Serif vs San-Serif fonts: pros and cons

Have you ever noticed the odd little flourishes that some fonts are decorated on at the ends? Helvetica and similar fonts will always have a place in our hearts, but what if you need something a little more?

There is no controversy between serif and sans-serif fonts – both are extremely useful for totally different tasks, styles, and projects. Which one will you choose?

Font terminology: what does Serif mean?

A serif on a capital letter.

What exactly is a wheelbase? And what is the difference between serif and sans-serif fonts?

If you thought graphic design was only fun and playful, you’d be wrong; there is a lot of jargon to learn. Sticking strictly to the area of ​​the wheelbase, however, you’ll be happy to hear that only a few key phrases are needed.

The lines that make up the letter itself are called strokes. Serifs are the ornamental additions that adorn the ends of each character stroke, also known as terminals or end points.

The weight of each line you draw can be completely uniform or express some contrast in thickness to other parts of the glyph. A glyph is simply the character itself.

Besides these basic concepts, there’s a whole world of ascenders, rods, joints, and ligatures to dip your toes into. These other concepts can wait, for now we only have eyes for serifs.

The different types of Serif fonts

A bunch of serif glyphs.

Over the years, the evolution of serif fonts has left a legacy in its wake, giving us a diverse range of styles to consider and use. These movements took place in the Western world, but other Eastern languages ​​such as Cyrillic or Chinese can also be enhanced with serifs.

Old fashioned serifs

Resulting from the invention of printing, the first serifed fonts sought to unify the beauty of calligraphy with the usefulness of Roman numerals, simpler and more readable. A far cry from the gothic and black fonts that came before them, the old-fashioned fonts are designed to be legible enough to serve as the body of a large block of text.

Many old-style fonts embody an “italic” vibe on the vertical axis, sporting diagonal elements that add a bit of interest to some fonts that might otherwise seem too clinical or simple.

Transitional Serif Fonts

This font family represents the period between old and modern serif fonts. This is when we start to see these fonts take on more weight in their vertical strokes, evolving beyond the more even and regular basis that the old-fashioned fonts had already established.

Didone fonts

Serif Didone fonts can be thought of as the little black dress of typography. Known for their delicacy and subtlety, these fonts tend to favor the weight of vertical strokes made more daring through the use of thin serifs.

Didone fonts can evoke a range of feelings, from the cryptic and archaic vibe of an old hand-drawn map to the traditional omnipotence of an ancient book on legal jurisprudence.

Slab serifs

As commercial print media first caught fire in a modernizing world, graphic designers of the day had to find a way to distinguish their layouts from the rest of the crowd. Slab serif fonts were their way of giving hungry consumers something fresh and new to watch.

These small retro font families were designed to create a more eye-catching print ad or newspaper headline.

Related: Free Fonts Websites We Love

The beginning of sans serif fonts

Egyptian police Caslon.

The type designer responsible for bringing the sans-serif fonts to life was an Englishman named William Caslon the Elder. Its flagship sans-serif typeface, Two Lines Egyptian, made its first public and print appearance in 1816 and has inspired many more to follow.

Sample print types from Vincent Figgins.

His continued legacy includes William Thorowgood’s heavyweight-style Seven Lines Grotesque and Vincent Figgins’ Specimen of Printing Types, created in 1834.

The die-hard Bauhaus Herbert Bayer was one of the most vocal and influential advocates of sans-serif typefaces in the contemporary sense. His sans serif proposal for a universal typeface was so well received that he never even had to officially launch his design into production.

Last, but not least, the invention of Helvetica; Max Miedinger, the pride of Switzerland, made history in 1957. These so-called neo-grotesques are fonts that many will recognize as some of the most important base fonts today.

Related: The Best Photoshop Fonts and Fonts in Creative Cloud

Sans-Serif Fonts vs. Serif: the pros and cons

As with all creative choices, there are no right or wrong answers in graphic design; there are only unattractive layouts and looks that desperately wish to distract them.

Is serif or sans-serif better? We argue that you may want to integrate the two very well in your projects. Some of the advantages of using serifed fonts:

  • Clarity: For ambiguous-appearing counterparts such as an uppercase “I” and a lowercase “L”, choosing a serif font may make your text easier to read. This is especially the case if you are only using a few characters, as opposed to whole words which provide context for any uncertainties.
  • Formality: There can be something so startling and stoic about the perfect serif font. The look is reminiscent of a kind of dignified and special occasion vibe, giving your work a little bow tie. Think about fancy wedding invitations and the like.

Some people avoid serif fonts because they look “old fashioned”; many graphic designers prefer a slightly more streamlined look for their work. It all depends on what you like and what you are looking for.

If you’re someone who prefers something with a little less fanfare, there are countless sans-serif fonts to choose from. Some of our favorite reasons to love sans serif fonts for graphic design:

  • Cleanliness: Sans-serif fonts are great when trying to keep your layout minimal, giving the viewer plenty of room to breathe while they consider your design. There is peace to be found in simplicity.
  • The casualness: If you want your garage sale flyer to look more like a simple display sign and less like the impression that you nail Martin Luther’s 95 Theses to every telephone pole in your neighborhood, a sans serif font is probably the choice. appropriate.
  • Readability: As mentioned earlier, the serif typefaces were designed primarily for readability and accessibility. However, some studies suggest that readers actually prefer the sans-serif font when reading at length.

Sans-serif fonts are praised for their calm and cerebral demeanor, but some will certainly argue that they have taken the plunge and become the “pretentious” choice. Some brands may wish to leave a different impression, depending on the target population they are looking for.

It’s also worth remembering that not all fonts are created equal. We can name dozens of tasteful sans serif fonts; Comic Sans usually won’t be one of them, unless we do some sort of parody.

Choose the right font for your project

Some say it’s like taking a trip to your local animal shelter – you can’t really pick the right one. Instead, the right one chooses you.

One of the less mentally taxing graphic design stages is that blessed afternoon as you spend scrolling through a list of all the fonts on the internet. When you hit the right one trust us when we say you’ll know you’ve arrived at your stop.


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