Typically, condensed fonts are narrower versions of the standard typefaces in a specific type family. Some fonts that are not part of a larger family may be described as condensed if they are much taller than they are wide. Often the font will have condensed as part of its name.
One use of condensed fonts is to save space. The narrower width allows for more characters to be packed into a line, a paragraph, a column, and a page. However, these narrow, compressed fonts can hinder readability because the letters are thinner and more closely spaced.
The use of compressed fonts may work best in small doses such as for subheadings, captions, or pull-quotes, especially when paired with standard fonts of the same type family. They can also work for decorative headlines and text graphics, especially when individual characters are intentionally spaced out so that you get the tall, thin letters but without the cramped letterspacing.
Ways to Use (& Not Use) Condensed Fonts
- To create a headline hierarchy.
- To add variety to a single typeface document.
- To insert contrast using type.
"Condensed variations of most fonts should be used sparingly or avoided altogether in most design projects with blocks of text. Although there are a wide-range of excuses to use them there is a simple reason why you should not: Condensed fonts can be very hard to read."Condensed Fonts: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly describes and illustrates how and when to use and why to avoid the use of condensed fonts.
"Add typographic white space by increasing the leading of body text, using lighter type, avoiding letterspacing that is too tight, and avoiding unending condensed or heavy type." How to Add White Space
"You can condense and expand fonts both horizontally—by compressing or spreading out the letters or the words—and vertically—by decreasing or increasing the white space between lines, using CSS." Using Condensed and Expanded Fonts in HTML is actually a method of changing letterspacing.
- How to Simulate Expanded or Condensed Fonts (microsoft.com)
- Compressed, Condensed, and Extended Fonts (a discussion at typophile.com)
- Free Condensed Fonts on the Web (free-fonts.com)
Also Known As: narrow fonts | compressed fonts | thin fonts