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8 Trends for Pairing Fonts in 2020

Trends in typography seem to evolve more quickly than many other design trends. For a long time, website designers stuck to font palettes packed with sans serif typefaces. But that feels like ancient history now!

Today’s range and variety of web fonts make for much more interesting design possibilities, font pairings, and visual themes.

We’re taking a look at eight trends for pairing fonts with a beautiful example of each, covering a wide range of font families and aesthetics.

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What is Font Pairing?

Font pairing is putting together different typefaces for use in one design project. While the term “pair” is used, font pairing can refer to using any number of fonts in the same project.

A good font pairing — typically no more than two or three typefaces — is harmonious while providing ample contrast between lettering styles. Font pairs often convey similar moods and have complementary shapes, so that they bring attention to the message but don’t compete with each other for attention.

No more than one novelty, funky, or challenging font should be used in a pairing. This helps ensure readability and balance in the typography of a design.

1. Outline + Sans Serif

how to pick a font

One of the biggest trends in typography in 2020 might be use of outline fonts. They seem to be everywhere!

The trick to an outline typeface is pairing it with something else to ensure readability. Often an outline font is paired with the same typeface filled for an almost yin and yang effect.

When working with this combination of typefaces, put the most important words in the filled typeface and reserve the outline for accent text. (This is true even if the presentation gives more space to the outline font.)

Note that the outline font, no matter how prominently used, will never carry as much visual weight in the design as the filled complement. Because of this, many designers are using almost twice as much text (or more) in outline fonts as filled, so that the words in the latter style have maximum impact.

2. Oversized Sans Serif + Smaller Text Layer

pair fonts

An idea you might not think to try when it comes to typography is pairing oversized sans serifs with smaller sans serifs to create a layered typography style. This trend is beginning to explode with layered type as an art and informational element in website design projects.

And while it sounds a little crazy at first, it can be absolutely stunning.

The trick is to use simple sans serifs, keep the letters and reading in oversized text to a minimum, and use a simple aesthetic for the rest of the design.

Oh (above) does this perfectly with a bright background color, oversized lettering for the name, and a simple stacked message explaining the purpose of the website that overlays “oh.”

3. Sans Serif Caps + Tiny Serif

how to pick a font

There’s nothing groundbreaking about using an all caps sans serif. (Everyone has been doing that for a while.)

But the simple serif line beneath and the stark contrast between the big type and the second line is amazing. It’s one of those understated trends that we are starting to see a lot more of in typography and the BBC Earth website nails it.

What’s nice about this font pairing is that everything is easy to read. Both typefaces have uniform stroke widths (which is nice for websites and devices where there is backlighting to think about).

4. Novelty + Monospace

pair fonts

This font combination is perfectly brutalist – a trending design style. A novelty typeface with a monospaced style is visually interesting and fist the tenets of the style.

Putting together typefaces for this trend can be tricky.

Opt for typefaces that give you a somewhat intentional mismatched and chaotic feel. If you try too hard for styles that match here, it might fall a little flat. Remember brutalists styles are hard and a little visually shocking by nature. Use that idea in your font pairing as well.

5. Sans Serif Font Family

how to pick a font

Font pairs don’t actually have to be paired at all. Using multiple styles within the same family can serve that purpose.

This is a rather popular technique because it makes websites easy to read and always creates a design where all of the text elements are in harmony.

Here’s how to make it work, just like flocc (above). Pair the most contrasting styles from a font family for obvious distinction in the design. Pairing a bold or lack option with a regular or light variation is almost always a winner.

6. Slabs + Simple Sans Serifs

pair fonts

Slab styles are smack-you-in-the-face font options that are good for generating impact. Tone down the style with a simple sans serif partner.

This is a classic typography design trend that never gets old and is almost always effective.

Rogue Studio uses this combination brilliantly with larger than life slabs as an artistic element and simple sans serifs for all the stuff you really need to read. Nice spacing also helps draw the eye and keep users on the site.

7. Funky Feel + Softer Accents

how to pick a font

Sometimes a font pairing trend is less about specific typefaces and families and more about a feel for a style of typography. One trend we are seeing a lot of here is a combination of a main typeface with a funky, bold style paired with a softer font (event a script).

Arts District Craft Kitchen is a good example of this font pairing trend in action. The main headline is a bold, slab serif with interesting lines and shapes. The letters have a lot of character. Further, each letter has a roughed up style and is in a color, all contributing to the funky vibe.

That is paired with a simple, script style for one word, “with.” This tiny, softer accent brings attention to the typography and message as a whole. Another bonus? The soft script doesn’t have an overly feminine feel and ties to text elements in the logo.

8. Serif + Sans Serif + Script

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This trio of fonts sets just the right tone. With a modern serif, simple sans serif, and a script the feel is classic, controlled, and elegant.

Pairing three fonts is fairly common and what makes it work well is using distinctly different styles. Using three sans serifs can get clunky and odd visually because the styles aren’t different enough.

Look for a font trio that has the same feel but unique lines and designs.

Conclusion

Pairing fonts can be a lot of fun. Playing with different combinations can add new dimensions of meaning to design projects.

Just keep some of the “golden rules” of design in mind when working with font pairs:

  • Stick to two or three typefaces
  • Look for complementary styles
  • Always use one highly readable option