Chapter 11: Garamond

Posted on October 28, 2019 | Updated on September 25, 2023

Open a document, and the first thing you might do is click on the drop-down menu for fonts. Choosing the right font to write in is not always the easiest task. While you might select one of the more obvious choices — such as Arial or Times New Roman — this particular occasion might beg for something more refined. You need Garamond — a 16th-century font from France that marked an evolutionary period to modern Roman typefaces.

Garamond is the name of a family of fonts that are of an older style type. It’s a delicate and lovely font that has existed for centuries longer than the Internet. While this is not technically a modern font, there have been many adaptations to it through the years. Because of its age, it has an Old-World-type feel to it.

Garamond can change its look quite a bit, depending on whether you choose a regular font, italics, or semibold — and which digital version of the font you work with. Many print designers consider it to be one of the best fonts available, and you will see the font in the print publishing world quite often. 

Garamond is a font you’ll want to consider for your next project, particularly if it is printed. However, if you’re thinking about using it in your designs, there are a few things you might want to know first. Let’s dive into the origins, where it is commonly found, and when it is appropriate for you to use it. 

Origin 

The font is named after a French engraver, Claude Garamond, who lived during the late 1400s and early 1500s. He used old-style serif letter designs for his engraving punches. Some of the characteristics of his punches resemble the typeface, which may be why it was named after him.

For example, the circle on the lowercase letter “e” is quite small and closed. The capital letters resemble Roman square capitals, and the letter “M” has serifs that edge outwards. On some letters, such as the letter “R,” the leg of the letter extends out past the rest of the letter. These characteristics make Garamond easily recognizable and regal-looking in nature. The accents, such as the leg of the “R,” make this font immediately recognizable.

There is some debate about who actually invented Garamond, but it is often credited to Robert Estienne in 1530, who used a modern-looking Roman font very similar to it’s style of today. The ITC Garamond was released in 1975 and was meant to be used in text designs. 

It was in 1989 that Adobe first released Adobe Garamond, which was designed by Robert Slimbach and comprised a combination of an italic type and Roman Garamond type. Not much has changed with this typeface since then.

What Does the Font Imply?

The ITC Garamond family features bold weights with four Roman and italics in normal widths. Its specific features make it stand out from other fonts of its type, yet they all look similar in nature. The overall style is French Renaissance.

There is sometimes a negative connotation of the writer who uses Garamond — a sort of uppity and bookish intellectualism of the absolute know-it-all. Yet, it is simply a stereotype. 

One could say it has a particular elegance about it, fit for regality and Old-World appeal. While it appears somewhat baroque in a world of sans-serif typography preferences, it has its place.

For example, the font is quite ornamental, making it the perfect typeface for a formal invitation to a wedding or other special event. Garamond is often considered the go-to in old-style serif typography. This is one font that can look dignified and formal while still being highly readable.

Where It’s Commonly Found and Used

There’s a good reason why the classic font remains popular — it comes in regular, italic, medium 500 and bold. Its letters are also evenly spaced, making it appealing as a smaller text size on your smartphone or blown up for a billboard.

Aside from wedding and other event invitations, it is most often found in books and printed material. In fact, popular books that are in the Garamond typeface include books written by Dr. Seuss, the Harry Potter series, and the Hunger Games. 

Magazines, books and newspapers will often put chapter headings or headlines in some type of this font. Companies and professionals might also use Garamond in logos and business cards. However, it is important to remember there are many different fonts within this family from which to choose.

What Should It Be Used As?

Garamond can be used for any type of industry you can imagine, but keep in mind how formal or informal your audience is, as it can come across as a bit more formal than, say, Arial font. 

A Wall Street company may be more likely to use Garamond fonts as opposed to a modern technology startup led by today’s younger workforce. Likewise, more traditional brands with an editorial focus might want to stick with it.

Because of its fancy, aged appearance, Garamond resembles older handwriting styles. Despite being a primary font for print media, this typeface hasn’t always been the best choice for screens. You may not realize it, but in recent years, we’ve grown accustomed to EB Garamond on computers, phones and other devices. 

EB Garamond maintains the original font’s elegance and “fussiness” while improving online readability. This newer version comes in five weights and two styles — regular and italic. It often appears in captions or website labels. 

The font will always face some limitations on the web, meaning it may not be your best option for web copy. This is because some fonts are more standard than others online, such as Times New Roman, Arial, and Verdana. Additionally, some people may not have Garamond installed on their computers, which makes it appear fuzzy or blockish.  

Getting Around the Web Use Issue

Nevertheless, many graphic designers still use Garamond in marketing and branding. After all, this font communicates a strong message of classicism, tradition and nobility — which may suit a particular industry or company.

There is one way you can get around the issue of it not looking great in web designs and copy. You can simply incorporate this gorgeous font into your logo design. When displayed as a graphic, the font will appear the way it does on your design screen. This allows you to still utilize the attitude of the font without running into the usage problems of placing it directly in your copy.

Do you remember Apple’s font from the early 1980s? It used ITC Garamond for its corporate font, making it a bit narrower than a traditional one. American Eagle, Abercrombie & Fitch, Rolex, and Neutrogena have all incorporated the font into their branding at some point, too.

The font has been popular for so many decades that it has inspired some other font designs. Cormorant was inspired by Garamond, for example. It works best for large-font print items, such as trade show displays or signs. This particular font is known for its high slant accents. 

Claude Sans also finds its inspiration in Garamond. If you do any type of print design or logo creation work, then this is a font you’ll want to tuck into the back of your mind. When you need to design something that says elegance, you can pull it to the forefront and utilize this amazing and versatile font.  

Similar Fonts

Garamond isn’t the only Old-World-style font available. Aside from Cormorant and Claude Sans, several other fonts have taken inspiration from it or offer a similar effect, including the following:

  • Bembo
  • Goudy Old Style
  • Baskerville
  • Didone
  • Palatino
  • Saban
  • Berling

You will likely need to install several of these typefaces onto your computer. Many websites offer free font files for you to download, extract and install on Microsoft Word for your use. 

Best Fonts Pairings

Graphic designers might use it for headings or subheadings. Print publishers might prefer to use it for body text. Regardless of where one incorporates it, Garamond also pairs well with other fonts. Here are some Garmond pairings you might want to try in your next project:

  • Garamond + Montserrat
  • Garamond + Slippery
  • Garamond + Quixote
  • Garamond + Giveny
  • Garamond + Moeda
  • Garamond + Ava

There are also several suitable pairings for EB Garamond for those using the font in web copy and online branding and marketing:

  • EB Garamond + Gills Sans
  • EB Garamond + Helvetica Now
  • EB Garamond + Proxima Nova
  • EB Garamond + Museo Sans
  • EB Garamond + Europa
  • EB Garamond + Neue Haas Unica
  • EB Garamond + Open Sans
  • EB Garamond + Playfair Display
  • EB Garamond + Roboto

Play around with the different pairings to see which meets your desired aesthetics. Your copy might take on a different feeling with each. 

Use Garamond to Demonstrate the Finer Things in Life

Fancy, elegant, royal, and Old World — possibly the best ways to describe the ever-popular font. Like any typeface, there is an appropriate time and place to use it, but its impact will be greatly felt. There is obviously a reason why it has stood the test of time. While it may not be considered one of the standard fonts, it is best used for projects underscoring luxury or intellectualism. 

The Font Series Guide: Introduction
Chapter 1: 15 Google Fonts You Should Be Using
Chapter 2: Times New Roman
Chapter 3: Roboto
Chapter 4: Georgia
Chapter 5: Verdana
Chapter 6: Helvetica
Chapter 7: Comic Sans
Chapter 8: Didot
Chapter 9: Arial
Chapter 10: Tahoma
Chapter 11: Garamond
Chapter 12: Century Gothic
Chapter 13: Brody
Chapter 14: Bromello
Chapter 15: Savoy
Chapter 16: Athene
Chapter 17: Calibri
Chapter 18: Proxima Nova
Chapter 19: Anders
Chapter 20: Monthoers
Chapter 21: Gotham

About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.

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