Typeface Classification And Subcategories

by Rajdeep Dam January 28, 2018 0 comment
Typeface Classification And Subcategories

Maximilien Vox’s, Vox System, introduced in 1954, is one of the most lauded. Hybrid system of 15 styles, based on the historical nomenclature. It was first published in 1954 as the Vox system. Its still accepted as a standard today. There are thousands of diverse typefaces. Fonts are accessible to publishers, artists, designers, printers and writers at the moment. There are all type of display and text typefaces. The enormous variety of type available today. It makes impossible to decide between various fonts. A classification arrangement can be useful in categorizing, selecting and unite various typefaces.

Type classification

It is a method used to divide typefaces into many groups. The majority typefaces come under four wide categories. Such as sans serif, serif, scripts and decorative. There is another typeface called Pixel Typeface. Its based on the on-screen display format of pixels. But within these groups are many subcategories. Though there are four categories and it’s not enough for design professionals.

Typeface classifications & subcategories

  1. Sans Serif Type Styles
  • Humanist
  • Grotesque
  • Square
  • Transitional
  • Geometric
  1. Serif Type Styles
  • Old Style
  • Clarendon
  • Slab
  • Glyphic
  • Transitional
  • Modern (Neoclassical & Didone)
  • Egyptian
  1. Script Type Styles
  • Casual
  • Calligraphic
  • Formal
  • Blackletter & Lombardic
  • Handwriting
  1. Decorative
  • Grunge
  • Psychedelic
  • Graffiti
  1. Pixel Typeface

 1. Sans Serif Typeface

Sans-serif typefaces originated in the 18th century. But didn’t see extensive use until the 19th century. A sans-serif typeface is a group of typeface not counting serifs. They are the small lines at the ends of characters. They are found in history as early on as the 5th century. Even though the classical restoration of the Italian Renaissance. Returning to old style serifed typefaces made them out of date until the 20th century. On lower-resolution displays, sans-serifs tend to display better. Development of sans-serif typefaces started in Germany. As a revolt alongside the ornate lettering of the admired Blackletter styles. It led to sans-serif typefaces based on the purity of geometric forms. Much like serifed typefaces, there are many different classifications for sans-serif typefaces. It included Gothic, Grotesque, Doric, Linear, Swiss and Geometric. In the print world, serif typefaces are almost used. For setting running body text, on the web, sans-serifs dominate. Popular sans serif fonts include Helvetica, Avant Garde, Arial, and Geneva. Serif fonts include Times Roman, Courier, New Century Schoolbook, and Palatino. Sans serif fonts are more difficult to read according to many research in this field.

1.1. Humanist Sans Serif


These are based on the proportions of Roman inscriptional letters. Frequently, contrast in stroke weight is readily apparent. Typographic experts claim that these are the most legible and most easily read of the sans serif typefaces. Humanist characteristics include proportions that were modeled on old style typefaces, open strokes and a slightly higher contrast in strokes in comparison to other sans-serif typefaces. Example: Gill Sans.  Humanistic sans serif typefaces also closely match the design characteristics and proportions of serif types, often with a strong calligraphic influence.

1.2. Grotesque Sans Serif

This style was the first popular sans serif. These are the first commercially popular sans serif typefaces. Contrast in stroke weight is most apparent in these styles, there is a slight “squared” quality to many of the curves, and several designs have the “bowl and loop” lowercase g common to Roman types. In some cases the R has a curled leg, and the G usually has a spur. This category also includes more modern, sans serif designs patterned after the first grotesques. Stroke contrast is less pronounced than earlier designs, and much of the “squareness” in curved strokes has been rounded. Its distinguishing features are slight contrast in stroke weight, a squared look to some curves, a “spurred” capital G, and a double-bowl lowercase g. Later versions lost their squared curve, and have a single-bowl lowercase g. Normally the most obvious distinguishing characteristic of these faces is their single bowl g and more monotone weight stress.

1.3. Square Sans Serif

These designs are generally based on grotesque character traits and proportions, but have a definite and, in some instances, dramatic squaring of normally curved strokes. They usually have more latitude in character spacing than their sans serif cousins, and tend to be limited to display designs.

1.4. Transitional Sans Serif

Closely related to the characteristics of transitional serifed typefaces, these typefaces include a more upright axis and a uniform stroke. Example: Helvetica.

1.5. Geometric Sans Serif

Simple geometric shapes influence the construction of these typefaces. Strokes have the appearance of being strict monolines and character shapes are made up of geometric forms. Geometric sans tend to be less readable than grotesques.Geometric sans-serif typefaces, as their name implies, are based on geometric forms. In some cases letters, such as the lower case ‘o’, are perfect geometric forms. Example: Futura.


2. Serif Typeface

Serifed typefaces were popular much earlier than sans-serif typefaces and include semi-structural details on many of the letters. People often refer to them as feet, although that is in no way a proper anatomical term when referring to typography. Their are many different classifications for serifed typefaces, often named for their origins, including Grecian, Latin, Scotch, Scotch Modern, French Old Style, Spanish Old Style, Clarendon and Tuscan. Some of these classifications can also be placed into broader classifications of typography including the styles below.

2.1. Old Style Serif

This category includes the first Roman types, originally created between the late 15th and mid 18th centuries, as well as typefaces patterned after those designed in this earlier period. It is characterized by curved glyphs with the axis inclined to the left, minimal contrast between thick-and-thin strokes, angled head serifs, and bracketed serifs (curves between the serif and the stem). The axis of curved strokes is normally inclined to the left in these designs, so that weight stress is at approximately 8:00 and 2:00 o’clock. The contrast in character stroke weight is not dramatic, and hairlines tend to be on the heavy side. Serifs are almost always bracketed in old style designs and head serifs are often angled. Some versions, like the earlier Venetian old style designs, are distinguished by the diagonal cross stroke of the lowercase e. Some typefaces in this category contain an e with a diagonal cross stroke. The Old Style or Humanist serif typefaces developed in the 15th and 16th centuries and are characterized by a low contrast in stroke weight and angled serifs. Example: Garamond.

2.2. Clarendon Serif

This category includes the typefaces patterned after the Clarendon type styles first released in the mid 19th century. Clarendons were designed as bold faces to accompany text composition. Their stroke contrast is slight, and serifs tend to be short to medium length. Later, many of these designs were released at larger point sizes as display types. Character stroke weight that is more obvious, and serifs that tend to be longer than earlier designs, mark more current interpretations of this style.

2.3. Slab Serif

Slab serif typefaces became popular in the 19th century for advertising display. These typefaces have very heavy serifs with minimal or no bracketing. Generally, changes in stroke weight are imperceptible. To many readers, slab serif type styles look like sans serif designs with the simple addition of heavy (stroke weight) serifs.

2.4. Glyphic Serif

Typefaces in this category tend to emulate lapidary inscriptions rather than pen-drawn text. Contrast in stroke weight is usually at a minimum, and the axis of curved strokes tends to be vertical. The distinguishing feature of these typefaces is the triangular-shaped serif design, or a flaring of the character strokes where they terminate. In some type classification systems this category is sub-divided into two groups: “glyphic” and “latin.” “Latins” are faces with strictly triangular-shaped serifs.

2.5. Transitional Serif

Typefaces in this category represent the 18th century at a time of transition between old style and modern design. These typefaces symbolize the transition between old style and neoclassical designs, and incorporate some characteristics of each. Baskerville’s work with calendered paper and improved printing methods (both developed by him) allowed much finer character strokes to be reproduced and subtler character shapes to be maintained. English printer and typographer John Baskerville established this style in the mid 18th century. While the axis of curve strokes can be inclined in transitional designs, the strokes normally have a vertical stress. Weight contrast is more pronounced than in old style designs. Serifs are still bracketed and head serifs are oblique. They have the following characteristics: the axis of the curved strokes is barely inclined or more vertical than diagonal, there is more contrast between thick and thin strokes than in old style typefaces, and serifs are thinner, flat, and bracketed. The bridge for the gap between Old Style and Modern serifed typefaces, Transitional type has a more vertical axis and sharper serifs than humanist forms. Example: Baskerville.

2.6. Modern (Neoclassical & Didone Serif)

These typefaces formed within the late 18th century, or their direct descendants. It’s refined and more delicate style is characterized by high or dramatic contrast between the thick and thin strokes, curved strokes on a vertical axis, and horizontal serifs with little or no bracketing. Early on, however, it became apparent to printers that these were not updated versions of classic type styles, but altogether new designs. The work of Giambattista Bodoni epitomizes this style of type. The time of its first release, these typefaces were called “classical” designs. As a result their classification name was changed to “modern”. Since the mid 20th century, they have also been classified as neoclassical or didone. Contrast between thick and thin strokes is abrupt and dramatic. The axis of curved strokes is vertical, with little or no bracketing. In many cases, stroke terminals are “ball” shapes rather than an evocation of a broad pen effect. These tend to be highly mannered designs, with clearly constructed letters. Modern serifed typefaces developed in the late 18th and early 19th century and were a radical break from the traditional typography of the time with high contrast of strokes, straight serifs and a totally vertical axis. Example: Bodoni.

2.7. Egyptian Serif

Egyptian hieroglyphics were used for writing the Egyptian language from about 3000 BC until 400 AD.  Egyptian hieroglyphs, a writing system with both logographic and alphabetic elements, were used by the ancient Egyptians for formal inscriptions. Symbols resembling hieroglyphs had been used by artisans in the region since 4000 BC. For everyday writing, the hieratic script was used instead. In Egyptian hieroglyphs, a hieroglyph in the context can be interpreted as a phonogram, logogram or as an ideogram. Creating and supporting OpenType fonts for the Universal Shaping Engine – Microsoft Typography, web page. Egyptian, or slab-serifed, typefaces have heavy serifs and were used for decorative purposes and headlines because the heavy serifs impeded legibility at small point sizes. Example: Rockwell.

3. Script Typeface

Script typefaces stand on the forms build with a flexible brush or pen and often have varied strokes reminiscent of handwriting. There are many diverse classifications together with Brush Script, English Roundhand and Rationalized Script. On the other hand, the broadest forms of classification are Formal Script and Casual Script.

3.1. Casual Script

More often than not, character strokes connect one letter to the next these typefaces are considered to advocate relaxed attitude, as if they were written hurriedly. Numerous times they come into view to have been drawn by means of a brush. Although diverse inconsistencies appear to have been a result of using a wet pen rather than a pen nib, Casual scripts invented in the 20th century as outcome of photo-typesetting.

3.2. Calligraphic Script

Calligraphy is a primordial writing method by means of flat edged pens to produce artistic lettering using thick and thin lines depending on the direction of the stroke. A lot of appear to have been written with a flat-tipped writing tool. Monks developed the narrow writing style called Gothic, allowing more words to fit on a single line of calligraphy and it reached its climax in the middle age. These scripts mimic calligraphic writing.

3.3. Formal Script

Majority of formal Scripts are based on the development and writings of 17th and 18th century handwriting masters such as George Bickham, George Shelley and George Snell from formal writing styles. Many characters have strokes that join them to other letters. The letters in their original form are generated by a quill or metal nib of a pen. Both are able to create fine and thick strokes.

3.4. Blackletter & Lombardic Script

These typefaces are patterned on manuscript lettering prior to the invention of movable type.

3.5. Handwriting Script

Handwriting typefaces are typographic interpretations of actual handwriting or hand printing. The stylistic range is extremely diverse and can be anything from a connected script or scrawl to a quirky, bouncy, irregular hand printing.


4. Decorative Typeface

Although serifed and sans-serif typefaces can repeatedly be used for text typesetting, there are a vast majority of fonts and typefaces whose legibility wanes when used in smaller point sizes. This is the widest kind and also the most varied typeface. Many such as Psychedelic font or Grunge font are out of trend. A number of decorative typefaces use unorthodox letter shapes and proportions to achieve distinguishing and impressive results while some even appear three-dimensional. These typefaces are time and again developed with an explicit use in mind and are designed for bigger point size use in headlines, posters and billboards. Decorative is less of a classification and can include a wide variety of typefaces underneath the umbrella of the term. Often used for lengthy blocks of text, decorative typefaces are well-liked for signage, headlines and similar situations were a strong typographic statement is desired. They recurrently echo a phase of culture such as tattoos or graffiti or evoke a particular situation of mind, instance, period or idea.


5. Pixel Typeface

Pixel fonts symbolize a remarkable period of type design. Pixel fonts developed from the invention of the computer and were foundation on the on-screen display format of pixels. They were invented out of requirement when low-res on-screen display were the only ones around, and have now become nostalgic retro style. They are based on an array of pixels, are often called Bitmap fonts and are often designed only for a specific point size. Several type foundries offer a range of bitmap fonts and some, like Fonts For Flash create only bitmap fonts. There are some and Stgotic is a pixelated black letter typeface designed for low resolution screen devices.

A good number are accessible in a digital format from a variety of type and can effortlessly be used and exploited, with present computer technology. It is vital to have proper knowledge of the basic styles of typefaces to help narrow down and examine to decide on the correct typeface.

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