My inquiry about the "Serif's"....

Nov 4, 2008
What I'm good at

Every day, we see it, we use it, we know it.

Typography is defined as:

The art and technique of printing with movable type. The composition of printed material from movable type. The arrangement and appearance of printed matter.


Typography is around every one of us. Whether we use Times New Roman for a school paper or Papyrus for a restaurant menu, there is typography everywhere. Good typography is showcased in magazines like Vanity Fair or Sports Illustrated. The more esthetically pleasing typography is, the more people will want to look at it.


Sure, the font I am typing with right now is typography - this whole thing seems easy enough. But the fact is, typography is very complicated.


You know when you are looking at your font list and there are hundreds of different fonts that "look the same"? They don names like Sans Serif, but look like Times New Roman. Well, I thought we would take a closer look at what this whole 'Serif' thing means, and what makes it 'Serif'.


Simply put, Serif is,


"The curly bits at the ends of letters”. And although you are unlikely to read that in a typography text book, that’s just about right (though they’re not always curly)."

At least that is how the author of the blog

I love Typography

put it. It seems simple enough - fonts that curl... But the terminology of those "curls" could get a stranger to typography very confused.

Get it now? Maybe not.


In fact you probably shouldn't get it just yet. Serif's have their vast history, so understanding everything about them in a five minute blog post is a little bit ludicrous to ask of you. Let's take a look at the origin of the word 'serif'.


So why the word “serif”? Well, it’s commonly held that the origin of the humble serif can be traced back to ancient Rome. Before an Inscription was carved into stone the letters were first painted on. Anyone who has tried painting letters will know that one is left with slightly wider sections at the ends of the brush-strokes. The stone carvers would then faithfully carve out the letters including the flares at the end of the strokes — thus was born the serif.


There are many kinds of serif as well.

I love Typography

breaks it down for us:


There are numerous kinds of serif. The two main types are Adnate and Abrupt (these are further subdivided into many more groups which we’ll look at in future). The Adnate serif is more organic. Notice how the serifs join the the stems via a curve; the Abrupt Serif — as its name suggests — is squarer and more rigid; the Slab Serif is a good example of an abrupt serif. It’s not rude; it’s just square.



Personally speaking, I like the Adnate serifs myself, but that is just me I guess. Next time, I will blog about the different between Arial and Helvetica - it will be insightful.


more font talk

Submitted by csloan on Fri, 2008-11-28 18:29.

Here's a good post about typography from Information Architects.

What font says change?

susanettenheim's picture
Submitted by susanettenheim on Sat, 2008-11-29 19:28.

Here's an article I've enjoyed sharing:

What do you think?