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Fonts: The different categories of typefaces

When learning about typography that first thing most people learn is the difference between Serif and Sans-Serif fonts (also known as typefaces). In addition to serifs and sans-serif fonts, there are also different styles of typefaces. Below is a glossary of the different types of fonts that designers use and also how the different types of fonts can be used.

Serif typefaces are defined by their ‘feet’ or little lines at the edges of each letter. These typefaces are designed to be easy to read as the feet create a visual connection between the letters.

Old Style typefaces have little contrast between thick and thin strokes and are some of the most classic and oldest typefaces used.

The readability of Serif typefaces means that they are perfect for use in paragraphs or large volumes of text where letters can be hard to distinguish.

Serif typefaces are also commonly used in printed documents as the serifs or feet are easily detectable when printed due to a high resolution. A screen or monitor has a much lower resolution, meaning Serif typefaces can be difficult to read on a screen.

The Slab Serif typefaces were originally designed for use in headlines and titles and to stand out against large volumes of text. Slab Serifs are similar to Serif typefaces however have much thicker letters and serifs to help them stand out.

As these typefaces were designed for use in headings and titles, they are not suitable for large bodies of smaller text as they become hard to read when reduced due to letters merging together.

Much like the Slab Serif, Display typefaces were designed for use at large sizes. They are usually attention-grabbing fonts which are used within short sections of text.

Commonly used in advertising, Display typefaces can often make designs more exciting and often have a lot of personality. They are not for use on smaller sized text and are often used in small amounts as they can be difficult to read.

Script typefaces have a lot of swoops and curls, which can make text look more exciting. They would have originally been created with flexible pen or brush strokes making some Script typefaces look very detailed and intricate, and others almost hand drawn.

As these typefaces can be hard to read in a large volume, Script fonts are often used for logos, heading or titles to add a personal touch to text.

Blackletter typefaces are script style fonts with archaic forms. Originally created with a broad-nibbed pen, these typefaces work with thick to think strokes, and serifs which can often look very historical due to their popularity in the Middles Ages through to the Renaissance period. However, as these typefaces are often very detailed, they can be seen as difficult to read.

Again, these typefaces are best used at large sized and are often used for formal documents such as certificates or invitation and add a traditional touch to some text. They can also be used for logos or titles as they can be quite striking and attention grabbing.

Hand drawn or handwritten typefaces are mainly used to add a personal touch to text and move away from clean typefaces which may not be very interesting.

Not always best for use in large bodies of text, Hand drawn typefaces can be harder to read at smaller sizes and are often used as Display typefaces.

Retro fonts take inspiration from previous trends in typefaces and can be used today to make text seem more personal or less corporate.

Again, Retro typefaces can be seen as a Display font as they can be quite elaborate, and are often best used for titles or larger sized text rather than large bodies of small text.

Typewriter typefaces often have some of the characteristics of Serif typefaces as well as the personal touch of a handwritten font.

Often featuring serifs and blocky text, Typewriter typefaces are effective for headings or sub-headings as they are more readable than some Display typefaces, however wouldn’t be suitable for paragraph text.

Novelty typefaces are fun and exciting typefaces that are used to add character to text and emphasise sections of text such as headings. They often feature non-typographical forms and can be almost illustrative.

Not for use in large bodies of text, Novelty typefaces are mainly used in logo design, headings or titles and for using single characters or symbols with a more readable text.

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