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Typeface Styles?


New Member
I noticed in another thread recently, talk of matching typeface to a style, contemporary or traditional. Not quite sure what that means. In addition, what are the main styles in sign design, and an example of typeface to match those styles? Thanks for any answers.


Fred Weiss

Merchant Member
Hi George.

The problem with "Styles" classification is that everybody has their own ideas about what goes where. The same is true for classification of type in general where broad disagreement over what may be a script, for example, are the rule and not the exception.

A good place to start would be by browsing a major font producer's font showings. In the link that follows to Adobe, you'll find that, in addition to browsing by font name, you can also do so by Theme, Style, Use and Classification.

The ATypI organization established standards for classification in recent years which most foundries follow loosely. For example, here's what Adobe says on their site:

Adobe® typefaces are organized in the Type Classification pop-up menu according to a simplified version of the internationally recognized system adopted by the Association Typographique Internationale (ATypI). In addition to the traditional classifications of typefaces by historical origin, we have added some that are unique to the Adobe Type Library, such as Adobe Originals® and OpenType® typefaces.

The subject of typography is a large one with as many opinions as there are people involved in it. Look over the type section of Adobe and tell us what you learned when you're done.

Adobe Type


New Member
That site certainly will be beneficial in the future. Thanks for directing me there. My light bulb is pretty dim sometimes, but I learned from that site that a certain font seems to share multiple themes, and also multiple styles. I never knew there were so many styles. The theme part of that website will make font selection easier for me, rather than blindly stumbling for the right looking font for the job in some cases. I found some interesting usage: frette fractur std. a historical font? Not that I have a problem with that font. I have used it in conjuction with a German themed shop locally. It also doubles as a scary font, go figure. If I missed something, please direct me to it. Thanks Fred.



Certified Enneadecagon Designer
I agree with Fred, it is hard to classify some type, (and I made that statement about contemporary and traditional type)The main types are broken up into subtypes and broken down even further, his suggestion is great, getting a feel of type through type houses like Adobe, Agfa, ITC, House, Font Shop, T-26 is the best way to explore, I try to do it at least once a month. There are also a lot of books like "An introduction to Typography" "Emotional Digital" and "Working with Type-(series of books)

When I thing about a layout or logo or whatever, I always think about how the type sets the mood, either sophistication, youth oriented, ect. A great book is "Graphically Speaking" by Lisa Buchanan It breaks down design into different "styes" it shown designs (logo and page and poster layout) in that style, type that goes with it and color. Really great visual cues on "Artistic", "Corporate", "Elegant", "Natural" "Humorous" ect.....

Your observation on fractur is very interesting, I have used it on a car club logo (lowriders) so it shows that type can be used in various situations, but they can also fit within a style too.


New Member
Thanks Rick. I will check the book out you talked about. I just ordered 3 books that will be here in Jan., Commercial sign techniques being one. Another is Professional paint finishes by Ina Brosseax Marx. Lookin' forward to them.

I went back to the Adobe link Fred provided, and got some info on a few of the many Type Classifications, and a couple of the many fonts of that certain type. Here's some of what I learned:

Cyrillic type is a common usage for Russian and Slavic languages, its roots coming from Greek Script. A few examples: Helvetica Std., Myriad Pro fonts.

Blackletter type is referred to Old English or Gothic, used for text in Germany before World War II. Examples: Fette Fraktur Std., Linotext Std, among others.

Glyphic type are common with letters carved or chiseled in stone. Usually only have capital letters because most inscribed letters are capital. Ex: Copperplate, Gothic Std., Lithos Pro.

Monospace type characters all have the same width. Most typeface characters are proportionally spaced, but these characters are used when setting text where you need exact spacing. Ex. - Courier Std., Lucida Sans Typewriter Std., Orator Std.

Swash typefaces contain characters with flashy extensions.These extensions add elegance to the letters.They are used with decorative capital letters in mind. Ex: Bickham Script Std. Raphael Std., Isabella Std.

Venetian Old Style are named for roman typefaces that appeared in Venice in the 1470's. Their use was to replicate the handwriting of Italian Rennaisance Scholars. These styles are noted to be clear and legible. Ex: Raleigh Std., ITC Berkeley Oldstyle Std.

These are typestyle classifications, many used in documents, book titles, packaging, and display. There are more, I listed a few of the ones I found interesting. I also tried to note a few of the fonts associated with each, many that are used in signage today.

I did use a cheat sheet on this assignment, because there's no way I could memorize all this. Listed above is just a few notes of what I learned. Like I said in my previous post, alot of fonts here are listed in multiple style categories. Meaning to me a font doesn't have one use or style or place. It has multiple uses, showing what Fred mentioned earlier that everyone has their own ideas on this subject. Thanks for the learning experience on typestyles, I certainly know more about them today.


Fred Weiss

Merchant Member
Excellent George!

Before ATypI and Adobe started standardizing things, the bible of typeface classification was Rookledge's International Type Finder.

It set up a classification system and also cataloged various earmarks for identifying type. To this day I still refer to it several times a week. The book is out of print but, if you ever see a copy, grab it. Very useful.

Rookledge classifies type as follows:

Text Typefaces
  • Sloping e-Bar (Venetian Serif)
  • Angled Stress/Oblique Serifs (Old Style Serif)
  • Vertical Stress/Oblique Serifs (Transitional Serif)
  • Vertical Stress/Straight Serifs (New Transitional Serif)
  • Abrupt Contrast/Straight Serifs (Modern Serif)
  • Slab Serif
  • Wedge Serif

Decorative (non-continuous text) Typefaces
  • Flowing Scripts
  • Non-Flowing Scripts (including Blackletter and Uncial)
  • Unmodified (Formal Text Shape)
  • Fat & Thin Face
  • Ornamental
  • Modified Serif
  • Modified Sans Serif

Oldtimers like me, when identifying type, will often narrow it down quickly by determining the classifacation and then going to design features (earmarks).

For extra credit, give me an example typeface for each classification.


New Member
Here's what I found as far as example typeface for each classification.

Text typefaces
- Sloping e-bar(Venetian Serif) - Trajanus, Centaur
- Angled Stress/Oblique Serifs(Old Style Serifs) - Times Roman, Goudy Old Style
-Vertical Stress/Oblique Serifs(Transitional Serif) - Bookman, Garamond
-Vertical Stress/Straight Serifs(New Transitional Serif) - Cheltenham
-Abrupt Contrast/Sraight Serif(Modern Serif) - Bodoni
-Slab Serif - Courier,Clarendon, Rockwell
Wedge Serif - Copperplate Gothic

Decorative Typefaces
-Flowing Scripts - Commercial Script, Palace Script
-Non-flowing Scripts - Murray Hill Bld
-Unmodified(Formal Text Shape) - Berkeley Old Style, Futura
-Fat Face - Antique Olive Std 2
-Thin Face - ITC Bauhaus Std.
-Ornamental - Caravan Std
-Modified Serif - Veritas
-Modified San Serif - Goudy Sans

I found the decorative typefaces quite challenging to get examples, and not sure how accurate, but I feel pretty accurate with the text Typefaces.
Alot of info on type, and also alot of history.


Fred Weiss

Merchant Member
I see lots of progress George. Your answers to Fat Face - Thin Face and a couple of others are incorrect but, in fairness, without having the Rookledge book to see examples and definitions, it wasn't a fair question.

Most of your answers are on the money. Berkeley Old Style is actually a Sloping e-Bar Venetian Serif. Copperplate Gothic is accurate as a Wedge Serif but Friz Quadrata would be a more classic example.

A couple of terms are used in several classifications:

Stress and Contrast.

These are very distinctive earmarks of major classification (vs. individual earmarks) of typefaces.

The capital O best illustrates stress. In the example you see that either the center or both loops are angled on the left and vertical on the right.

Contrast is the variation in stroke width of a typical letter, ranked from None to High and is somewhat subjective.

Also note in the three S characters used, two have oblique serifs and one has straight serifs.


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New Member
Thanks Fred. I was hoping to get them all right. Just curious, is Modified Serif another name for Modern Serif?


Fred Weiss

Merchant Member
No, in this case Rookledge is referring to serif fonts that would verge on being classified as Headline or Display faces but are still obviously serif styles.

Some examples chosen by Rookledge with which you may be familiar are:

  • University Roman
  • Belwe
  • Stencil Bold
  • Profil
  • Algerian
  • Eckman
  • Hobo
  • Pretorian
  • Tango