Different types of fonts

Different types of fontsOne 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:

  • Oldstyle
  • Modern
  • Slab Serif
  • Sans Serif
  • Script
  • Decorative
  • Dingbats

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.

Oldstyle typeface example


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.

Modern typeface example

Slab Serif

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:

Slab serif typeface example

Sans Serif

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.

Sans serif typeface example


“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.

Script typeface example


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.)

Decorative typeface example


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.

Dingbats typeface example

Final thoughts:

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.

If you enjoyed this post, then how about sharing it
with your friends using these services? Thanks!

19 Responses:

  1. Matt Hanson

    Good writing. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed my Google News Reader..

    Matt Hanson

  2. David R - Admin

    Thanks Matt!

    I’m glad that you are enjoying the blog! :)


  3. Website Design Sydney

    Really nice & helpful post. Also good fonts style.

    Thanks for the good article.

  4. Karen

    I’ve always been a font lover. I spend a lot of time searching the internet for cool, unique and beautiful fonts. David, your post has helped me to understand how to better organize my font collection. I’m looking at fonts in a whole new way now!


  5. David R - Admin

    Hey Karen!

    You can further subdivide the Script category into these subcategories:

    -handwriting (how you write with a pen or pencil)
    -comic (i.e. comic book style writing)
    -calligraphy (made with a square-tipped pen)
    -fancy (like the “script” font used above)

    I’m know there are many others, but those are the classifications I use.

    Thanks for commenting! :)

  6. frichelle

    it helps our project in computer………

  7. ShelliG

    Would be nice to have typical examples of the types of fonts that fit into these categories… e.g. Arial for Sans Serif… This is a site for newbies :)

  8. asghar

    Very nice & helpful post for us.

    Thanks for this post.

  9. roselle

    oh nice i learned more differents kinds of font thx !!!!!!!!!!! luv it ang it also helps me to my project

    - roselle -

  10. roselle

    oh im very thankful coz i learned more about different fonts and it helps me to my project ….. xpxpxpxpxpxp


  11. Matt Sokol

    I’ve been baffled by how to approach understanding fonts until reading this article… thanks for this!!

  12. marjaan

    wow……..t was nice learning about fonts……..thank you soooo much…!!!!

  13. Robert


  14. rhacil

    font style is important

  15. kyle

    really love the letterings….

  16. kyle

    hey robert you stupid jerk….you didn’t even know how to appreciate the work of others…..i think your just jealous because he’s good at it….

  17. jakul

    it help me so much thnks

  18. Gordon Couger

    The printer I was devil for 50 years came to almost the exact same conclusions using amazingly similar faces. We had Park Avenue, Copper Plate and Copper added to that in Hand set and I don’t recall the Linotype fonts.

    I am sickened by the plethora of bad type faces that abound for computers. It is really annoying as I wait for my cataracts to get to the point of replacement.

    It would also be nice to find software I could make a page as I did with leads and slugs for lines and copper, zinc and lead letter spacing and not have it spread throughout the the line or page.

    While computers have given us the worlds worst typography it’s fair trade for the black side of the business. Actually putting words on paper was very expensive, dirty and time consuming. Maybe more people will learn better typography.

    I don’t miss cleaning up 80 pound chases someone forgot to lock up and left laying in the floor as they quit. Cleaning red ink off a press every 2 or 3 hours before it set to hard to get off the rollers is another thing I am happy without. I miss web breaks the least. They always seemed to come at 3:00 AM with 500 copies or less left to run on the paper and sure don’t miss the 3 hours it took to clean up the mess and 15 minutes to print them and miss breakfast if anything else when wrong before 7:30 AM class.

    Printing got me twice the 75 cent an hour wage at at college and made life a lot easier. In fact that was about as good at it got.

  19. casey

    Hey just a question! What font is the example for the modern typeface? Thanks, for the article. Very helpful

Share your thoughts below: