Font Styles and Examples for Choosing a Typeface

Font Classification

There are thousands of fonts (typefaces) available for both the Mac and the PC. Whilst there is no one definative classification this very wide choice can be made more manageable by grouping the fonts into six broad groups.

Serifs are small decorative strokes that are added to the end of a letter’s main strokes. These cross-lines can vary in shape from simple lines, to straight slabs through to elaborate wedges. By leading the eye along the line of type, Serifs can make the text more readable and are therefore best suited for body text. Serif faces are more difficult to read in small scale (smaller than 8pt) and in very large sizes. Generally one serif and one sans serif (used for headlines) are a good mixture.

Sans serif faces don’t have serifs. The letters are reduced to the main lines making them look clean and business-like. These faces often have a large font family making them particularly useful in publicity and display material. Sans serif text has to be read letter by letter and therefore is less suited to continuous text. It is recommended that you use sans serif faces for small (smaller than 8pt) and very large sizes. Therefore, sans serif faces are good for footnotes and headlines.

These typefaces where developed by graphic and commercial artists for the needs of the advertising industry. They are intended to be used for only a few words at a time and are less suitable for continuous text.

Script typefaces imitate handwriting with a pen and maintain the connections between the individual letters. Being less uniformed and more informal makes them very useful in publicity and display work but makes them unsuited for long text passages.

This group of fonts is based on formal, mediaeval, pen writing (calligraphy). They have a distinctive period flavour but can be difficult to read over large areas of text.

The final group that can be identified are the various symbol and picture fonts. These include all the Wing Dings WingDings and Ding Bats DingBats as well as more the unusual fonts such as Bar Codes.

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