One of the most challenging aspects of designing a new website, logo, pamphlet, etc., is deciding which font or fonts you are going to use. But with so many different types of fonts to choose from, how can one narrow down the choices to the perfect font or fonts for the project? Well, the first step in making that difficult “font choice” is knowing the difference between the different types of fonts.
In this post, you’ll learn exactly how to classify each type of font into the 7 common font categories. Without this knowledge you’ll not only have difficulty mixing and matching the different types of fonts into your website or other design projects, but also will create designs that are almost painful to the eyes (and we don’t want that!)
Here are the 7 common font categories:
- Slab Serif
- Sans Serif
Let’s look at some detailed examples of each so you can learn how to quickly and easily classify the different types of fonts.
Oldstyle fonts are actually the oldest kind of typeface (font style). Their main feature is their use of sarifs — those little “flags” that you can see on the lowercase letters. You often see this font used in printed material such as novels, magazines, and newspapers.
Popular font styles change with the times just like hairdos, fashion, and Starbuck’s coffee flavors. The Modern typeface was meant to replace the out-dated look of the Oldstyle typeface with a newer, younger, and more “hip” image — well… hip for the 1700s.
As time progressed a new concept emerged: advertising! Yep, advertising. But not the TV or Internet type. The kind of advertising I’m talking about is large posters, billboards, and the like. The typeface on these needed to be easily read from far away. And so, enter the slab serif typeface:
The word “sans” means “without” (it’s French) and as the name implies, sans serif fonts have no serifs. Even though this typeface was created before the computer age, it is one of the best fonts to use for the content (the main text) on a website. Its value comes from the fact that it is very easy to read on a computer monitor.
“Script” or “handwritten” fonts are easy to spot and come in many different varieties. The dangerous part of script fonts is that they can dominate a design. That being so, use them sparingly in your designs.
Decorative fonts are very distinctive. They are great for expressing different moods in your designs: excitement, fun, pleasure, darkness, gloom, and many others. Just like Script fonts, they should be used sparingly in a design (logos are the best place to use these.)
Dingbats (a.k.a. ornaments or wingdings) are fonts that contain no letters, only pictures. These little guys are great for making logos, adding decorations next to headings and sub-headings, or to spice up a design. A word of caution: while most Dingbat designers don’t care too much if you use their creation as a logo for your website, the DO mind if you try to copyright your logo.
In the computer age fonts have advanced to a whole new level. The different types of fonts available is staggering. Some you can get at a price, but many are free to download. By simply typing in “free fonts” into your favorite search engine you can literally spend hours and hours grabbing more fonts than you could store on your computer.
In future posts, I’ll show you exactly how to mix and match the different types of fonts to create stunning, eye-catching designs.