Help! What's all this font-pairing stuff, anyhow?

Time to update my resume and while I don’t obsess over details I don’t fully understand—I’m an engineer, dammit, not a typographer—I am just barely aware enough to know that it matters. I don’t want to descend into American Psycho levels of hipster d-baggery; I just don’t want my resume to roll eyes.

OK, suppose I’m using Comic Sans for the body—kidding! I value readability above all else and therefore Times New Roman used to be my go-to serif font of choice until I read this:

Professional typographers avoid using Times New Roman (TNR) for book-length (or brief-length) documents. This face was designed for newspapers, which are printed in narrow columns, and has a small x-height in order to squeeze extra characters into the narrow space. Type with a small x-height functions well in columns that contain just a few words, but not when columns are wide (as in briefs and other legal papers).

I can’t recall how I stumbled across that style guide but I figure who reads more crap than an attorney? Besides a human resources manager, that is. I always wondered why full page width TNR was hard to read. Well, not exactly hard to read so much as not as easy to read as say, a decent book. From the same source:

Use typefaces that were designed for books. Both the Supreme Court and the Solicitor General use Century. Professional typographers set books in New Baskerville, Book Antiqua, Calisto, Century, Century Schoolbook, Bookman Old Style and many other proportionally spaced serif faces. Any face with the word “book” in its name is likely to be good for legal work. Baskerville, Bembo, Caslon, Deepdene, Galliard, Jenson, Minion, Palatino, Pontifex, Stone Serif, Trump Mediäval, and Utopia are among other faces designed for use in books and thus suitable for brief-length presentations.

After experimenting, I believe I’ve settled on Century Schoolbook for my serif font. Now, what to pair it with? Helvetica? Arial is non-starter for me as I view it as Microsoft’s bastard knockoff of Helvetica to get around copywrite. I think that Franklin Gothic looks good as a header, but what do I know? Thoughts? Opinions?

You are likely to get fifty opinions of varying murkiness and from different perspectives - artistic, design-based, experience-based and “job hunting rules” based. You also have some kind of bizarre ideas - hating on Arial because it’s one of a thousand knockoffs of one of the greatest typefaces ever designed? I doubt you have many, if any, original-foundry fonts at hand.

Not that there aren’t good arguments against Helvetica in any guise; it’s boring.

Also, it’s “copyright.”

If you don’t know what else you’re doing, stay with a single font, ideally a family that has at least a semibold weight if not a light. With four weights and italics, you can do all the variation and highlighting you need without having to blend fonts. If you have any Adobe “Pro” font - Caslon Pro, Jenson Pro, etc. - it would be a leader.

ETA: Use font sizing well, as well. Doing everything the same size looks horrid… but too much variation (too much range, or too many sizes) looks awful too. Basically, choose a body face that works well and use slight variations of it in size and weight to differentiate the components.

Not that it really matters any more, anyway. 99% of resumes, especially in tech, are simply OCRed and searched for keywords before ever being seen by a human. I used to to very high-end, headhunter-grade 'zoomies; haven’t done one like that for self or client in twenty years.

No, but I will have it professionally printed and they will have Helvetica. Why use a knockoff when one can use the original?


I thought sans serif for headers and serif for body was de rigueur these days. I suppose I can achieve the same effect with weighting and sizing.

While this is true, at some point a human will look at it. I just want it as readable as possible. Thanks.

I don’t suss “professionally printed.” You mean Kinko’s will run it off on their laser printer instead of you on yours?

I don’t know of any print shop these days that maintains only licensed original-foundry fonts. Hardware/firmware based fonts went out the window many years ago except perhaps in high-end RIPs, and even there I think most just work with the font embedded in the document.

And then, I defy anyone not a professional designer to tell one of the many quality Helv clones from the real thing. I can, but it’s a matter of looking for and then judging some very subtle details. You might as well insist that it’s real Courvoisier XO in a glass you’re photographing.

Really. Short of the highest-end work where tolerances are impossibly tight, no one’s much cared about knockoff fonts for a long time. We’re decades past the time when software (and OSes) came with junk fonts that had to be substituted at the print end.

Sans headers and serif body came more from Word templates than anything else. There are NO rules except “neat and professional” - and there are a hundred ways to get that finish.

OK, I’ll abandon the dual font approach and see how it looks in just one face. As long as it’s readable and I do like Century Schoolbook. Thanks for the help.