VoxA-TypI Classification System

The VoxA-TypI system was used to classify fonts based on their characteristics. Now, the typefaces would usually be whittled down to their century e.g. 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th however they were also classified dependant on their letterform characteristics, for example the downstroke, upstroke, forms of serifs, stroke axis, x-height and more.

Devised by Maximilien Vox in 1954 the VoxA-TypI system made it possible to define fonts in just 9 different classifications, bot it was revised and is now an 11 part scheme. However, one major flaw of this system was that many fonts overlapped classifications. For example, the font Gill Sans would be classified as both Lineal and Garald.

The VoxA-TypI system can be broken down into 4 main categories, and then split further into sub categories. Here is a broken down spectrum of the VoxA-TypI system itself:

Classicals: Also referred to as ‘old style’, classical fonts are further broken down into three categories: Humanist, Garald and Transitional. They are characterised by a low stroke contrast, triangular serifs and oblique axis. 

  • Humanist: Humanistic, Humanes, or Venetian Humanist typefaces mimic and/or represent handwriting within the renaissance manuscripts. Humanists include the first Roman typefaces created by Venetian printers during the 15th century and look very formal. Characteristics? Low/hardly any contrast between strokes, heavy and short bracketed serifs, diagonal cross-stroke on ‘e’ and n ascenders they tend to have slanted serifs.

 

  • Garald: Garald, or Aldine, was named after Claude Garamond, a famous typeface designer, as well as Aldus Manutius whom was a printer and publisher. Garald’s were used to support the orthography and use of proper grammar under the reign of King Francis I in mid 16th century France. Different to humanists as their characteristics included finer proportions and a stronger contrast in stroke weights, as well as using a slanted axis.

 

  • Transitional: During the 18th century John Baskerville established transitional typefaces, also referred to as Realist, Réales and Baroque. These typefaces take attributions from both humanist and neo-classical typefaces, using characteristics from both.

 

Moderns: Further broken down into Didone, Mechanistic and Linear, modern fonts are characterised by a simple and functional aesthetic that grew popular during the industrial period.

  • Didone: Also known as modern, they were first created in the late 18th century. They are named after two type-founders; Didot and Bodoni. The contrast between the stroke size is dramatic compared to what had been seen before. The characteristics for didone include a strong contrast between thick and thin strokes, vertical axis for curved strokes, limited to no bracketing on serifs and the terminals often have ball shapes.
  • Mechanistic: Mechanical, Slab Serif or Mécanes grew in popularity during the 19th century; coinciding with the Industrial Revolution. These typefaces were very much popular for advertising as they were easy to read. Characteristics include low contrast between strokes, heavy strokes with rectangular thick serifs and limited to no bracketing on serifs.
  • Linear: Linear fonts were further sub-categorised into grotesque, neo-grotesque, geometric and humanist.

Linear Grotesque: Originating in the 19th century,grotesques were early sans serif fonts which grew increasingly popular commercially. The grotesques feature many unlikely characteristics including an odd distribution of line thicknesses on curved letterforms, a double story lowercase ‘g’, a spur on the uppercase ‘G’, a curled leg on the uppercase ‘R’ as well as a vertical axis.

Linear Neo-Grotesque: Also referred to as transitional, neo-grotesque on the earlier grotesque typefaces. This category contains some of the most famous sans serif designs. Developing on the grotesque designs however the letterforms are much more simple. There is less variation in stroke weight and the lowercase g is now a single story, rather than it being double like grotesque fonts.

Geometric: Created with an equal or almost equal stroke width and are designed using simple geometric forms which are repeated and used throughout the letterform. As a result of this the geometric typefaces are less readable and letters are harder to differentiate from one another. Characteristics of geometric letterforms are little to no contrast between the vertical and horizontal strokes and character shapes are influenced by geometric forms such as squares, triangles and circles.

Humanist: Humanist typefaces are inspired by earlier classical letterforms. The uppercase of humanist typefaces relate to Roman inscriptional letters, and the characteristics of the lowercase are similar to those of Carolingian script. Characteristics of humanist fonts are noticeable contrast between stroke proportions and characteristics match serif typefaces, they are influenced by calligraphic forms and due to this the humanist classification are said to be the most legible and readable of all the sans serif classifications.

Calligraphics: Charaterised by a hand-rendered look, calligraphic typefaces can be further broken down into Glyphics, Script, Blackletter and Gaelic. 

  • Glyphics: Glyphic, incised or incise letterforms are based on engravings in stone and/or metal. As a result they have small triangular shaped serifs or flared terminals. These typefaces focus on the uppercase characters, many of which don’t contain any lowercase letters altogether. Their characteristics include minimal contrast between strokes, a vertical axis for curved strokes and a tapering effect at the terminals and/or triangular shaped serifs.

 

  • Script: Scriptes or scripts represent cursive writing and as a result they have strong sloping forms, like italic, and letterforms can be connected. Included in this category are typefaces that imitate copperplate scripts. Characteristics of sript fonts appear to be written with a quill and have a strong slope/lean as well as letters often being connected.

 

  • Blackletter: Blackletter, otherwise known as gothic script, gothic minuscule or Textura is based on the medieval scribe hand-rendered with broad-nibbed pens. First used by Gutenberg for the letterpress. They were used to print body text until eventually Humanist typefaces took over with the invention of movable type in the early 20th century. This typeface was also famous for being used in Nazi propaganda, but it is very narrow-minded to limit the classification of blackletter to the one negative attached to it.

 

  • Gaelic: Irish character, Irish type or Gaelic script was used as early as the 16th Century. These typefaces originated from Irish scripts found on medieval manuscripts. Gaelic type was used for mainly setting body text and was used throughout Ireland before losing popularity during mid 20th Century. In modern times, Gaelic type is used for decorative purposes rather than commercial advertising or body text, but is commonly found on pub signs and greeting cards.

 

  • Non-Latin: Famously known as exotics to English printers, the non-latin category was not included in Vox’s original 9 groups. The clear distinction of this category is that the typeface is not based on the latin alphabet. It includes typefaces that are Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Chinese, etc. As the Vox type classification system is very Latin based, non-latin types are very underrepresented

 

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Betsy

First year studying Graphic Design at Plymouth College of Art.

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