Ultimate Resource: Examples of Typeface Classification

Most typefaces can be divided into four basic groups: those with serifs, those without serifs, scripts and decorative. Over the years, typographers and typographic scholars have attempted to devise systems to more definitively organize typefaces — some systems have over a hundred different categories.

A classification system can be helpful identifying, combining and choosing typefaces. While four categories are clearly inadequate for design professionals, hundreds become self-defeating. We have put together somewhat of a hybrid system of 15 categories based on the historical and descriptive nomenclature of the Vox system published in 1954 — and still widely accepted as the standard today. Added to this, are 10 categories that are “fashion” based and show up remarkably often in Web-based, search engine requests. These latter categories will surely to change over time.

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Historical and descriptive classifications

Serif Type Styles

Sans Serif Type Styles

 Script Type Styles

 Decorative

Fashionable Classifications

Serif Type Styles

Serif: Old Style

These are the first Roman types, faces which were originally created between the late 15th century and mid 18th century, or are patterned after typefaces which were originally designed in this period. The axis of curved strokes is normally inclined to the left in these designs, so that weight stress is at approximately 8:00 and 2:00 o’clock.  The contrast in character stroke weight is not dramatic, and hairlines tend to be on the heavy side. Some versions, like the earlier Venetian old style designs, are distinguished by the diagonal cross stroke of the lowercase “e.” Serifs are almost always bracketed in old style designs and head serifs are often angled.

Bembo

Bembo

Berkeley Oldstyle

Berkeley Oldstyle

Centaur

Legacy Serif

Legacy Serif

Weidemann

Weidemann

 

Serif: Transitional

The English printer and typographer John Baskerville established the style for these typefaces in the mid 18th century. His work with calendared paper and improved printing methods (both developed by him) allowed much finer character strokes to be reproduced and subtler character shapes to be maintained. While the axis of curve strokes can be inclined in Transitional designs, they generally have a vertical stress. Weight contrast is more pronounced than in Old Style designs. Serifs are still bracketed and head serifs are oblique. These typefaces represent the transition between Old Style and Neoclassical designs, and incorporate some characteristics of each.

Americana

Americana

 

Baskerville
Baskerville
Bulmer
Bulmer
Electra

Electra

Perpetua

Perpetua

Serif: Neoclassical & Didone

These are typefaces created within the late 18th century, or their direct descendants. The work of Giambattista Bodoni epitomizes this style of type. When they were first released, these typefaces were called “Classical” designs. Early on, however, it became apparent that these were not updated versions of classic type styles, but altogether new designs. As a result their classification name was changed to “Modern.” Since they are no longer modern, they are also classified as Neoclassical or Didone. Contrast between thick and thin strokes is abrupt and dramatic. The axis of curved strokes is vertical with little or no bracketing. In many cases, stroke terminals are “ball” shapes rather than the reflection of a broad pen. These tend to be highly mannered designs, which are obviously constructed.

Arepo Complete Family Pack


Bodoni Complete Family Pack

Bodoni


ITC Fenice Complete Family Pack

Serif: Neoclassical & Didone: Fenice


ITC Modern No. 216 Complete Family Pack

Serif: Neoclassical & Didone: Modern No. 216


Walbaum Complete Family Pack

Serif: Neoclassical & Didone: Walbaum

Serif: Slab

Slab serif typefaces became popular in the 19th century as advertising display designs. These typefaces have very heavy serifs with no, or very little, bracketing. Generally, changes in stroke weight are imperceptible. To many, slab serif type styles appear to be sans serif designs with the simple addition of heavy (stroke weight) serifs.


ITC Lubalin Graph Complete Family Pack

Serif: Slab, Lubalin Graph


ITC Officina Serif Hellenic Family Pack

Serif: Slab, Officina Serif


Rockwell Complete Family Pack

Serif: Slab, Rockwell


Silica Complete Family Pack

Serif: Slab, Silica


Egyptian Slate™ Complete Family Pack

Serif: Slab, Egyptian Slate


Soho® Family Pack

Serif: Slab, Soho

 

Serif: Clarendon

As the name implies, these are the typefaces patterned after the Clarendon type styles that were first released in the mid-19th century. Clarendons were designed as bold faces to accompany text composition. Their stroke contrast is slight and serifs tend to be short to medium length. Later, many of these designs were released as display types. Character stroke weight that is more obvious, and serifs that tend to be longer than earlier designs, mark more current interpretations of this style.


CG Accolade Complete Family Pack

Serif: Clarendon, Accolade


Bookman Complete Family Pack

Serif: Clarendon, Bookman


ITC Charter Complete Family Pack

Charter


Clarendon Complete Family Pack


Nimrod Complete Family Pack

 

Serif: Glyphic

Typefaces in this category tend to reflect lapidary inscriptions rather than pen-drawn text. Contrast in stroke weight is usually at a minimum, and the axis of curved strokes tends to be vertical. The distinguishing feature of these typefaces is the triangular-shaped serif design, or a flaring of the character strokes where they terminate. In some type classification systems this one category is broken up into two groups: “Glyphic” and “Latin.” “Latins” are the faces with strict triangular-shaped serifs.


Albertus Complete Family Pack


Cartier Book Complete Family Pack


ITC Elan Complete Family Pack


Friz Quadrata Complete Family Pack


ITC Quorum Complete Family Pack

 

Sans Serif Type Styles

Sans Serif: Grotesque

These are the first commercially popular sans serif typefaces. Contrast in stroke weight is most apparent in these styles, there is a slight “squared” quality to many of the curves, and several designs have the “bowl and loop” lowercase “g” common to Roman types. In some cases the “R” has a curled leg, and the “G” usually has a spur.

There are also, more modern, sans serif designs patterned after the first grotesques, but more refined in form. Stroke contrast is less pronounced than earlier designs, and much of the “squareness” in curved strokes is also lost. Normally the most obvious distinguishing characteristic of these faces is their single bowl “g” and more monotone weight stress.

Bureau Grot Complete Family Pack


Franklin Gothic Complete Family Pack


Helvetica® Complete Family Pack


News Gothic Complete Family Pack


Univers® Complete Family Pack

 

Sans Serif: Square

These designs are generally based on Grotesque character traits and proportions, but have a definite and, at times, dramatic squaring of normally curved strokes. They usually have more latitude in character spacing than their sans serif cousins, and tend to be limited to display designs.

Cachet Complete Family Pack


Eurostile Complete Family Pack


Felbridge Complete Family Pack


Neo Sans Complete Family Pack


Phenix American™ Regular32
.


Smart Sans Complete Family Pack

 Sans Serif: Geometric

Simple geometric shapes heavily influence the construction of these typefaces. Strokes have the appearance of being strict monolines and character shapes are made up of seemingly perfect geometric forms. Geometric sans tend to be less readable than Grotesques.

ITC Avant Garde Gothic Multilingual Complete Family Pack


Avenir CE Complete Family Pack


ITC Bauhaus Complete Family Pack


Regulator Complete Family Pack


ITC Kabel Complete Family Pack


Harmonia Sans Family Pack

 

Sans Serif: Humanistic

These are based on the proportions of Roman inscriptional letters. In many cases, contrast in stroke weight is also readily apparent. Many claim that these are the most legible and most easily read of the sans serif typefaces. Humanistic sans serif typefaces also closely match the design characteristics and proportions or serif types. Many have a strong calligraphic influence.

Frutiger Complete Family Pack


Gill Sans Complete Family Pack


ITC Goudy Sans Complete Family Pack


Mentor Complete Family Pack

Script Type Styles

Script: Formal

These are typefaces derived from 17th century formal writing styles. Many characters have strokes that join them to other letters.

Bickham Script Complete Family Pack


Elegy™ Regular


Helinda Rook™ Regular


Mahogany Script™ Regular


Young Baroque™

 

Script: Casual

These are script typefaces designed to look informal or as if they were drawn quickly. Many times they appear to have been drawn with a brush. Normally, character strokes connect one letter to the next.

Brush Script (D)


Freestyle Script Complete Family Pack


Limehouse™ Script


Nadianne Complete Family Pack


ITC Studio Script Regular

 

Script: Calligraphic

These are script faces that mimic calligraphic writing. They can be connecting or non-connecting in design. Many appear to have been written with a flat-tipped writing instrument.

Belltrap™ Regular


ITC Blaze™ Italic


Mistral Complete Family Pack


ITC Riptide™ Regular


Vivaldi™

Script: Blackletter and Lombardic

These are typefaces patterned to look like manuscript lettering prior to the invention of movable type.

Agincourt™

Agincourt


Cresci Rotunda™ Regular

Goudy Text Complete Family Pack


Lombardic™ Capitals


Monmouth Regular

 

Decorative

These typefaces defy simple “pigeonholing.” They can look like letters cut in stencil, decorated with flowers, or appear three-dimensional. Some use unorthodox letter shapes and proportions to achieve distinctive and dramatic results.

ITC Aftershock™ Regular

Aftershock


ITC Airstream™ Regular

Airstream


Mo’ Funky Fresh Complete Family Pack


ITC Tremor™ Regular


WacWakOoops! Regular

Fashionable Classifications

Futuristic Fonts

Futuristic fonts are almost always sans serif designs. Sometimes stroke terminals are rounded or clipped on an angle. They also tend to be based on geometric or elongated character shapes.

Biome™ Basic Family Pack


Akko™ Family Pack


Klint Basic Family Value Pack

 

Gothic Fonts

Gothic fonts are another name for Blackletter fonts. In addition, Gothic fonts can be designs that are hip and edgy with a heavy dose of horror. They are also fonts that would be at home in “fantasy” publications and web sites.

Beluga LT Complete Family Pack


Bludgeon Regular


Notre Dame Complete Family Pack

 

Graffiti Fonts

Graffiti is usually appeared as images or lettering scratched, scrawled, painted or marked in a similar manner on walls, fences, highway overpasses and similar structures.

Angeleno Complete Family Pack


Chillin Complete Family Pack


Southbee Complete Family Pack

 

Grunge Fonts

“Grunge” was first to identify a specific type of music that originated in Seattle, a style that is influenced by punk, rock and heavy metal. Grunge fonts are aggressive, iconoclastic and often distorted designs. They are also commonly marked with a rough, jagged or distressed surface texture.

Blockade Regular


ITC Coventry Complete Family Pack


Killer Ants Complete Family Pack

 

Handwriting Fonts

Handwriting fonts evoke quickly written notes — but more deliberately so than a scrawl.

They are also generally somewhat less sophisticated than formal scripts – while they lack the refinement of most calligraphic designs. Handwriting fonts differ from casual scripts in that their characters are not made from flowing brush strokes.

Django Regular

Etruscan™



Trackpad™



Scary Fonts

Scary fonts look like they could have been lettered by R. Hunter Thompson – on one of his bad days – or made of scrawled lettershapes or other unsettling forms. They are edgy, sinister and generally menacing.

Goosebumps Complete Family Pack
Spooky™
Hollyweird™

Tattoo Fonts

Traditionally, tattoo fonts were Blackletter, script or simple, single stroke sans serif designs. This small palette has grown into one that incorporates virtually any kind of typeface design. The most prominent of which are scripts, calligraphic, and glyphic designs.

Linotype Textur Complete Family Pack
Snell Roundhand Complete Family Pack
Cult™

Textured Fonts

Surface texture is another variant of typeface design. Just a few of the virtually limitless surface textures are outline designs, typestyles that have the appearance of three dimensionality, incised, stenciled, Inlined, and distressed.

ITC Abaton™ Regular Abaton

 

Arriba Complete Family Pack

Arriba

ITC Panic™ Regular 

Panic

Vintage/Retro Fonts

These are typefaces that were used for display applications between the mid-1800s to mid-1900s, and their revivals. They have a distinct feeling of “time and place.”

ITC Beesknees™ Regular

beesknees

Parisian™

parisian

Raphael™ Regular

raphael

Western Fonts

Western typefaces are advertising designed first made in the mid-to late 1800. They are also known as “Circus Type.” Fonts were usually decorative, often with surface texture and adorned with large and unusual serifs and stroke endings.

Algerian™ Condensed

algerian

ITC Buckeroo™ Regular

buckeroo

McCollough Regular