Used to be, every self-respecting design nerd paid for a font. Thankfully the time of terrible "novelty fonts" has given way to a new era, marked by clean and beautiful typefaces that are often more experimental than the kind you pay for. These days anyone from an art student to a moonlighting lawyer can hawk a free font to the masses via big platforms like Google Fonts or Facebook. And they are.
Why? Maybe to beta test a design before refining it for sale, or build credibility. "Payment" here is credit; often a designer will request a call-out tweet in return for a download, or ask that you link back when you use her work.
In that open-source spirit, we've rounded up the freebies we love most, from a Dr. Seuss-inspired alphabet to a type based on erotic photography from the 1960s. Most include the full range of (English) letters, symbols and numbers. All deserve to be used and tweeted about, copiously.
Designer Pedro Fernandes was influenced by the hard lines of Cyrillic script in casting his hard-to-say font, as well as the Constructivist artists of revolutionary Russia -- in particular, Alexander Rodchenko. That's the artist, not the similarly named Star Trek character. (Though the font looks great in space.)
Download Construthinvism here.
You are getting very sleepy. Unless you're a sucker for tech art, in which case this font may keep you awake tonight. Designed by typographer Santiago Ortiz, the characters in Typode are mapped to coordinates, so you can have some fun stretching and skewing them (there's more to do than the two manipulations we've shown). Head to Ortiz's site to download Typode, or just play around with it.
3. Brush Hand New
Some fonts have a canonical appeal. The original template for this one is Flash, a classic created by the typographer Edwin W. Shaar in 1939. In the 1990s, some kind soul anonymously redrew Flash into a "simplified, slightly lightened, smoothed out" version, according to a squib by the type company K-Type. The font below, Brush Hand New, is K-Type's update on the decades-old reboot, complete with "European accented characters" and an even smoother flow.
Download Brush Hand New here.
Designer Filiz Sahin tried to channel "modern Swedish furniture," mechanical instruction manuals, and "pop influenced '70s fonts" for her font Mood. It's a motley trio of inspirations, but somehow we're seeing all of them in the just-abstract-enough shapes below.
Download Mood here.
Touted by its designers as "the most legible typeface for mobile screen," Fabrica is a font for a not-so-distant future when we're doing everything on our phones. The "deceptively simple sans serif typeface" is intended to be neutral and functional, modeled off the "systematic" construction of the so-called Neo Grotesque fonts, a clean-lined group characterized by widely used fonts like Arial and Helvetica.
Download Fabrica here.
This font is built from the simplest of structures: the triangle. As with Mood, what's incredible about the result is the balance between abstraction and legibility.
Download Nomed here.
Kansas-based designer Lexi Griffith found her inspiration in the "circuitry of lightbulb filament and wiring intricately crossing paths." It's the perfect font to channel on your six figure check to Tesla Motors.
Download Tesla here.
8. Great in 88
Designer Dom Romero was born in 1988, as he explains on his Behance page, "the year Michael Jordan, Transformers and professional wrestling ruled the planet." Those phenomena guided his vision for the angular font below, a neon creation that slots right into the current type vibe (see: Drive).
Download Great in 88 here.
8. Amsterdam Superstar
Inspired by the erotic photography of the 1960s and '70s, the aptly-named, geometric font below is Boogie Nights meets Bauhaus. Fonts of Chaos, the outré collective that offers it (a past font from the same designer was called PornoJunky), bills Amsterdam Superstar as "sweet and simple," like naughty pics of yesteryear.
Download Amsterdam Superstar here.
10. The Cat Has A Hat
Meant to be "playful but not childish," the Dr. Seuss-based font below is by Lukee Thornhill, an amateur designer out of England. On his Behance page, Thornhill describes a weekend spent painting more than "1,500 letters, numbers and symbols over and over again in hopes that...I would be able to piece together a brush font I was happy with." Boy deserves some green eggs and ham stat.
Download The Cat Has A Hat here.
Because some portion of all days should be spent contemplating the Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart, and anyone else who wore aviator goggles for real. This all-caps typeface is influenced by stunt pilots of the early 20th century, according to creator Jonathan Heter, another Kansas-based designer. The baby Carl in all of us approves.
Download Barnstormer here.