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For branding matters, I need to use tahoma as a display font (for all headlines). I know, I know, it's a body text font meant only for screens: I don't really have a choice there.

I am having a hard time finding a body font to pair it with. Even though tahoma is a sans-serif font, it has this slabbish look I find it hard to deal with. I have tried a number of combinations already, but none satisfied me.

I thought maybe your sharp-eyed experts can suggest me some. No need for a screenshot, just a bunch of font names will be more than helpful. Thank you.

PS: I realize this is not like most of the questions we get here. If you think I should rephrase it or know how to improve it, please let me know.

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What is it you are designing? –  Yisela Feb 11 '13 at 0:57
    
It's a simple booklet that needs to reflect the image of the ONG it is related to. The latter has tahoma as a strong part of its branding –  TKrugg Feb 11 '13 at 1:06
    
So is this for digital or print? I'm assuming print. –  Chris Burton Feb 21 '13 at 13:43
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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

A popular convention is to pair a serif and a sans-serif. So, if you're working with MS system fonts, you might try Georgia:

Tahoma + Georgia

Or, Constantia:

Tahoma + Constantia

Or, Palatino Linotype (this is Palatino, the Mac equivalent):

Tahoma + Palatino

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Out of those specific choices, I would go with Palatino. –  Chris Burton Feb 21 '13 at 13:42
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Pairing fonts isn't an exact science. The most important consideration is that it "looks good" which is hard to define. However, there are some rough guidelines:

  • Firstly, you could just use a different weight of the same font. If your headlines are Bold 14pt, make the body Regular 10pt. Different weights of the same font should usually go well together. You can even mix it up, make headlines light/hairline at 20pt and body medium/demibold at 10pt.

  • Pick fonts that are either the same, or sufficiently different to each other that they don't look too similar. Choosing two different fonts that look similar to each other may look sloppy. So if you are using two different fonts, make them sufficiently different, such as a serif and a sans-serif, or two very different types of sans-serif.

  • Don't use too many different fonts throughout your design/product. It is usually better to stick with one or two fonts than to have five different fonts in a design. Different weights of the same font are usually acceptable.

  • Having vastly different weights can look good sometimes even if the fonts are different typefaces, for example a heavy serif with a book sans-serif or vice-versa. Light or hairline titles are sort of trendy.

  • Body text should be readable enough to be body text, so don't use a script font for it.

There are various online articles about combining fonts. Some will recommend specific fonts without saying why. Others will give guidelines like they are hard and fast rules.

There are some guidelines which are often quite good but which are never firm rules:

  • Combine fonts from the same time period. For instance, two fonts both designed in the 1930s, or two fonts designed in the 80s/90s. This is especially important if you are going for a "period" look. Not as important, but still possibly a good starting point, otherwise.

  • Combine fonts from the same designer. This isn't always a guarantee that they will go well together, however. Also, this advice often tends to come from font designers or font foundries who stand to gain if you buy more of their fonts.

As for specific examples for pairing with Tahoma Bold? Well, Brendan's answer is one possibility. Georgia would go well and would probably have the benefit of already being installed on your computer. Of his examples I'd also pick Palatino. Both those follow the "sans-serif with serif" suggestion.

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