Picture Fonts (Pi, Dingbat, Extras, Ornaments)

One thing for sure, is if you buy a designer typeface that comes with an additional ornaments font, buy both of them. For example, not everyone knows that the Bodoni typeface has an accompanying Ornaments font created by ITC and knocked-off by at least one independent vendor on the Web.

Examples of glyphs from various PI or symbol typefaces.

It’s really your call as to which ornaments fonts you really, really need in your base type collection. If you do more page layout than illustration in Xara, you might want to buy a few Pi fonts that are complete but simple illustrations. DF Jouneys for example, is a good, simple font whose characters you’ve seen in logos and ads for years. Rian Hughes has has five sets of dingbats that are iconic in nature and have very neat little drawings in them.

If you don’t own Zapf Dingbats, however, I recommend Hermann Zaft signature font as your first picture font. It contains enlarged quote marks, symbols, arrow, pointing hands, everything you need to embellish a text-heavy document. Also check out Microsoft’s Wingdings that came with Windows. There’s more than one set—scroll toward the bottom of your installed fonts list.

Where do you Begin Hunting and Buying?

Sadly, I don’t see the offers for “1,000 fonts on CD for shipping and handling” anymore, and because the quality of the fonts—not to mention direct rip-offs, illegal copies of commercial typefaces—was a deal-breaker, the fact that it’s hard to find a decent font starter set forced me to look harder at what’s out there.

The good news is that there are affordable typefaces almost in your back yard. The Xara Group has had a relationship with SoftMaker for a while, they brought you the free handwriting typefaces in the Spring of 2012, and they have packs of fonts, both large and small, that can get you as long ways to a complete designer’s typeface collection.

An illustration where the letter a  is coming through an open door.

Notice: If you’ve ever wondered why two identical fonts from different places have different names, it’s due to a long-standing international copyright agreement. It goes like this: a font name can be copyrighted, but it’s hard to enforce copying the spirit of the design of a typeface. Which is why the free font of the month at SoftMaker looks like Bitstream’s Exotic typeface, which all boils down to the Peignot original design. So if you see an example of a typeface online that matches one of the base fonts I show in this article, and it appears to be a legal website, and the font is free or $1, get it. Only once in a while, at a disreputable website will you get burned on a bum font. “Look-alike” typefaces, as these font knock-offs are called, usually will get a designer’s work done, and if you get enough paying gigs with your existing font collection, you can buy the “real deal” typeface down the road.

infiniType vends “look alike” fonts so you need to check a font’s name to understand that, for example, “Huntington” bears an exact resemblance to Handel Gothic (Bitstream and other vendors). But these folks will let you download a 20 pack for free to check out their variety and quality and I discovered that my download includes the entire family of Imperial, a sans serif not on my “must have” list here, but definitely worth having and using. You have XBold, Heavy, italic family members, and a knock-off of STOP, and a nice version of Commercial Script.

Illustration where a purple uppercase T and a lowercase t are peeking out of a doorway.

Summitsoft will let you have 1,000 fonts for $140, no need to wait for a physical CD, you can download your goodies after you put a dent in your credit card. Do you need 1,000 fonts? No. Are all 1,000 fonts classics or something? No; these typefaces are of the famous look-alike category, workmanship is good, no copyright violations I’m aware of.

An illustration where a lowercase f is in an open doorway.

Working your way up the quality, availability and cost ladder, URW, the premiere foundry in Europe who OEMs for Adobe and Bitstream font packs. Fonthaus sells $400 packs; they’re out of the budget for all but serious working designers, but the craftsmanship is impeccable and you get about 300 fonts, the real deal, industry standard names, complete font families, impeccable workmanship. $400 is a kick-in-the-pants initial outlay, but it does work out to a little more than $1 a font for el primo typefaces.

I’d pay a visit to SoftMaker first, see what you can download every month free of charge, and see what you need based on my recommendations. Don’t be afraid to Google (or Bing) around for specific typeface names; a lot of times if you conduct a search for “Optima” for example, you’ll find the whole family, except it’s named “Oregon”.

Know what you want looks like, and your collection should serve you as well as any clipart, stock photo, or other media you need to complete a composition.