Designing with Type
Cooper Union professor James Craig wrote Designing with Type for his students. In 2005, Craig published the fifth edition of Designing with Type: The Essential Guide to Typography.
His classification system is based on what he calls the five classic typefaces: Garamond (Old Style), Baskerville (Transitional), Bodoni (Modern), Century Expanded (Egyptian), and Helvetica (Sans-Serif), where each typeface is representative of his classification categories. Then, Craig breaks down each category based on variations in stress, stroke and serif, making his the most scientifically analyzed system. And it’s pretty much impossible to argue with his logic.
When we look at letter stress, Jim Craig pulls out the calligraphy pen and mocks up a quick letter O. Old Style letters have the most pronounced diagonal stress, all the way to Modern and Egyptian, who’s stresses are vertical. Roy Veldkamp has made a really nice animation of the idea that we’re obsessed with an have included below. For use within Craig’s system, just pretend Humanist isn’t there.
Finally, there are the serifs. Heavy in Old Style to hairline in Moderns. Egyptian typefaces marked a return to the heavy serif, but occasionally with the 90-degree styling of the Modern serif. And 20th-century Sans-Serifs decided to eliminate the serif all together.
While we’re pretty much agreed that James Craig has the most calligraphic history to back up his system, he’s also chosen not to tackle the dreaded Display category. The longer we do this, the more and more we’re starting to think that’s the answer to this whole thing (maybe).