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Type classification

From: Foundations of Typography

Video: Type classification

Let's look more closely at some shapes and other details, which can help us categorize typefaces, beyond just serif and sans serif. Almost all typefaces belong to a recognized tradition. In order to make informed decisions about their use, we need to locate typefaces within their historical context. Although there's no single universal system of type classification, I would like to introduce you to the basic most widely recognized categories of type. The first Roman serif types are called Oldstyle. They were created between the late 15th century and the mid 18th century.

Type classification

Let's look more closely at some shapes and other details, which can help us categorize typefaces, beyond just serif and sans serif. Almost all typefaces belong to a recognized tradition. In order to make informed decisions about their use, we need to locate typefaces within their historical context. Although there's no single universal system of type classification, I would like to introduce you to the basic most widely recognized categories of type. The first Roman serif types are called Oldstyle. They were created between the late 15th century and the mid 18th century.

Here are some examples, notice how they have low contrast between thick and thin strokes, and they have thick bracketed serifs. You will also notice the long senders and descenders, the parts of the letters that extend above and below the body height, and within the body they have smallish spaces. The next major category of type is known as Transitional. Transitional represents the stylistic bridge between Oldstyle and the next category MODERN. You can identify transitional typefaces by their sharper flatters serifs.

You'll also see a tighter bracketed curve and the stress in the curved letters is more vertical. Here is where we can see the access known as the stress, it is an imaginary line connecting the thinnest parts of an O. In Transitional typefaces, there is a higher contrast between thick and thin strokes. The change in appearance from Oldstyle to Transitional occurred in the mid 18th century, partly due to advances in printing and font making technology.

Modern typefaces made their first appearance in the late 18th century. We can easily recognize Modern typefaces, noticed the extreme contrast between thick and thin strokes and the ultra thin un-bracketed serifs, which are horizontal, or nearly horizontal. Slab Serif, the next major category also emerged in the mid 18th century. These fonts were useful for advertising and signage, because of their weight and strong presence. In the Slab Serif category, serifs are generally un-bracketed or square and the main characteristic of Slab Serif is the lack of contrast between strokes.

That means that the thicks and thins are of equal or almost equal weight. In the late 1800s Sans Serif typefaces also evolved to meet the needs of advertising. There are three main categories of Sans Serif typefaces. The first is called Grosteque, which is also known as Gothic. Grotesques have slight variations in stroke width. The letters are fairly wide and the rounded letters are often a bit squared off, if you look closely. There are two other distinct kinds of Sans Serif typefaces that you should know about, Humanist Sans Serif have the proportions of classical Roman letters.

If you look closely, you'll see some of the proportions of the hand-lettered Roman forms. The last category of Sans Serif are the easiest to spot, they are based on the Geometric forms of the circle, square, and triangle. Geometric Sans Serif reflects the modernist movement of the early 20th century. Futura, Avant-Garde, and Kable are some of the most widely known Geometric Sans Serifs. So now we have looked at specific details in the groups of major serif and sans serif categories in order to organize, and identify them, or classify them.

They are other typefaces more newly designed, which follow the style of a type classification, so they are also included in that category, they are known as Revivals. So, next time you're at a movie theater watching a film's title sequence with a group of friends, you will be able to impress them by saying just check out that Geometric Sans Serif. More important, understanding type classification will help you decide which typefaces to use for your project.

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This video is part of

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Foundations of Typography

46 video lessons · 31340 viewers

Ina Saltz
Author

 
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  1. 9m 5s
    1. Welcome
      1m 58s
    2. Why good typography matters
      1m 55s
    3. The power of type
      1m 53s
    4. The theory of typographic relativity
      1m 53s
    5. Getting the most out of this course
      1m 26s
  2. 23m 49s
    1. Serif vs. sans serif
      3m 27s
    2. Display type vs. text type
      3m 39s
    3. Type history
      2m 48s
    4. Type classification
      4m 8s
    5. Other type categories
      3m 24s
    6. Guidelines for combining typefaces
      3m 49s
    7. Using cases
      2m 34s
  3. 18m 28s
    1. Anatomy: Parts and shapes of type
      4m 35s
    2. Size and measurements of type
      2m 18s
    3. Type families: Widths, weights, and slopes
      3m 53s
    4. Reviewing the terminology of type, based on function
      3m 27s
    5. Working with color and tonal weight: Exercises
      4m 15s
  4. 20m 27s
    1. Kerning and kerning pairs
      3m 33s
    2. Tracking and leading
      3m 49s
    3. Exploring variations in type alignment
      3m 55s
    4. Hyphenation and justification
      3m 13s
    5. Indents, outdents, and hanging punctuation
      2m 26s
    6. Other typographic best practices
      3m 31s
  5. 10m 3s
    1. Where type begins: The mark of the hand
      2m 28s
    2. Related parts and shapes: Family resemblances
      4m 35s
    3. Designing a typeface
      3m 0s
  6. 22m 19s
    1. How legibility and readability differ
      3m 48s
    2. Examining factors affecting legibility
      4m 46s
    3. Hierarchy and functionality
      4m 29s
    4. Systematized hierarchy
      3m 52s
    5. Paragraphs, drop caps, and entry points
      2m 41s
    6. Typographic abominations
      2m 43s
  7. 11m 8s
    1. Opposing forces of typography
      3m 8s
    2. The grid: A structure for containing type
      3m 6s
    3. Contrast and scale
      4m 54s
  8. 9m 41s
    1. Typographic expressiveness
      3m 22s
    2. The emotional impact of type
      2m 47s
    3. Three-dimensional type
      3m 32s
  9. 8m 55s
    1. Working with numbers
      2m 10s
    2. Expert characters and analphabetic symbols
      1m 56s
    3. Using typography to navigate content
      1m 51s
    4. Using typography to navigate the environment
      2m 58s
  10. 9m 14s
    1. Managing fonts and building your type library
      3m 14s
    2. Developing your typographic eye
      2m 31s
    3. Breaking the rules
      1m 41s
    4. What's next
      1m 48s

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