Serif or Sans-serif: The Golden Rule of Combining Fonts

May 2018

3 mins read

Serif or Sans-serif? Times New Roman or Arial? Modern v Grotesque? A debate as old as the digital age. This decision should be based on several key points regarding the project at hand, but the old myths should be forgotten. Serif has always been used in the printed world for its readability. While sans-serif have been a pixel’s best friend. However, when it comes to design it must be the outcome that must be considered and not the medium. Let’s start by understanding these types first.

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Serif or Sans-serif: The Anatomy

Serif typefaces are among some of the oldest modern typefaces. They are used in everything from book publishing of newspapers to billboards. But what is a serif? It is simply the decorative stroke on the letters. It can be in the form of a tail, sharp or blunt, decorative, or plain. Each serif typeface will have a distinctive style for this mark that makes the family recognizable. Serifs appear on both upper and lower-case letters within a font family, as well as on glyphs, numbers, and other characters. People tend to use Serif typefaces for something quite serious. This is because of their traditional and conservative look and feel. The mood and feelings most associated with serif typefaces are classic, elegant, formal, confident, and established.

Sans serif typefaces are thought of more modern. This style of typeface and name itself means without (sans) serif. The type category is thought to embody simplicity because of this lack of added detail. Sans serif typefaces have a look that is direct and precise, although character edges may be sharp or even rounded. The mood and feelings most associated with sans serif typefaces are modern, friendly, direct, clean, and minimal.

Serif or Sans-serif: Combining Fonts

Now that you understand each font what one do you use? Let’s forgo the myths. Let’s forget the old saying that you should only use Serifs in print. Let’s forget about how Sans Serifs Are for Digital Publications. In this modern age, readability concerns are not based on the type category but rather the actual typeface and its application. What about how Serifs Are Hard to Read or how Sans Serifs Are Informal? Both can be debunked. It now is dependant on the font itself and not what typeface it belongs to.

When you’re combining different typefaces, usually you’ll have a different typeface for the heading and a different one for the body. And this is to create a slight contrast and interest in your designs. This is the same for logos and taglines.

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What guidelines should you follow?

  • The Serifs and Sans-Serif work well together. It tends to create a good design. Don’t combine a Serif with a Serif and a Sans-Serif with a Sans-Serif because it can look a little bland and undifferentiated.
  • Stick to two fonts.
  • Appreciate the mood of the typeface just like colours, and don’t combine different moods together. Try to combine more modern fonts with older, more traditional fonts.
  • Never use fonts such as Comic Sans, Papyrus, or Curlz if you want your design to be taken seriously.

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