In the typography world, people refer to various types of fonts as typefaces. Typefaces have been evolving since Johannes Gutenberg invented the first moveable type printing press in 1440. Typefaces fall into seven categories that share visual characteristics with one another: Blackletter, Transitional, Decorative and Display, Script, Serif, Sans Serif and Slab Serif.
The Blackletter typefaces, sometimes called Oldstyle were the earliest created. They mimicked the style found in hand-copied manuscripts. These fonts can be hard to read because they are ornate and not always easily recognizable. In modern use, Blackletter typefaces are found on special documents such as announcements and diplomas.
Transitional typefaces evolved from the Blackletter typefaces. Unlike Blackletter typefaces, Transitional typefaces have clean, precise lines. Serifs are the small projections that appear at the ends of certain typefaces. The serifs in transitional typefaces are thin and flat, whereas the serifs in Blackletter typefaces are short and thick.
Decorative and Display
Typefaces that fall into this category do not share common characteristics of shape and form. Their common element is that they are unusual fonts that create mood and emphasis. Decorative and display fonts are not appropriate for body text because of legibility concerns. These fonts work best when used in a large size in titles, headlines or other short contexts.
Script typefaces mimic actual handwriting. Some Script typefaces use a dramatic flowing cursive style while others are more whimsical. The characters in Script typefaces may or may not have connecting letters. Script typefaces can be difficult to read, particularly when used for large blocks of text. Wedding invitations and other important announcements often use a Script typeface.
Typefaces in the Serif category, also referred to as Roman, are the most legible of all fonts. Serifs increase readability by “leading the eye along the line of type,” according to the Adobe Print Publishing Technical Guide. Because of their readability, Serif typefaces are very versatile and are used for many purposes. They are the most common typefaces for body text.
Sans Serif typefaces are typefaces that do not have serifs. These typefaces have a very modern, clean look. While they are not considered as legible in large bodies of text, Sans Serif typefaces are often used for headlines and headings in documents as well as shorter pieces of body text.
The Slab Serif typefaces have serifs, but differ from Serif typefaces because the serifs are in the form of a block or square. Slab Serif typefaces do not have the same legibility as Serif typefaces; however, they are noted for attracting the eye’s attention. They often appear in advertisements, captions and headings.