Typeface Families What They Are and Where to Use Them

10/9/2014

We’ve previously written about what typography is, along with some different attributes. In this blog we will discuss the various types of typeface families, and when they’re most often used. There are at least 40,000 different typeface styles with more than 176,000 attribute variations. To keep track and make sense of them all, typefaces can be divided into different categories, or ‘families’, as listed below.

Serif

Simply put, serifs are the small lines tailing from the edges of letters like shown above.  Serif fonts are easier to read in print works because the edges make the letters more distinct. Serifs are often used in body text because they help with the horizontal flow of the eyes over the words. This font is also more legible and less likely to cause fatigue. 

Sans Serif

In French, ‘sans’ means ‘without’. Fonts in this family have their serifs trimmed off. Also known as block type, this font family saw popularity in the 1880’s, 1920’s, and 1970’s and was often used for headlines, photo captions and anywhere looking to add emphasis. Sans serif fonts are also better for children learning to read because of its simplicity. Lastly, it is also argued that sans serif fonts are better for online content because computer screens generally have lower resolutions compared to print works.

Blackletter

Often described as gothic, or medieval, this typeface family is very ornate and decorative. Individual strokes that make up the letters are thick and have sharp diagonal lines. The ends of the letters usually have small stylized strokes. Used since the invention of the printing press, this typeface is often associated with traditional, conservative, religious, or German content. Newspapers would use this type to show that they were traditional and long-established.

Roman

A distant cousin to Blackletter, the Roman typeface family is the most commonly used. Roman is a ‘serif’ font, characterized by its gently curved tips that create lines that are familiar and easy to read. Because of this it is largely used for body copy in books, magazines, and newspapers.

Script

Script was first introduced to mimic people’s handwriting. These days it is used in documents and publications that want to appear high-quality and high-class. It also gives the impression of being hand-made with an attention to detail.

Miscellaneous

Also known as novelty or display type, the fonts in this family are not easily categorized. As printing and advertising became more and more popular, people created their own typefaces to distinguish their product or brand. The miscellaneous family’s unique feature is that its style purposely draws attention to itself.

Square Serif

This style is similar to roman except with right angle curves jutting from the letter strokes. Sometimes called 3D, slab, or Egyptian, the square serif typeface family also draws attention to itself and the product it is advertising. It is also the least used typeface because of its brick-like appearance which makes it look very rigid. The font is often associated with the Wild West, and is also frequently seen used for university initials on sweatshirts.

What is your favourite typeface family to use in your print projects?

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