Join Ina Saltz for an in-depth discussion in this video Serif vs. sans serif, part of Foundations of Typography.
- View Offline
Serif and Sans Serif, these are the two most basic kinds of letterforms. So let's start by looking at the differences between these two styles. First, let's define type with Serifs. These are the letters that have the little extenders sometimes called little feet. There is a small group of Serif typefaces. They're quite different from one another. But the one thing they have in common is that they are all Serif typefaces. Serifs are evident in the capital letters and the lowercase letters.
The Serifs at the bottoms of the letters are also known as footers. Let's look at some differences. It's not really important right now that you know which typefaces are which. But I want to teach you to be a good type detective to know what details to look for when you're looking at a typeface. Here are lowercase Ls from five Serif typefaces. Let's look at some specific differences between them. Being a good type detective, you can see that the angles of the Serifs vary quite a bit.
Now let's look at the footers. You can see that their thickness and their width and their shape also vary. Let's look at the Serifs, and I want you to observe how the shapes and the weight of the Serifs vary. We're looking at these details greatly enlarged, but all of these details matter, because they affect how the typeface looks when it is set in a size suitable for reading. Now I'd like to explain the difference between two broad categories of Serif, what we call Bracketed and Unbracketed.
Unbracketed Serifs have a sharp 90 degree corner angle and Bracketed Serifs have a curved transition from the Serif to the stand. There is another category of Serifs called Slab Serifs and they are just what they sound like. Look at the differences between these examples of Slab Serif fonts. You can see different letter widths, different details, but there is one thing they all have in common. Their horizontal strokes, their Serifs, are the same width or weight as their vertical strokes.
Now let's take a look at Sans Serif. You can see that these letters are without the little feet. In French, Sans means without so Sans Serif means without Serifs. Sometimes we just call them Sans for short. Here are some well-known Sans Serif typefaces. Look closely, you can see that these examples have distinct differences from one another, but they all have one thing in common. They have no serifs. So now you have the broad strokes of type classification.
We'll go into more depth on type classification later on in this course. There are tens of thousands of typefaces in each of these categories that are available from the many type foundries and type sellers and no one can be familiar with all of them, not even me. But if you can learn to distinguish the important differences and characteristics of basic type styles, it will help you make smart choices in designing your projects. Being a good type detective and learning to see the different types of Serif and Sans Serif is the first step.
- What is typography?
- Differentiating type characteristics
- Using ornamental and decorative type
- Combining typefaces
- Using contrast and scale
- Kerning and kerning pairs
- Choosing the optimum line length
- Aligning and spacing characters, words, and paragraphs
- Understanding factors affecting legibility
- Working with three-dimensional type
- Putting type in motion