Historical classification of typefaces.

npgraphicdesign's picture

I'm finding some slightly conflicting information regarding classifying type. After researching Vox's classification system, researching modern type (that added several new factors to typeface classification), I'm still not sure if there is a 100% correct way to classify typefaces. I've seen the following categories in different resources (printed, not online resources):

v1
- Old Style
- Italic
- Transitional
- Modern
- Egyptian/Slab Serif
- Sans Serif

v2
- Archaic
- Old Style (aka Classical)
- Transitional
- Modern
- Sans Serif
- Slab Serif
- Graphic/Display

Any of these correct categorizations in terms of historical as well as modern day context? Can anyone shed some more light on the situation?

Frode Bo Helland's picture

You can always dig deeper, and some typefaces have traits from more than one category. I honestly don’t use classification a lot, but the categories that make sense to me are:

  • Serif
    • Old style
      • Venetian
      • Aldine/Garalde
    • Transitional
    • Modern
  • Sans serif
    • Humanist
    • Grotesque
    • Geometric
  • Slab serif
    • Humanist
    • Grotesque — Hmm? Not sure if I’ve ever seen one.
    • Geometric
  • Other
    • Scripts — I have to dig deeper into this
    • Blackletter — I have to dig deeper into this as well
    • ++

Monospaced fonts and pixel fonts are often grouped on the side but I happen to think that’s a bad idea. The usually fit into one of these categories.

Apart from that, I also operate vaugely with, and might not fully grasp yet, terms like Egyptienne, Italienne, Scotch, Semi serif, Cursive (often connected to the roman, but still something completely different) and a few others I can’t think of at the moment. Edit: I can think of Fleischmann, but that’s only because I always think of it as so unique it doesn’t really fit in any other category (in my mind).

paul d hunt's picture

I'm still not sure if there is a 100% correct way to classify typefaces.

there isn't. although my favorite classifications are the 'fonts that suck and fonts that don't suck' system and a system of tagging, such as myfonts.com has in place. try the tag game: http://new.myfonts.com/games/tag/

Indra Kupferschmid's picture

One example of a Slab in the Grotesque style is Serifa or Glypha
http://www.fontshop.com/fonts/downloads/elsnerflake/serifa_ot/

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Thanks Indra. The reason this classification makes sense to me is how easily I can see how things relate. If I need a companion for a humanist sans, I’ll instantly know humanist serifs (venetian) or humanist slabs share a similar structure and “philosophy”.

Indra Kupferschmid's picture

That's the idea – classifications should be there to help the user, not please the art historian. That's why I'd like to get rid of the historic terms altogether.

As for classifying scripts, that can be done according to the same or similar model: the (former) writing tool which determines the type of contrast and principle of form. Roughly that is broad nib/old style/humanist/chancery, pointed nib/modern/grotesque/roundhand, round nib/geometric/free

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Care to give visual examples of these? I’d love to learn more.

Indra Kupferschmid's picture

I have a matrix with examples, but the links (picts) are missing – classic. So I can either dm you the structure with shitty previews of the typefaces or gimme some time to make a new one.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

I don’t want to give your more work, Kupz.

npgraphicdesign's picture

Kupz,
I'd love to take a look at what you have as well. But don't do any extra work....we're not worth it. ;)

Indra Kupferschmid's picture

Are you trying to coin a new nickname? That's not how you will coax me :)

Frode Bo Helland's picture

How about Kupa? The boss from Super Mario Bros ;)

quadibloc's picture

They always forget to have a classification for wedge serif typefaces!

And, of course, there are also the Clarendons.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Wedge serifs can be both venetians and aldines/garaldes (neither based on serif shape, but rather openness and axis for my part), but most likely not moderns. Yes, clarendons - they're under the slab umbrella. You can always dig deeper.

npgraphicdesign's picture

Kupz, I could design an ambigram for you...if you know what that is ;)

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Fantômas: Your nick evokes some mixed feelings for a Norwegian. And concerning Kupfers: She's way too classy for any z's or ambigrams.

npgraphicdesign's picture

Frode,
My moniker actually comes from the 1960s series of movie about a brilliant criminal named Fantomas. The 1960s movies with Louis de Funès & Jean Marais were actually based off of the original 1913 movie with the same name. And no, my moniker isn't based on the band.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Follow this link.

quadibloc's picture

By wedge serifs, I was thinking of typefaces like Latin Bold.

Since typefaces like Stymie and Cairo have unbracketed serifs, I had expected that Clarendons would have a separate classification.

Indra Kupferschmid's picture

We had it over wedges.
Especially Latins are often based on the modern/static model or principle of form, look.
Those and also the Clarendons as Frodz, eh, Frode suggested belong to the Slabs usually, as Venetian belongs to Serif (subcategory).

What a pity the brilliant Fontomas Dirk Uhlenbrock adjourned his fun project indefinitely obviously.

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