Garamond is not a single typeface. Rather, Garamond is group of typefaces inspired and derived/revived from the work of punch-cutters Claude Garamond in ~1530 (according to and Jean Jannon a century later. While the typeface is named after Garamond, the face is closer to Jannon’s typefaces than Garamond’s (here is an image of Garamond’s work). In fact, Garamond actually based much of his work, according to Bierut, an Aldus Manutius (who gave us, among other things italics and the first “paperbacks”), so the faces may be based off the work of Manutius, Garamond, and Jannon.

Both luckily and unluckily, Garamond’s and Jannon’s typefaces are out of copyright, and the Garamond style has been highly copied. As a result, there are many different “Garamond” typefaces out there. Adobe has a version, Monotype has a version, ITC has a version, has a “Apple Garamond,” and I could go on. So, keep in mind my Garamond may not be the same one you have. Gabor has an interesting discussion of some of the differences between these different Garamonds.

The Garamond faces are known to be elegant and fluid. Bear says Garmaond has “timeless beauty and readability.” According to Wikipedia, Garamond “is considered to be among the most legible and readable serif typefaces for use in print (offline) applications” and it is one of the most eco-friendly major typefaces for printing. I must admit that Garamond is my favorite typeface for print. I love the elegance, style, and high (print) readability. Many highly readable typefaces don’t have the intense voice and style—many are “plain” in comparison. J. K. Rowling, or at least her US publishing agents, may agree. All US editions of Harry Potter were printed in Adobe Garamond (12 point for all books but the longer Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which was set in 11.5). I thought the nice paper of the Harry Potter hardcovers and the elegant typeface made the reading experience enjoyable (and the font geek in me loved the fact they were set in Garamond!). According to Wikipedia, Dr. Suess books are also set in Garamond.


Category of the typeface[1]: Old Style Serif

Serifs: Yes. Adnate style (serifs curve into the stem of the letter). The top serifs angled out, which is different than the more vertical serifs of Times New Roman and Georgia.

X-heights[2]: High, especially for a serif. Bierut calls the x-heights “enormous.”

Width and weight[3]: Garamond is a narrow and light face, which likely contributes to its being so eco-friendly when printed. The result is you can fit more letters on a page and the page will still look light—so it is a good typeface for text-heavy documents where readability, legibility, and white space are key—can you say “résumés”? (I use Garamond for my résumés and CV for these reasons).

Structure[4]: Garamond has a fluid structure with some unique characteristics that give it the style and flair it has. These include the outward angles of the top serifs, a small counter in the lower-case a, the small eye in the e, and long extenders. Garamond has a medium amount of think/think transitions.

Legibility and Readability[5]: Very readable and legible in print. Wikipedia, calls Garamond one of the “most legible and readable serif typefaces for use in print.” The larger x-heights normally correspond to increase readability online; however other aspects of the typeface, including the small character size, light weight, and medium thick/thin transitions decrease online readability. The typeface still has decent legibility online in larger sizes, so I would recommend it for headings and titles online, but not for the body text.

Voice-over and ethos[6]: Garamond is (as noted above) elegant and beautiful. While the face has a lot of personality and style, it still maintains a level of professionalism. Like other Old Style serifs, it has something of a traditional feel, and perhaps more so as it is based on faces from the 16th and 17th centuries. However, it does not feel outdated—the sharp points on the serifs and long extenders move it from old fashioned to timeless. Garamond may be the voice of a stylish and elegant business woman. The ethos is strong in professional uses where a bit of style and not the plain monotony of some serifs is needed.

Typefaces that contrast well with it[7]: As a serif typeface, good contrasts include sans serif faces like Arial, Helvetica, Verdana, Tahoma, Century Gothic, Calibri, and Bell Gothic. One of my favorite combinations is Century Gothic and Garamond, and this combination works well for print (with Garamond as the body typeface) or online (with Garamond as the heading typeface). For a highly elegant and traditional look for print, I like Garamond for the body with Copperplate Gothic for headings. My CV is in this combination. Bell Gothic also balances the elegance well, with a more modern look. I use this combination for my résumé. Most script and decorative typefaces should also contrast (Scripts such as Blackadder ITC, Bradley Hand ITC, Brush Script MT, Freestyle Script, Rage Italic; Decoratives such as Burnstown Dam, Algerian, Hobo Std, Jokerman, Ravie, Snap ITC).

Typefaces that provide conflict[8]: Other Old Style typefaces will conflict the most, such as Book Antiqua, Bookman, Californian FB, Calisto, Centaur, Goudy Old Style, and Palatino. Transitional serif faces will also conflict, as they are not different enough to contrast. So avoid transitional faces such as Baskerville, Bell, New York, Perpetua, Times New Roman, and Georgia. Generally, serif faces will conflict and you will want to avoid them, although if you select faces from the Modern or Slab serif categories with radical differences from Garamond, you may have enough for contrast.

Likely audiences and uses of the typeface: Obviously audiences include readers of Harry Potter and Dr. Seuss. The lighter weight and smaller characters may not work as well for audiences with vision issues, including the elderly. The face works very well for long documents, so one audience is readers of novels and longer print documents. Uses includes books, long reports, dissertations, and any print document where the writer/designer wants high readability and legibility. The smaller size makes it ideal for text-heavy print documents where the designer wants a clean look and wants to save space, as mentioned above. It works well for résumés and CVs in more traditional areas or areas where a clean elegant design is warranted. It looks lovely in letters (like cover letters), giving them a formal and sophisticated feel, especially on a nice parchment or linen paper. Given its eco-friendliness in printing, green and eco-friendly companies may consider it for print use. Companies that want a more elegant and traditional but not boring feel may like Garamond—law firms, wedding businesses, clothing boutique stores, and business associated with women. The elegance does lend it a more feminine feel, so this may not be the hair club for men typeface. This face is not recommended for screen use, although it could work for small amounts of text in larger sizes, like heading and titles, so consider it for the contrast face in website with an elegant and traditional feel.

Note: I increased the size to “large” for the Garamond here, to make it more readable.

This is what it would normally look like.

For more information:

Read more about Harry Potter set in Garamond:

See Claude Garamond’s roman typeface that inspired today’s Garamonds.


Bierut, Michael. “I Hate ITC Garamond.” The Design Observer Group.

Gabo, Peter. “Garamond v Garamond: Physiology of a typeface.” translated by Barney.

“Garamond.” Wikipedia.


[1] See

[2] X-heights: the height of the lowercase x compared to the uppercase letters. The higher the height of the lowercase x, the more readable the typeface. Ideally shoot for more than 50% for print and higher for online readability.

[3] Width and weight: Widths is how wide the letters in the typeface are. Weight is how heavy the typeface appears on a page the thickness of the strokes of the letters. A heavy typeface will look black and make the overall page darker, a light typeface will look lighter and make the overall page a shade of gray.

[4] Structure: how the face is built including thick/thin transitions, types of strokes, and more. If you were building the typeface out of materials, what would you use? Pipes? Fences? Thread?

[5] Legibility: the ability to make out/recognize small amounts of text such as a word or letters. Readability: the ease of reading a long body of text, such as paragraphs

[6] Voice-over and ethos: Voice over is the voice of the typeface or the style of the typeface. What style does the typeface suggest. If the typeface could talk, what would it sound like? Is it loud? Sassy? Quite? Formal? Would it be a valley girl or a New Your City business woman? Ethos refers to the authority of the text. When would this typeface be appropriate?

[7] Contrast: For good design you want to use typefaces that contrast. Clearly distinct faces contrast and create a strong design. If the faces are similar neither will “pop” and the similarities may look like a mistake and not intentional. Good contrasts are serif typefaces and sans serif typefaces.

[8] Conflict: The opposite of contrast. Two typefaces (or other elements) that are so similar they are disturbing (they “conflict”) and not contrasting, thus creating a weak design. Example: Times New Roman & Garamond.

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