7 Serif

While serifs are a piece of typographic anatomy, they are also a classification that includes any typefaces that use serifs. Below you will find the five main sub-classifications

Humanist, also called humanes (1470’s – 1490’s)

Based on calligraphic writing with flat brush or broad nib pen. Feels a bit like it was made by hand. Characterized by small x-height, low contrast, angled serifs, a strong axis, an angled cross stroke on the e, and generous serif brackets.

Garalde, also called Aldine (1400’s – 1700’s)

Technical improvements allowed for the punching of more refined and developed typefaces. Characterized by moderate x-height, moderate contrast, angled serifs (less angled than Humanist serifs), moderate axis, horizontal cross stroke on the e, and gentle serif brackets.

Transitional, also called realist, or réales (mid 1700’s)

Transitional designs between Garalde and Didone. Advances in paper technology means paper can hold ink better, allowing for finer characters. Characterized by high contrast, flat serifs (flatter than Humanist and Garalde), an almost vertical axis, and gentle serif brackets.

Didone (late 1700’s – early 1800’s)

Technology enables typographers to push the limits of typeface refinement. The name is an amalgamation of the surnames of the typefounders Firmin Didot and Giambattista Bodoni. Characterized by extreme contrast, thin serifs, vertical axis, and no serif brackets.

Slab, also called mechanistic, mechanical, or mécanes (1800’s)

A diverse classification with numerous sub-categories, all of which include thick or bold serifs. They were originally designed for use at large sizes in advertising.

Egyptian, also called Antique

Characterized by low contrast, thick serifs (approximately same thickness as vertical strokes), and ball terminals. A reflection of the industrial period they came from though they were seen as quite ugly when initially released.


Characterized by an extremely tall x-height, thick serifs, little contrast, vertical axis, and tight serif brackets.

Italienne, also called French Clarendon

Characterized by reverse contrast (horizontal stroke is thicker than vertical) and a distinctly western or circus vibe.


Initially used with typewriters, these typefaces are sometimes monospace in reference to the limitations of mechanical typewriters. These are typically informal with many being distressed to mimic the irregularity of a typewriter.


Characterized by an extremely tall x-height, thick serifs, geometric shapes, almost no contrast, and an absence of serif brackets.




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