So far, as part of Typeface Tuesdays I have given my short overview on three different fonts; Gill Sans, Comic Sans and Verdana. Although all three are very different they do have one characteristic in common. They are all Sans Serif. I have not, as yet, actually shared as to what this actually means. So here we go…
Obviously there are a great range of different typefaces and they all have different characteristics. However most can fit in to one of two categories. Either Serif or Sans Serif. The difference between the two is actually quite straightforward. Serif fonts have small lines added to the ends of ascenders, descenders, cross pieces or curves (I shall do more on the structure of type in a future Typeface Tuesday). These tend to look decorative and are said to be based on chisel additions worked in to stonework by masons many years ago. Fonts such as Times New Roman or Baskerville are good examples of a Serif font.
Sans Serif fonts, by default are typefaces without Serifs. From the French ‘sans’ meaning without. They tend to be cleaner and more graphical. Other names for Sans Serif fonts include Gothik or Grotesque. Ariel or Trebuchet are Sans Serif typefaces.
Generally Serif fonts are considered easier to read in print, while Sans Serif are more suited to digital work. One reason for this is that serifs can be hard to form on screen and can look slightly blurred especially at small sizes. Meanwhile the feet of Serif characters can form invisible lines along which text is more easily read in books and newspapers. Perhaps the more angular, flat and horizontal nature of screens and monitors make this nature of Serif fonts unnecessary.
It always used to be a ‘rule’ of graphic design that you would use Serif fonts for the body type and Sans Serif for headlines. More recently it seems that the reverse has become true on the internet with larger, clearer Serif headlines and San Serif body type. However, in my opinion, as long as it’s clear and easy to read it is better to find the best fonts for any one particular project and use them professionally.