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I'm working on designing some badges and am looking for a nice, condensed, but readable font.

I usually use Helvetica-Condensed, but for this project I need type that is smaller than 9pt. Helvetica has the disadvantages of very closed letters, very static, similar forms, and very tight spacing.

Does anyone have any recommendations for a free font I could use?

Also, maybe your favorite condensed fonts that look good at 7pt, 8pt and 9pt.

Thanks!

closed as primarily opinion-based by DA01, Ryan, Scott, Mᴏɴᴋᴇʏ Aug 21 '14 at 19:48

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Screen or print? – Brendan Aug 21 '14 at 16:41
  • It's for the web – user3075987 Aug 21 '14 at 16:47
  • 7pt condensed for the web? That's likely not going to work well regardless of the typeface. – DA01 Aug 21 '14 at 17:28
  • Readability isn't primarily opinion-based - Helvetica has been known to struggle on the screen at smaller sizes. Some choices (like a typeface designed for the screen instead of print) will be objectively better. – Brendan Aug 22 '14 at 22:21
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That's a relatively tall order.

Free fonts (at least the kinds you'd find on a site like Dafont) are often characterized by not having condensed or expanded variants and not doing extensive hinting work for smaller sizes.

That said, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Calibri is not free, but it is relatively freely available, more narrow than your typical sans, and looks good on the screen. Might be worth a shot.
  2. Roboto Condensed is Google/Android's ripoff of Helvetica, but it's a decent ripoff and it's made for the screen, particularly mobile screens.
  3. Open Sans Condensed isn't bad, but it doesn't have a normal weight.
  4. Go to Google Fonts and either search for "condensed" or use the "Width" filter to get some different widths. Plug 'em in and see how they work for you!

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