CalArts: Funds. of Graphic Design-W2: 2.6 Typeface Categories

Serif typefaces can be broken down to four main categories.

Let’s look at them chronologically,

  • old style,
  • transitional,
  • modern,
  • Egyptian.

As you can see, they look quite different, the letter forms have different characteristics.

So let’s start to look at those more closely. Let’s start with old style.

Old style serifs

Old style serifs have limited contrast between the thick and the thin strokes.

They appear quite heavy and quite chunky หนาและสั้น, 
so if you look at the letter forms, 
the thick strokes are not really that different from the thin strokes.

They also have a diagonal เส้นทะแยงมุม stress between the thick areas and where the thinner areas are.

A typeface like Plantin that you can see here, would be a good example of an old style typeface.

Transitional serifs

Transitional typefaces come a little bit later and you can see that they look a little bit different.

They have slightly more contrast between the thicks and the thins.

The thins look a lot thinner than Plantin.

So the type feels a little bit lighter, a little more airy and delicate.[ละเอียดอ่อน,ประณีต,อ่อนช้อย,บรรจงแตกง่าย,อ่อนแอ]

This also they have a slightly less diagonally stress and slightly more vertical stress.

So they start to look a little bit more contemporary.

Modern serifs

Modern serifs aren’t really aren’t that modern at all
They date from the late 1700s and early 1800s and you can see they’re quite a radical โดยรากฐาน departure in letter forms from previous serifs.

If you look closely, you can see that they have a much straighter serif. 
There’s very little angle to it. 
But also, it’s very, very thin
It’s almost a hairline serif.

You can see there’s a lot of contrast between the thick parts of the letter forms and the thin parts of the letter forms. 
In terms of stress, they’re pretty much symmetrical.


The last category of serifs that we’re gonna look at are Egyptians.

Egyptians have virtually no contrast between the thick and the think strokes of the letter form.

But also no contrast in weight between the strokes and the serifs.

This makes them very, very sturdy and very even.

They’re also often symmetrical so there’s no stress to the letter form.

And they’re really a precursor to modern sans serif types.

We can break san serif typefaces down into three major categories.

Let’s look at them chronologically. Grotesque, geometric and humanist.

Grotesque san serifs

If we look at grotesque letter forms, these are quite simple letter forms that are built out of slightly irregular forms with an even stroke.

And what this means is, the typeface looks very clean and modern like a san serif
but it still has a little bit of the funkiness and unevenness that we’ve seen in serif typefaces.

Geometric san serifs

Geometric san serifs are much cleaner and more modern looking than grotesques.

You can see here with Futura, with its round O, and its geometric letter forms, how clean and modern it looks.

The letter forms are built from modular systems and this leads to repetition and evenness in the forms, 
but there’s also a sense of no decoration to the letter form. 
So they’ll have a very clean and modern feeling.

Humanist sans

That minimal feeling of the geometric san serif is somewhat in contrast to the humanist sans.

And a humanist sans really feels like it’s bringing back some of the characteristics of the serif.

And that the term humanist comes from showing signs of handwriting or human being in the construction of the letter form.

In this case, that quite often refers to either handwriting or pen strokes.

So there’s a reintroduction of the idea of thicks and thins in the letter forms.
But also a little more character and a few more flourishes หางอักษรตวัด. And this often lends humanist forms to be a little less cold and a little warmer as a sans serif.

The class of a modular nature of sans serif letter forms, often lends themselves to having a much more extended family than we’ve seen with the serif typefaces we’re looking at. 
And this often expresses itself through weight and width.

So if we look at an extended family like universe for instance, 
we can see that you as the typographer, suddenly have even more choices to make. You’ve got a range in weight and a range in widths.

That go from ultra-black at one end of the scale, all the way through to light at the other end of the scale, 
or from condensed to extended as well.

And this gives you a really wide range of typefaces, even within this one family, yet they’re all Universe.

So as a typographer, you’re getting more and more choices about the kind of typeface that you’re gonna use.

And this can be a little overwhelming but perhaps a better way to look at it, is if all these different type faces and different weights, they’re all just like toys. And the more toys you have, the more fun you can have with them.