support for third party fonts we added (what we thought would be) five exciting new fonts.

There are some nice fonts out there

Those fonts are:

They were chosen because of their big, bold and stylistic nature and because they have licensing unrestrictive licensing terms that make them free for personal and commercial usage. This last point is important for both us and our users as many people use the oShirt app to make t-shirts for sale or to market their business.

Given the app already had almost 80 fonts available we thought adding five more wouldn’t have much of an impact…

Wrong!

After two months with these new fonts live in the app we analyzed thousands of new designs that included some form of text and found that these 5 new fonts despite only making up only 6% of all fonts in the app were accounting for 24% of all fonts used.

Why is this? Well the short answer is that we can’t be certain certain but we do know there must be a certain amount of novelty — these are new fonts in an app that some people have been using for a while so they’re more likely to be clicked.

6% of all fonts in the app were accounting for 24% of all fonts used

The biggest single contributor to the extraordinary take up of these fonts has to be that these are good, standout fonts, chosen by and for people who know what makes a good font for t-shirt design. How else can you explain a 4x increase in take-up vs the original Google fonts.

Google fonts cannot be everything to everyone

fonts.google.com is without doubt an amazing source of well polished although mainly conservative fonts that are well suited for use for large amounts of highly readable text on small screens. However, if you are wanting to make stand out graphic design statements then the statistics don’t lie. You should be looking elsewhere.

We are moving forward and the first thing we did when we learnt about the outstanding performance of our five new fonts vs our current font stable is go out and source another ten outstanding fonts. It’s not always an easy thing to do — licenses, character set support and format conversion are just some of the things you need to go through once you actually find something that you like. It looks like it’s all worth it.

If you’re looking for some good alternate font directories that contain a lot of fonts with open licensing then try Behance and Da Font.