history, hysterie and help SLAB SERIF ?

Robin Frank's picture

hello everyone. a poor little (typophile) student is asking for help.

I'm a german student of communications-design studying for one year in Barcelona. And here I have a great typography-work to do.

I want to work out a book about slab serif-fonts. History, characteristics, interviews, examples of usage, etc.
But it seems as if there is no information out there.

It's a great topic and I learned to love slabs, but it's still very dificult to find usable texts, discussions, or examples (with background information).

Naturally I found something in the web and in books buts it's still very little.

Does anybody know any writings, links or books that could help me? Somebody knows detailed history facts and examples, or has written something he would like to show me?
Doesn't matter if it's english, german or spanish, ever piece is very welcome.

I found nice information about the IBM-logo, have two interview-partners, and found other stuff, but there must be more.
Where is a detailed story about a font in particular, where are nice-to-know- and funny things? why I cannot find who made the serif-kodak-logos or all the others?
where are the experts?

It would be really great if I would receive some hints out of this lively forum.
Thanks to all of you.



poms's picture

hi robin,


scroll down to;
"The revival of slab-serif typefaces in the 20th century"

Robin Frank's picture

Dank dir vielmals,

this essay i found right after setting this topic here. And its my best material until now.

Maybe someone has different opinion about something written there?
Where do a serif begin to be slab in your thoughts?

Or someone knows additional history facts. Or just has some goodies for my work (pics etc)

Work goes on.


timd's picture


A discussion on Clarendon with some links

hrant's picture

Barcelona, eh? Lucky hund.

You might say that the seeds for the slab serif (like those of
so many other features in type) were planted with the RdR.

> Where do a serif begin to be slab in your thoughts?

When its top edge is [nearly] flat. (And the bottom one too I guess.)
Otherwise it's a wedge serif (pointed or sheared). A special case of
the slab serif though is when it's very thin, in which case I think
it's better to call it hairline. But of course grays abound.


Robin Frank's picture

sí, definitly lucky, you know the reasons hrant

thank you all so much for your help. more of this, typophile!

thats interesting what you comment, hrant. I never would have thought in the RdR. The edge is flat but the edges are rounded there, no? Like the serifs seem not that long there, it forms nearly an wedge serif. But I Haven't found a good image to look nearer.

The second one is even more interesting. I heard definitions, and it was mine too, that the serifs nearly has to be as bold as the main stroke (optically). If not, Bodoni would be slab, but Lino Letter and The Serif wouldn't.
In Germany Slabs are called "serifenbetonte Linear-Antiqua". That means that their serifs
are stressed, what normaly means that they have to be big.
What do you think?

And thanks to for your Hairline opinion. Now fits to this discussion about the definition of slabs. (that hopefully will go on with even more people)

Muchas gracias y/und Dankeschön.
and sorry for my english if I really did such mistakes as I think.


hrant's picture

> The edge is flat but the edges are rounded there, no?

The RdR has adnate serifs, yes. But I think the key concept
behind the slab serif is its separation from the stem, and
to me it seems this is the archetypical RdR logic, to treat
letterform elements as things that exist independently (as
opposed to arising from a continous flow [of a marking tool]),
elements that come together and fuse. But in fact I'm merely
guessing that there is a connection there.

Another possibility (although typographic chronology might
refute this) is that slabs came about as a result of wanting to
tack on serifs to sans forms.

> the serifs nearly has to be as bold as the main stroke

Certainly the typical slab is pretty thick. But "looking ahead"
terminologically I worry about what to call the non-thick ones! :-/
So to me it seems best to call them all slabs, but some "thick"
and some "thin" (and some "hairline", but for that without
needing to also have "slab" in there).


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