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There are many different classifications of typeface. There is no universally agreed upon standard of classifying typefaces, but the main distinction that we can make, the most obvious distinction that we can make between types of typefaces is whether they are serif, or whether they are sans serif, sans meaning without in French. And on the left-hand side, we have an example of serif typeface, specifically Adobe Garamond Pro, and I have circled the Serifs.
And on the right-hand side, an example of a sans serif. Now, not all serifs are the same, and not all sans serifs are the same. Here we have three different types of serif typefaces, running from left to right, a bracketed serif, Adobe Caslon Pro. Adobe Caslon Pro is an example of a typeface that represents the old style class of typefaces. And then in the center we have Bodoni, with its flat serifs.
This is a modern class of typeface. And then on the right-hand side, a slab serif, Chaparral Pro, and we can clearly see the distinction between not only the style of serifs, but also how much transition there is between thick and thin parts of the letters. Chronologically speaking, these different types of serif typefaces run from old style, to transitional -- an example of which we do not have onscreen -- to modern, to slab.
The transitional class is essentially, as its name implies, a transition between the old style class into the modern style, and it exhibits characteristics of both. Just as not all serifs are the same, the same is true of sans serif typefaces. A very broad distinction that we can make is that some sans serif typefaces are referred to as being humanist, i.e. the shapes of the letter forms bear more relation to the traditional shape of the serif letter forms, which in turn is derived from the shape of calligraphy, as drawn by the human hand. Hence, they are referred to as humanist.
An example, on the left, we have Gill Sans. Contrasting with that, we have geometric sans serifs. The prime example of this is Futura, where the Os and the other rounded letter forms are derived from circles. So while I am simplifying greatly here, and painting with very broad strokes over more than five centuries of typographic history, I just want to make the point that while we refer to typefaces as being serif or sans serif, there is a great wealth of diversity within those two broad distinctions.
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