How 8 Fonts Got Their Names

Every typeface has a story. Some are classical, some are personal, and some are just plain weird.

Mignon Fogarty,


Typeface Versus Font

First, we have to talk about the difference between a typeface and a font, because what we’re really talking about here is the names of typefaces. 

Think of it this way: the font is a small part of a typeface. If we’re talking about Times New Roman, Times New Roman 12 point bold italic is the font, and the typeface is the collection of all the fonts that make up the entire Times New Roman set. Today, however, many people think of letter styles as fonts because it’s the word you see on all your software menus.

1931 Times New Roman

Times New Roman is the oldest typeface on my list. It was created in 1931, and its name makes sense when you realize it was designed for the British newspaper The Times

Times New Roman was the default font in Microsoft Word when I was in school, and—I hesitate to tell you this because people can get really judgy about fonts—it’s my favorite font. If you send me a document in any other font, I change it to 12-point Times New Roman before I read it.

1948 Palatino

Palatino was designed in 1948 by a famous typeface artist named Hermann Zapf. 

Palatino takes its inspiration from Renaissance calligraphy and is named after Giovanni Battista Palatino, an Italian calligrapher who lived in the 16th century. According to the font.com site, Zapf updated the Palatino typeface in 1999, adding Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic characters, and my favorite punctuation mark, the interrobang.

1955 Courier

Howard “Bud” Kettler thought of Courier as Messenger when he was designing it for IBM in 1955, but he described the change of heart that led him to the name Courier this way: “A letter can be just an ordinary messenger, or it can be the courier, which radiates dignity, prestige, and stability." 

Twelve-point Courier was the standard typewriter font, so I can’t even imagine how many letters were couriered over the years. 


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