Classifications of Type

During Neil’s presentation he mentioned the following classifications and I thought it best to start doing my own research to prepare for book 2: Type Classification. These are the mentioned classifications and some distinguishing features I found:

  • Humanist: They derive from a strong calligraphic influence and they began to replace Blackletter during the 1400’s. Humanist fonts are often considered ‘the backbone of today’s most popular fonts’. Notable personality this typeface has is bracketed serifs whilst also having a low contrast between thin and thick strokes.


  • Garalde: Previously known as Old Style, Garalde characteristics move towards more upright letters and straighter crossbars compared to that of Humanist typefaces. The serifs are said to be more carefully formed as well as having  more variation between thin and thick strokes.


  • Transitional: also known as Realist, these typefaces were characterised by the vertical sway of the letter ‘O’, having greater contrast between strokes and straight head serifs that are oblique. Transitional fonts marked the beginning of the transition between old style and modern typeface design in the late 18th century, these fonts withhold characteristics of both classifications. Transitional faces are more upright than Garalde typefaces, usually with either a vertical or slightly inclined stress as well as having more contrast. Traditional was established by John Baskerville in the mid 18th century.


  • Didone: Used in the late 18th century to the early 19th century, Didone (or Modern) fonts were a radical break from that of traditional fonts. They are distinguished by their very high stroke contrast with unbracketed, straight serifs and vertical axis. It’s somewhat of a stylistic font that reflects the time period it was used. They are distinguished by their extreme contrast in stroke size, from thick to hairline thin within a curve.


  • New Transitional: New transitional display a complex, hybrid mix of features

    that were not previously seen within the evolution of form. As the typefaces have a thicker stroke than that of Didone, they were a production result as there was a huge problem with printing during the 19th century. Their sturdy structure enabled easier printing onto thinner paper, and it’s readability overtook Didone typefaces by far as New Transitional fonts were cleared to read as smaller print.


  • Slab Serif: Slab serif fonts are renown for their squared serifs that are imperceptible to the stroke weight. They were popular throughout the 19th century as they were used for decorative purposes. This is because the font stands out; it’s bold, clear and in your face, you could hardly miss it. Although they were used for headlines and advertising, slab serif fonts were legible at smaller point sizes due to their thorough form.
  • Grotesque: Popularised during the 19th century, Grotesque was the first commercially popular sans serif typeface style. The name derives from the German word ‘grotesk’. The first sans-serif typefaces were known as grotesque, as in ugly, due to their rejection of the purity and elegance used throughout historic serif typefaces. Unlike previous serif fonts, grotesque were squared and the contrast is even. Grotesque fonts were very close to previous serif fonts, the only thing missing is the serif. One distinguishable mark of grotesque fonts are that many of them have the bowl and loop ‘g’ found in Roman fonts.


  • Neo-Grotesque: Neo-grotesque fonts emerged during the 1950’s as a result of the growing influence of Swiss Typographic Style. Neo-grotesque was influenced by geometric letterforms and merged the style with grotesque letterforms which, in turn, achieved better legibility. Stroke weight is more like a geometric form than that of grotesque typeface as there are straight terminals which achieve a simplistic, minimalist yet stylistic aesthetic.


  • Geometric: Another example of trend setting, geometric typefaces are based on geometric shapes; triangles, squares and circles. An example of this is lower case ‘o’ and ‘a’, the o is a perfectly round circle as is the a, it just has a line attached to the right-hand side to form it’s tail. Geometric typefaces are renown for being simplistic and stylish, yet very modern. However, their one downfall is that it’s simplistic and clean nature means it does not make for good body type as it’s readability is narrow compared to that of serif fonts. These fonts are my personal favourite as I like their minimal persona and fonts such as Futura have proven their worth throughout time. I personally believe that they’re the type of font you can use for almost anything, they’re multipurpose and this is something you need within the design world.


  • Sans serif Humanist: Whilst designers were creating neo-grotesque fonts, others wanted to focus on the human aspect of type previously used throughout history. This resulted in humanist fonts being more calligraphic and are more likely to be used as body font as they’re easy to read. They’re defined by stroke modulation to achieve a friendly and personal look. They have a greater contrast in strokes compared to other sans serif fonts adding to the calligraphic influence.


  • Glyphic: Distinguishing features of glyphic fonts are that of it’s triangular serifs or the flaring strokes where the letterform ends, vertical axis for curved lines and hardly any contrast within the stroke width. These typefaces look similar to Roman inscription within stone, rather than hand drawn.


  • Script: Script fonts derived from 17th century formal writing types. They are often defined by it’s handwritten aesthetic, it’s a somewhat personal typeface due to it’s elegant and detailed aesthetic. They wouldn’t be used for body text, but for wedding invitations. They can have adjoining strokes between letters, or not, and can sometimes have a flat-tipped pen style look.


  • Blackletter: Based on early manuscript letterforms, it’s famous for being used in the Gutenberg bible. Previous to this it was used all over Europe from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance period. Blackletter is an ornamented style of typography, known for it’s stylistic letters and bold forms as well as it’s highly contrasting strokes. Blackletter was popularised in Germany during WWII as it was used for Nazi propaganda. However, it is now identified with newspaper headings, such as The New York Times. It’s also used as branding on Corona beer bottles as well as the Disneyland sign in California. It has a a large contrast between stroke widths and can look very calligraphic.


  • Decorative: Decorative type styles have no set characteristics and are probably the most diverse classification. They usually reflect on the time period or culture in which they were created, but even this is completely down to the individual’s artistic freedom whom is designing the type. Usually used for signage and headlines, these fonts aren’t very structured. In one sense, they’re made just to look pretty, for example graffiti.


  • Contemporary: Contemporary fonts bare resemblance to that of decorative typefaces in the sense that they take inspiration from the current time period, fashion, trends, music and culture. They are all diverse and unique. One very famous example of a contemporary typeface is Blur, created by British designer Neville Brody in 1991. He developed the typeface by blurring a grayscale image of an already existing grotesque font and making vectors from the results.


  • BC (beyond classification): These fonts are renown for having no rules, structure or guide to follow. What is known as a ‘catch-up group’ these fonts are heavily influenced by technology and are usually designed for being looked at on a computer screen.




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