in Design

What Are Serif and Sans Serif Fonts ?

I think everybody knows what a font is because we can see examples of typography everywhere. An average Windows computer has more than 40 fonts installed by default while an Apple computer has around 100 and most of us are using them when we need to write an assignment for school. If you are curious how these fonts are structured, then you should read along.

These fonts are divided into groups called font families which include categories such as regular font face, italic, bold or bold italic variants. Exactly like a real family, some of them are slim, some of them are fat, some of them are boring, some of them are bold…they all have an unique mark but all of them can be classified in two main categories: serif fonts or sans serif fonts.

Serif fonts

The origin of the serif fonts can be traced back to the ancient Roman Empire when they carved stones. There is a continuous debate if the strokes were only ornamental or were used to increase the legibility in large texts by providing an horizontal line.

One of the most popular serif font is Times News Roman which is used mostly in official or formal documents. However, there is a great variety from which to choose but you should keep in mind the tone and the purpose of your text.

For example, take a look at the Garamond text from the image below. This is an old style serif font which was adapted from the brushstrokes of the Italian scribes and it can be often recognized by the transition between thick and thin strokes and the roundness of their serifs.


Another great example of serif fonts is Baskerville, a transitional font. The strokes (called the brackets)  are connected by curved angles, while the serifs edged are squared off. These characteristics give a modern look and places the font between old style and modern serif fonts.

1. sans serif font

Beaufort Pro

1. serif font

A near-sans with legibility proportions and discreet, sharp serifs that add definition at small size, finesse at display size.


2. serif font

Like a brother to the Bourbon family, Gin is distilled from similar letterforms, but condensed less. This vintage display typeface was inspired by the likes of old serifs and classic bottles of whiskey and gin.


3. serif font

Trend is a font made of layers, taking as a basis a sans and a slab font. It is the result of observation, search and study of the last global trends. Trend tries to capture the aesthetics of fashion or even fashion itself, integrating elements of a very popular and current trend. It is a typeface designed to be used without need to add anything external to it, because it has all components required for this.

Nowadays, modern fonts are associated with elegance and sophistication and are more suitable for headlines rather than text blocks. Usually they are not used too much in web design but they are a good choice if you want to create something which show high style. You need to know that modern fonts appeared as an alternative to the transitional serifs, in the Industrial Revolution.

Another type of serifs are called slab serif fonts and they appeared in the 18000s, when the advertising industry started to bloom; they were common in posters and flyers. This type of font is less snooty than a modern serif because it was created to be readable from a distance.  In contrast to the modern fonts, slab serif fonts are very popular on the web, thanks to their excellent headline capabilities.

FF Avance

1. slab serif

Dutch type designer Evert Bloemsma created this serif FontFont in 2000. The family contains 4 weights: Regular, Italic, Bold, and Bold Italic and is ideally suited for book text, editorial and publishing, small text as well as web and screen design. FF Avance provides advanced typographical support with features such as ligatures, small capitals, alternate characters, case-sensitive forms, fractions, and super- and subscript characters.

Kettering 105

2. slab serif

Kettering 105 is inspired by the classic, geometric slab-serifs such as Lubalin, but has shallower ascenders and descenders for a more compact look. It’s a versatile, modern slab-serif, highly legible as a text font and with a clean, elegant look as a display font at larger sizes.


3. slab serif

Goldbarre is a finely engraved slab serif face in the spirit of ‘between the wars’ commercial confidence. It’s a solid and dependable face of distinction for use on certificates and posters which need to convey an emphatic yet refined message.

Sans-serif fonts

When designers and typographers started to experiment with slab fonts, they had the idea to eliminate the serif but the idea was seemed as a big mistake because the serifs was a traditions. The first sans serif fonts were creates also in the 1800’s and they were called grotesque. Even if the name was scary, people began using them increasingly more and around 1920, the wheel turned: many speculated that the serif fonts would be eliminated soon. Even if serif fonts are used a lot, the popularity of sans serif fonts it’s growing fast because they have a more contemporary look and feel.

Supria Sans

1. sans serif font

Supria Sans is an extended family of 36 fonts designed by Hannes von Döhren. It contains two widths, six weights and three styles, including the curvy, feminine Italic as well as the more conventional Oblique. Although it is inspired by the utilitarian clarity of Swiss type design, subtle curves and fine detailing impart a more playful character to the whole Supria Sans family.


2. sans serif font

Helvetica grew in popularity throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and more versions of the family were introduced. This led to vast confusion: the same weight is often referred to by two different names, design features often vary from one face to another, and so on. This new drawing is called Neue Helvetica (German for New Helvetica), and incorporates an easy-to-use numbering system to identify various styles and weights.

Brandon Text

3. sans serif font

Brandon Text is the companion of the famous Brandon Grotesque type family. It has a higher x-height than the Grotesque version and is optimized for long texts, small sizes and screens. This sans serif type family of six weights plus matching italics was designed by Hannes von Döhren in 2012.

Sans serif fonts are practical for almost any purpose and they can be find in many fonts families. In the design world, the most popular sans serif fonts are Arial, Helvetica and Verdana and they have a reputation of being overused. They are great for body text but if you want to use them in creating headlines, you should first look at something which feels more unique.


Bogdan is the founder of Top Design Magazine. You can find him in Bucharest-Romania so next time you want to drink a beer there and talk about web and stuff, give him a message.