Type classifications: Serifs
When you make your own layout, one of the things you'll have to do is choose typefaces. To do that well, you need to know a little bit about type and typography. This is the second article in a series that covers some type basics. The first article described the parts of a letter. Now we will begin to look at type classifications. There are three broad classifications of type: serifs, sans serifs and specialty. In this article, we will look at serif typefaces.
A serif is defined as a short decorative line at the start or finish of a stroke in a letter. Serifs are also sometimes referred to as feet.
There have been legibility/readability studies done over the years that have concluded that the serifs allow the eye to more easily track lines of text. Whether you agree with that conclusion or not, you will find that most long bodies of text are set in serif typefaces.
Serif typefaces are usually placed into one of four historical classification groups. These are Oldstyle, Transitional, Modern and Slab Serif.
Oldstyle typefaces are from the 15th and 16th centuries. Two common Oldstyles are Caslon and Garamond. Some common characteristics of Oldstyles are:
- They are based on hand-drawn lettering and type of the Renaissance type designers
- They are characterized by beautiful italics
- Their “feel" is friendly, warm, romantic and classical
- They have a small x-height in relation to the uppercase letters
- The contrast between thick and thin strokes fairly distinct
- They are ideal for text meant for extended reading (magazines, books, journals, reports and newsletters)
Transitional typefaces are from the 18th century. Two well-known Transitionals are Baskerville and Times Roman. Some common characteristics of Transitionals are:
- They are based more on mathematics than on hand-drawn letters
- They are less complex than Oldstyles
- Their “feel" is rational and matter-of-fact
- Their x-height is large in relation to the uppercase letters
- They work well in the same situations as Oldstyles
- They reproduce better than Oldstyles at resolutions less than 600 dpi
Moderns are from the late 18th century into the 19th century. Bodoni is probably the most well-known Modern. Some common characteristics of Moderns are:
- The contrast between thick and thin strokes is highly exaggerated
- Their “feel" is stylized, refined, cool, sophisticated and elegant
- They work well for short articles, logos, titles and headlines, and advertising
Slab Serifs date from the 19th century. Clarendon is a common Slab Serif typeface. Some common characteristics of Slab Serifs are:
- Their stroke width is even
- Their “feel" typifies the industrial society of the 19th century
- They work best for logos, headlines, advertising and posters
To download my free ebook that shows typography in action designing a flyer, click here: http://www.yeow-to-wow.com
You can read the first article - Parts of a Letter - in this series by clicking here: http://ezinearticles.com/?id=1180490
Brenda Lewis is a veteran graphic designer who has conducted graphic design workshops for both local and national audiences.