I've heard it's harmonious to have the header and body text have similar x-heights. What if your headers have a lower x-height than the body text? Are there any design principles or other issues going against mixing like this?

As I understand it, using a high x-height font in body text will increase legibility. But if your headers have a lower x-height, wouldn't using a lower x-height font for the body make it less readable?

I read a few related posts here, but they didn't address my question.

  • 4
    In my opinion, it is hard to find rules of typography that are always true. There are so many factors - x-height, geometric shape, black/white balance, width/height ratio, thickness, serif/san-serif, target group, cultural preference, trends, the margins af the page and so on. In the end I think "intuition" is another word for letting your brain make the best choice based on what you have experienced. It is hard to say if the rule you mention applies in your case. Maybe you could post a screenshot?
    – Wolff
    Feb 3, 2017 at 17:48

4 Answers 4


No, you're not breaking design rules. You can mix and match fonts with various x-heights; what's important is to look at the page and see if it's readable.


It's not really a hard and fast rule, it's just a good idea. But also a lot of times fonts that are very different from each other look great. I wouldn't want to pair a header font with a small x-height with a body font with a large x-height if they look similar, but if there's a lot of contrast between the two, it will probably have a big impact. For example using a script font with a large x-height and thick letter forms with a thin sans-serif body font will probably look good even if the x-heights are different.


“it's harmonious to have the header and body text have similar x-heights”

Who says that? Let those people make a case for their claim. You don’t have to come up with reasons or ask around.

“using a high x-height font in body text will increase legibility”

In the simplified way this is usually understood, I consider it a myth and I explained that in detail here: https://typography.guru/journal/does-a-large-x-height-make-fonts-more-legible-r16/


I wouldn't call that a huge problem. Pick a good body text font and really what heading font you use is less important. (I'm assuming you're typesetting something like a book or a leaflet or a website with quite a lot of extended text - something where the body text really takes up most of the space.) The real mistake they're trying to help you avoid in these guidelines, I think, is you picking a poor body text font that seems complementary to a heading font, something like ITC Garamond.

It might look odd if you paired a normal x-height body text font with a very high x-height heading font (like Impact). But if you were planning to pair (say) Avenir for body text and Cochin for headings that would be fine, as long as you set both at reasonable sizes.

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