Looking for a better category for ‹new› serif typefaces

sanderpe's picture

In my opinion typefaces like Warnock, Swift, Scala, Charter, TheSerif could be put in the same category to distinguish them from more traditional serif typefaces. They share similar features with slab-serifs (low contrast strokes and almost blocky serifs) but in use they share more common ground with other serifs. I feel like they’re too unconventional to fit in the same class as old style and traditional humanist serifs. Maybe I’m just looking for a good classifying name (not ‹modern› or ‹contemporary› serif) to lump them together. Just some thoughts from someone who’s sorting out their font library and likes to put suitable labels on things (music that doesn’t fit into a genre/subgenre also irks me when I’m sorting playlists).

sanderpe's picture

Takk! Some interesting thoughts there – too many type classifications can get confusing and limiting. I suppose I’m looking more for a common tag or description to use for these typefaces than I am proposing a re-classification of them.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Beklager: I didn’t have time to answer more in depth earlier. Classifying type is hard, and gets increasingly harder. I think it makes a lot of sense to think in different layers, using a tagging system as Indra suggests: Structure, contrast, decoration, proportions etc.

Structure-wise these all belong in the humanist genre, but they certainly have a more contemporary flair than Garamond (as you note). Kind of like how 50Cent is hip hop, but Digable Planets is even more hip hop.

I think most typographers would consider the structure most essential: A fitting pair of typefaces would typically consist of a sans and a serif with the same structure/skeleton at heart: dynamic serif + dynamic sans, regardless of “decoration” like serif shape and contrast. But type design is moving, and many new designs skip the idea of a skeleton altogether, forcing also typography to reconsider its dogmas.

So, a common term? I suspect you’ll have to wait a hundred years before we all agree.

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