Ever since the ancient Sumerians scratched their first symbols into clay tablets way back in 3000 BCE, typeface designers have been hard at work perfecting the letterform.
Over the subsequent 5,000 years, the design community has rallied around roughly five main typeface classifications. Those five categories of fonts are serif, sans serif, display, script and symbol.
Each category has its own strengths and weaknesses; some are better for headlines, some are a little more fun, others are better for 800 pages of text.
Serif typefaces are defined by their “feet,” which are yes, technically called feet. They’re the little lines that poke out at the edges of letters.
Serifs are super easy to read because those little feet create a subtle visual connection between the letters. This readability makes them great for paragraphs of text – you’ll see them on everything from blogs to newspapers to ebooks.
Slab serif typefaces, which have thick blocky serifs, are super popular right now.
Sans Serif typefaces are like Serif typefaces minus the feet (sans means without).
Sans Serifs are usually clean and geometric, which makes them easiest to read when they are either really LARGE or really small. You will see sans serifs often used for headlines, captions, and short descriptive texts.
Display typefaces have A LOT of personality.
You wouldn’t want to read a paragraph set in a Wild West typeface, but they’re great as attention-getter headlines.
When you are looking for a fancy font with a lot of style a Script typeface is your lady.
These typefaces have lots of swoops and curls and sometimes even look handwritten. Script typefaces look awesome for logos, large headlines, and for little details to give something a nice handmade touch.
Symbols & Dingbats
Sometimes a picture can say a thousand words. That’s when you cue up a Symbol or Dingbat typeface.
Now try this!
- Take a look at all that type on skillcrush.com
- What is the one style of typeface we aren’t using?
- The answer: Display is the only style of typeface we are not using on Skillcrush.
Our headlines are Sans Serif, our body text is Serif, our handwritten notes and logo are Script, and our little arrows (→) are Symbols!