Free Tools! The Six Best Fonts in Microsoft Office and How To Use Them

Massimo Vignelli was a design legend. The New York City subway map and signage, the American Airlines logo, the National Park Service style guide, Knoll furniture–all his work. It’s hard to see the world after World War II without noticing his impact on typography, page layout, book design and more.

In the documentary Design is One, and elsewhere, Massimo happily shared for free what he considered the essential font faces for good design: Bodini, Century, Futura, Helvetica, and Times. Given the hundreds of fonts the average computer user has access to by default, some guidance from a design legend is very helpful.

(You can purchase a hardcopy or download an ebook of  The Vignelli Canon to learn, and see, more about Massimo’s approach to typography and design.)

The problem is, most of Vignelli’s recommended fonts don’t come with Microsoft Office. That’s a shortcoming of arguably the most standard typesetting venue in the world. To be like Massimo, you’d need to buy his fonts. Odds are, as a public and social sector marketer, you don’t have the budget for that.

Five Font Substitutions and One Addition

Massimo might disapprove, but here are substitutions that you can make in Microsoft Office to come very close to his ideal: Arial, Bodoni MT, Times New Roman, Tw Cen MT. Luckily, Century is included in Office. In addition, I’ll be presumptuous and add Calibri. It works particular well for screen displays.

All of these fonts are listed in my font selections for Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, and should be in yours.

Here’s what these recommended fonts look like:


The fonts in the left column are serif fonts. They have little small lines at the bottom of the vertical strokes. The fonts are the right are sans serif. They don’t have the small lines. Although the science isn’t conclusive, there’s consensus that serif fonts are easier to read in print and sans serif are easier to read on a screen.

Two Fonts Should Be Enough

Although Microsoft Office includes hundreds of fonts, you only need one or two for a project. One approach to pairing fonts in print combines sans serif fonts for headings and captions, and serif fonts body copy. You could try flipping this rule for online design.

For more variety in your typography, vary the font color, size, and spacing. Don’t forget bolding and italizing as options. Just use variety consistently and with intent.

Pairing smart typography with smart page layout creates a system to easily generate quality design with endless possibilities. Download my free page grid and trifold brochure templates for PowerPoint to start making your own posters, post cards, brochures, e-books and more.

(The Vignelli Canon and other books mentioned in this blog are available in the bookstore.)

(Artwork “HelveticaSpecimenCH” by GearedBull Jim Hood – Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons)


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