Make Condensed Fonts Stand out in Your Designs

Font Families Often Include Condensed Versions of Their Standard Fonts

A condensed font is a narrow version of a standard typeface in a type family. It typically has "condensed," "compressed," or "narrow" in its name, e.g. Arial Condensed. This font is the same height as the standard Arial font, but it is much narrower, which means more characters fit on a line of type. 

Some fonts that are not part of a family are also described as condensed when they are much taller than they are wide. ITC Roswell is a good example of this. Although there are several versions of Roswell, all are condensed and dramatically taller than they are wide. 

Examples of Condensed Fonts

Why Use Condensed Fonts?

Condensed fonts exist to save space. The narrow width allows more characters to be packed into a line, headline, paragraph, column, or page. The downside is that condensed fonts are harder to read because the letters are more closely spaced than in standard fonts.

Condensed fonts work best in small doses such as for subheadings, captions, and pull quotes, especially when paired with standard fonts of the same type family. They can also work for decorative headlines and text graphics when individual characters are intentionally spaced out; the letters are tall and thin but not cramped.

Condensed fonts are also available in display faces, which are designed for use as headlines, not text. In situations where column width is fixed, such as in newspapers, condensed display typefaces can be used to set larger headlines than are attainable with standard faces. 

Orinoco, a condensed sand serif bold font
Getty Images / rikkyal

Condensed fonts have a modern style of their own, which typically provides great contrast with a standard font used in the body of a document or graphic.

It's impossible to list all the available condensed fonts, but a few examples are:

  • Myriad Pro Condensed
  • League Gothic
  • Futura Condensed
  • Generica Condensed
  • Helvetica Condensed
  • Soho
  • Avant Garde Gothic Condensed
  • Frutiger Condensed
  • ITC Garamond Narrow
  • Arial Narrow

Why Stop at Condensed?

There are extra-condensed fonts out there, but in most cases, you should stay away from them for any use other than as headlines. Unless they are used at a large size, they are almost unreadable. Extra-condensed fonts include:

  • Franklin Gothic Extra Compressed
  • Proxima Nova Extra Condensed
  • Facade
  • Runic
  • Monotype Grotesque Extra Condensed