How We Think

What the...font?

Dec 01, 2017

I love a good Old Style in the morning (no not beer). Old Style refers to a classification of typography – just one of many, in fact. From its humble beginnings as moveable pieces (circa 15th century) to the digital formats we’ve come to know and love, the use of typography has become an art form of its own.

Over the past six centuries typography has adapted with fads and trends leaving in its wake a sea of typefaces and innumerable categories. Even after learning the anatomy of letterforms (yes it’s a thing), it can be difficult to correctly categorize typefaces. Thankfully, we can boil it down to four generally accepted “types of type” that you can use as a base.

1. Serif typefaces can be identified by their tiny little feet (technical term: serif) at the ends of their letterforms.

serif typeface

2. Sans-Serif literally means “without serif,” so as you can guess these typefaces don’t have the little feet (serifs) on the ends.

sans-serif typeface

3. Scripts are what you might expect – cursive or handwriting style typefaces.

script typeface

4. Display typefaces tend to be a little more unique in characteristic and are distinguished by their oddities that catch your attention.

display typeface

We’ve previously discussed the importance of color and how it can influence your viewer. The typeface you choose and, subsequently, the font you use are no different. Font choice can set the tone for the design and influence how your viewer interprets the message of your company.  Like color, fonts have their own personalities and purposes – some are fun and great for attention seeking headlines while others are more traditional and better for body copy.

Selecting a typeface can be tricky, especially as you learn the ropes of design and it can be easy to fall into the trap of using the same one over and over because “it’s easy” and “it works.” Some of the best advice I’ve read has come from the talented typographer, Jessica Hische. She suggests “Don’t have a favorite font. Do have a favorite type designer.” Much like your favorite pair of jeans or that band tee from the 80s you can’t part with, “If you get to know the type designers that make things that you love, you’ll never run out of beautiful typefaces to work with.”

This typographic knowledge comes from cool sources like Jessica Hische,, and Fast Code Design.


Written by: Sarah Hamilton, Senior Design Specialist