Serif font and Sans Serif Font: What’s the difference?

Fonts can tell your customers a lot about your brand; your story, prospects, message, audience demographic… That’s why brands like Ikea, Volkswagen and Apple among many more have utilised specific fonts exclusively for years and years.

Your computer will have hundreds of fonts plus millions of fonts on the internet, and each has its own personality. While choosing fonts might not sound like such a big deal, fonts are crucial to achieve the desired tone of the document, and as graphic designers we are trained to choose the correct font as there is a fine balance between fonts that look aesthetically pleasing and ones that are legible and easy to read. Depending on the format and tone of the content you may choose a font that is thick and bold, or a simple or ornate font. Most of the time we divert to either a Serif or Sans Serif font. But what’s the difference?

 

 

The term “serif” is derived from the Dutch word schreef meaning “line”.

 

What is a Serif font?

A serif font contains projecting features typically at the end of the stroke on a letter, symbol or number. A serif font can have a simple line such as found on Bodoni, or a thicker line (called a slab serif) as found on Rockwell. Serif font projections are not limited to straight lines either; fonts such as Garamond or Tiffany can have varying thicknesses and curves within the serif.

What is a sans-serif font?

A sans-serif font are fonts without a serif. They tend to have less stroke width variation than serif fonts. Well known examples of sans-serif fonts are Helvetica, Futura and Franklin Gothic. Sans-serif fonts are most commonly used as headline or subhead fonts since they are typically darker and bolder than their serif counterparts. Sans-serif fonts also have become very popular in website design since they tend to be easier to read at smaller sizes on digital screens. 

When should you use a Serif font and when should you use a sans-serif font?

There aren’t any specific rules as when its best to use either style font, but generally Serif fonts can be easier to read when used in long format body text for print but can become too hard to read on screens with lower resolutions. Sans-serif fonts can work great for headlines and be relatively easy to read on digital screens.

Our brand font is Lubalin Graph we use this for headings, subheading titles, statements etc. Lublain Graph is a Serif font which has lots of variations so we can make it thinner or thicker depending on the content of the document and format. Although this font is great for headings it’s not great for long bodies of text as is difficult to read in bulk. So, for body text we use a serif font called Mr Eaves XL, which is easier on the eye and easier to read.

So, which is better: serif or sans-serif? It all depends on the use, mood and individual project. The best answer is typically the least clear – many great design projects incorporate both styles.

Typography by Design

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Author:
Eve Cooper

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