Top 10 free typefaces for UI design
My go-to sans serif typefaces for optimal legibility and simplicity on your interface designs.
Interfaces can quickly get cluttered. An easy way to declutter them is by simplifying the thing that takes up the most space, the text. Removing complexity helps to decrease cognitive load (the amount of brain power required to use an interface), improve legibility, and it looks a lot neater too.
With so many typefaces to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start. Here are a few tips to help you choose a suitable typeface for UI design:
- Sans serif, as they’re generally the most legible, neutral, and simple. This makes them a safe option for UI design.
- Relatively tall lower case letters (x-height) and comfortable letter spacing for optimal legibility.
- ‘Variable’ fonts to allow for more style customisation using a single font file. Non-variable fonts have a limited set of weights and styles separated out into different font files. This takes up more space and can affect site performance.
- Modern geometric style for a contemporary vibe.
- Constant stroke thickness (low contrast) for a clean and minimal feel.
The typefaces on this list have most of these characteristics. A typeface for UI design doesn’t need to have all of these characteristics, but they generally help.
Here are my go-to sans serif typefaces for optimal legibility and simplicity.
By Erik Kennedy
Figtree is one of my favourite all-round typefaces for modern UI design. Recently released, it’s like Erik combined all the nicest parts of the top typefaces. It’s very versatile too, as it has a simple and friendly vibe.
By Indian Type Foundry
You can’t go wrong with this modern and minimal sans serif. It’s neat, distraction-free, and comes with lots of OpenType features to allow for more customisation. Less curves make it feel a bit more sharp/serious.
3. DM Sans
By Jonny Pinhorn
Round letters with a nearly constant stroke thickness (low contrast) help make it neat and tidy. Tall lower case letters make it great for use in small text. It’s not a variable font, but I still love it anyway.
4. Plus Jakarta Sans
Extra tall lower case letters (x-height) help make it legible and friendly. The almost constant stroke thickness (low contrast) helps to simplify this typeface and give it a minimal vibe.
By Rasmus Andersson
A favourite amongst designers. It’s great out of the box, but also comes with some really clever OpenType features under the hood. This allows you to tailor functionality and aesthetics to your specific needs.
By Mikhail Sharanda
Manrope is a beautiful modern combination of different font types:
- Slightly condensed, so you can fit more text on a line.
- Tall rather than rounded (semi-geometric).
- Din/Grotesque Numbers are super clean too.
7. Open Sans
By Steve Matteson
A humanist san serif typeface that’s clean, modern, neutral, and friendly. It looks familiar as it was commissioned by Google in 2011. A relatively tall x-height makes it highly legible on screen at small sizes.
By Corey Hu
Modern and neutral, this geometric sans-serif will give your interface a clean and contemporary vibe. Its almost constant stroke thickness (low-contrast) and lack of curves makes it sharp and minimal.
By Łukasz Dziedzic
Lato is a very popular and clever typeface. It looks neutral at a small size, but shows its character at a large size. Curved corners add warmth and friendliness, while its condensed width helps reduce line wrapping.
By Andrew Paglinawan
Quicksand has a lot more personality than the other more neutral typefaces on the list. Its rounded ends make it soft and friendly, while its geometric shapes keep it modern and minimal.
I hope these simple sans serif typefaces come in handy for your next design project. They’re safe and neutral typefaces for UI design, so they should work for most projects. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use serif typefaces for interface design. They can work really well in lots of cases, but it’s generally safest to use simple sans serifs until you gain more experience.
Want more UI design tips?
Choosing the right typeface is just the first step in making interface text beautiful and easy to read. Learn about typography, colour, layout, and much more from my logic-driven UI design book.
To get a better idea of what to expect in the book, check out this UI design case study to redesign an example user interface using logical rules.