Network diagrams are often the only documentation that is produced for a network so it’s important to make them useful but making diagrams that are visually appealing is a good thing. But one of the most overlooked areas of network diagrams is fonts. This article is about choosing the right fonts for your diagram and those that work for me.
Fonts and Visual Function
Most computers come standard with Arial font since both Apple and Microsoft have licensed the font and comes as part of the operating system. It’s an “OK” font but personally I prefer to use condensed font which has been specifically designed to be readable when the font uses less horizontal space. In the diagram below I show the Arial Narrow font and how it allows for more text in a given space when compared to plain Arial. I’ve also put League Gothic in the image as a free condensed font but you can see that when the image is zoomed out that the font readability get poor. I feel that League Gothic works best at larger font sizes for this reason.
I’ve also put the Exo 2.0 font at Regular weight to show how a geometric sans font compares. I love the shape of Exo 2.0 but I’m not sure if it “works” in this context since the text is a bit thinner than Arial.
To further highlight how some fonts don’t work at smaller sizes that you need in diagrams, take a look at these commercial fonts that I use from time to time. As you can see, these fonts don’t seem to work inside of solid boxes or at smaller sizes they lose some of their readability. And “comic fonts” like Marian Churchland of Comic Book Fonts isn’t working for me in this use case. I’ll let you you be the judge of these styles.
Stylish Free Fonts You Can Use for Network Diagrams
If you are looking for free fonts that can improve your network then you simply cannot go past Source Sans Pro which is designed by Adobe and released under a free license and Roboto Condensed Bold for titles. Roboto was developed for Google Android. I’ve compared this combination with Avenir Next Condensed and Exo 2.0 to get a sense of contrast and playfulness that you get with the right font pairing.
The EtherealMind View
So the least you can do is to download Source San Pro and Exo 2.0 for use in your diagrams. You will improve the aesthetic appeal of your documents and should make you feel happier about your work.
I think we could all use a bit of that.
There are a lot of resources on fonts but the best resource Butterick’s Practical Typography which has a comprehensive look at how fonts work.
Bariol is a half grotesk font that I love. Costs just a few dollars for the complete font family at http://www.bariol.com
Google Fonts has a collection of fonts that are not only Web Fonts but can be downloaded for your computer under Open Font License – http://www.google.com/fonts/
League Gothic – wonderful free and open font from League of Movable Type
Exo 2.0 – “Exo is a geometric sans serif font with a technological feel. This redesign made it much more balanced and a bit more organic, this makes Exo perform much better on small to medium size strings of text as well as on small font sizes, either on print or screen. Exo 2.0 can be used under the SIL Open Font License 1.1” – http://ndiscovered.com/index.php/exo-2-0/
Advent Pro is a free and open font which I’m quite fond of. It works in lots of different diagrams to get away from the block or square boring nature of Arial. http://www.google.com/fonts/specimen/Advent+Pro
Other Posts in This Series
- Free Custom Handwriting Font for Network Designs (14th August 2014)
- Network Diagrams: Font Selection and Production Context. Choosing Slab or Thin fonts (9th June 2014)
- Book Release: Tips on Using Visio To Make Network Diagrams (27th March 2014)
- Network Diagrams: Drawing Overlay Network Layers (14th March 2014)
- Network Diagrams: Choosing Better and Free Fonts (10th January 2014)
- My New Diagram Colour Scheme "Old Disco Style" (24th September 2013)
- On Diagrams and Information (10th September 2013)
- Colour Blindness, Network Diagrams and Reliability (3rd March 2011)
- Designer or Engineer, Artist or Painter (19th January 2010)
- Network Diagrams: Rotating Text on a Line (1st October 2009)
- Network Diagrams: Tips for Printing from Visio (22nd September 2009)
- Network Diagrams:Zones on a diagram with Visio shape union (31st July 2009)
- Network Diagrams: Drawing complex VLAN Networks with IP Addressing (7th July 2009)
- Network Diagrams: Drawing Freehand Curves (and then fixing them) (23rd March 2009)
- Network Diagrams:Aligning Shapes (12th March 2009)
- Network Diagrams:Locking the Background Shape (10th March 2009)
- Network Diagrams: Labelling an VLAN/IP Segment (9th March 2009)
- Network Diagrams: VLANs and IP Subnets (8th March 2009)
- Network Diagrams: Drawing the Background Shape (6th March 2009)
- On the Art of Network Diagrams and Presentation (4th March 2009)