The aim of Google Fonts is to provide a quick and easy alternative to the @font-face method for using web fonts. The @font-face method requires a basic knowledge of HTML and CSS that many people, including website owners, do not have. It also has a number of bugs including discrepancies in display between browsers, light fonts appearing bolder on Mac and sometimes fonts failing to render at all. Google’s fonts make use of their own quick and reliable servers, saving the user time and web space.
Another reason why Google fonts are a great alternative to other web fonts, and even other offline fonts, is the fact that all Google fonts are open source. This means that the fonts are free to use commercially or privately, they can be shared, customised and improved upon.
Open Sans is a brilliant san serif font that makes a great replacement for web safe fonts such as Verdana and Arial, with a similar focus on neutrality and legibility. Designed by Steve Matteson, the Type Director at Ascender Corp, Open Sans also takes into account mobile and web devices. This gives it an edge against the classics.
There are 5 different weights ranging from light to extra bold and then an italic variant for each. Having so much variety widens the possibilities for styling and also allows designers to reuse the font for different projects without them appearing too similar.
With Google itself using it on their about page, Open Sans is become one of the web’s most popular fonts.
Raleway is one of the most stylish Google Fonts and started out as a single thin weight design by Matt McInerney. It was later expanded upon by Pablo Impallari and Rodrigo Fuenzalida into 9 different weights. Unfortunately there are no Italicised versions as of yet, although, being open source is an invitation for a talented designer or studio to give it a shot.
When looking for a font that is a little more intricate and elaborate Raleway is a perfect choice. It makes a great replacement for Futura, and when you’ve used all of its 9 weights to death you can give Raleway Dots a shot.
Cabin is another great San Serif font, that has the edge on Open Sans in the way Futura does on Helvetica. It was designed by Google Font mainstay Pablo Impallari, and is more modernist than Open Sans but less stylised than Raleway. Cabin is perfect for an minimalist branding campaign, and with 4 weights and an Italicised version of each, Cabin is a powerful web design asset.
If you’re a fan of Gill Sans but want the ease and speed of using a Google font then I’d highly recommend Cabin.
Source Sans Pro
Source Sans is another great font for the minimalists out there. It was created by Paul D. Hunt and was also Adobe’s first open source typeface family.
Its inclusion of an ExtraLight weight, with weights spanning from ExtraLight to Black, make it perfect for slick modern typography and web design. As with many Google Fonts, it was created with user interface design in mind.
Steve Matteson designed Droid Sans with mobile user interface, web and on screen viewing as it’s focus. It is slightly more narrow than Open Sans but is otherwise almost identical making it one to keep in mind whenever design for mobile devices. Droid has a regular and bold versions making it more restricted but still a modern favourite for web design.