I'm on this project where I want to keep a sans serif font for my titles (shown as title in the examples) but it works very poorly for the text. I already have a serif matched with it but I also want to be able to typeset my text in sans if needed. I'm not planning on ever using the sans used for the title in the text and the sans used in the text as a title.

I'm having a dilemma, my gut tells me that the bottom pairing works better (contrast) but I'm falling for the top pairing's ligatures. Constructive feedback would be appreciated. Top is Hurme Geometric Sans with Calluna and bottome is Hurme Geometric Sans with Whitney.


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  • 1
    What is the serif text you're using? Does it come with a sans pairing (like Calluna and Calluna Sans)? May 24, 2014 at 7:20
  • I'm using SabonNext, it works pretty well with both to my eye. Also, overall, I'm trying to give a classical feel with a modern twist.
    – curious
    May 24, 2014 at 13:05
  • @AndrewLeach I added a screenshot with a few more examples. After posting my earlier comment I realized Calluna has a light weight, it works a bit better now...just to make my dilemma worse :-) I didn't even remember Calluna had a serif...I will check this out, could solve my problem easily! Thanks for mentioning it!
    – curious
    May 24, 2014 at 13:29
  • Have you been manually adjusting the Hurme Geometric Sans in the heading, because it looks awful. I mean to the point where I just looked up the font to see if it was made that way. The N in "Pairing" looks bigger, the W in "Two" looks bigger, and I can't quite tell if the first S in "Sans" looks too small or the N in "Sans" too big. The worst by far is the 'W' in Two. I can't tell if its the size or if you did a baseline shift but it looks terrible. It's really hard to judge the rest in my opinion because of this.
    – Ryan
    May 25, 2014 at 11:34
  • @Ryan See updated screenshot
    – curious
    May 25, 2014 at 13:48

3 Answers 3


I am not really a fan of the adage that says you should pair serifs with sans etc.; that you need a great contrast to make text work, I think it is nonsense. Though you need a light hand and a sensitive touch to get it right. I am going to skip the serif-and-sans entirely.

I see no reason why you cannot do sans-on-sans. A block of text is more about texture these days (as visual displays and tech gets better).

The texture of the block is of course dependant on how you set it: a flush right will give the overall "image" a more blocky feel. In my mind that is unfortunate (in most cases..). A ragged right gives geometric fonts a little life and energy. Flush right adds a "third" geometric element that you do not need. Since you are not doing this, the crux lies on the density of the texture of the block.

Particularly: your headings are all upper-case. That is why it works. If your headings were lower-case it will be jarring with the text block. If you are going with a serif heading, you could set that in lower case.

Personally; I prefer your third option with Calluna light. But if you play with line-height and size on the others, they might work nicely as well. The weight of your heading is also crucial.

To conclude: I think it works well. As long as the contrast of upper-to-lower case, weight and size is good. Of which I think the third example are the best.


To my eyes, the best one is the second one of the first image.

Overall I don't like them all. I don't know what program you are using but some letters are big, some small ... IDK what is going on here. Even the one I call "best" looks very strange with this short G, taller T and yet taller W, followed by a short O.

These pairings don't look like good typography examples to me. They all miss the mark and I can't explain why. They are all slightly annoying to me. I am not saying they are bad ... no, they are slightly annoying and I am surprised you achieved this in all of them.

The Sabonnext "e" is horrible. -_-

  • I'm in Illustrator but there is only so much a PNG can do unfortunately. I guess posting a bigger version wouldn't hurt, might update it later.
    – curious
    May 25, 2014 at 2:50
  • Second paragraph of this hits it. I looked up the font and Hurme doesn't cause it. All the letters on Hurme Geometric Sans should be very even like "TWO" the W meets the top of the T. myfonts.com/fonts/hurme-design/hurme-geometric-sans
    – Ryan
    May 25, 2014 at 11:37
  • @Komental See updated screenshot
    – curious
    May 25, 2014 at 13:49

For Display Work
Whitney is the only readable font using the rendering engine here, and it provides good contrast with Hurme without being too jarring. Calluna is too bold and tight, and the ascenders and leading on Calluna Light are too much. On screen, Sabonnext is also a bit tight and muddy, and I'd avoid serif titles unless they're kept uppercase and understated. Check out the fonts in a few test screenshots with different anti-aliasing settings in the OS (note that browsers and systems all differ in this regard).

For Print Work
The reverse may prove to be more pleasing, with Whitney being too widely spaced and light with not enough character when printed in high resolution. Check out the fonts in a few test prints with different weights.

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