A important part of a Graphic Designer’s job is to select the most suitable elements for a design and selecting the best font for a specific purpose is part of this.
Obviously legibility is a vital consideration when selecting a font, but there is a degree of flexibility in how legible a font must be depending on how it is being utilized. A typeface used for body copy has to be easily read, even at small type sizes, while text used for a heading on a poster may be much more decorative. This can particularly be the case if the design includes other visual cues that will help to make the message more easily distinguishable. In such cases the use of a font that takes some effort on the part of the reader to understand can be a valid and relevant design choice.
This list contains five good quality sans serif fonts that would be suitable for use by Graphic Designers. There are, of course, many more free quality sans serif fonts available and many Designers will have their own favorites that aren’t mentioned here. A search with Google will find many more results, but the fonts here can all be downloaded for free from Dafont and FontSquirrel.
While these fonts are free, you should ensure that your usage of these and any other fonts complies with their licensing.
Bitstream Vera Sans by The Gnome Project
Bitstream Vera Sans is a clean and legible free typeface produced by The Gnome Project, originally for use with their Linux desk top. This font is offered under an open source license and includes plain, bold and italic variations, making it a good all rounder that would be suitable for use in body copy.
Molot by Jovanny Lemonad
Molot is a more specialized typeface offered in just uppercase. The heaviness of this font means its use will be restricted to display usage in headings and sub-headings only, but asymmetrically styled stresses and details in the letter forms lend the font a surprising degree of interest for a font that initially seems very simple.
Mank Sans by Manfred Klein
Mank Sans is a clear and simple lighter weight font offered in two weights and in plain and italic styles. It would be suitable for display use where a more subtle typeface is required, but its legibility means that it could be reasonably used for body copy.
Aller by Dalton Maag Ltd
Aller is a full set with three weights of plain and italic, plus a display face for headings. The font has clean letter forms and could be suitable for use in body text, but it also has a degree of personality making it suitable as a display face in all of its forms. Indeed, some users may find the Display variation a little contrived, and favor the other variations.
Mentone Semi Bold by Paragraph
Mentone Semi Bold is offered as plain and italic. These two variations are part of a larger family that is offered for sale, but this weight is offered for download for free. While this limitation means it wouldn’t be suitable for large areas of body text, the font would be a fine choice for posters or leaflets where text quantity is more limited, working for both display and body purposes.
These are just five of the many free sans serif fonts that are available on the web and many Graphic Designers will have their own favorites that aren’t mentioned here.