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Font Features


This handout addresses how to make appropriate font choices to add additional meaning and emphasis to print documents and web pages

Contributors:Mark Pepper, Nick Hurm, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2012-04-27 05:24:43

Graphic designers have developed a large vocabulary of terms to discuss the makeup of a font. Fortunately, learning just a few of these terms will greatly aid you in making choices about how to use a font to communicate additional meaning beyond just the words themselves.

Font Types

1. Serif Fonts

One of the primary distinctions between font types is Serif fonts versus Sans-Serif fonts. Although the exact derivation of the word “serif” is unknown, it may be easier to grasp the concept if you think of them as feet. Since “sans” comes from the French for “with out” you can see fonts as having feet or being with out feet.

This image shows the serif font Georgia.

Image Caption: Georgia

Above, the circled sections highlight some of the serifs in the font type called Georgia. The serifs are little lines (or feet) at the end of particular line strokes.

Popular serif fonts include:

This image shows a number of popular serif fonts. These include Times, Century, Palatino, Garamond, and Bodoni.

Image Caption: Popular Serif Fonts: Times, Century, Palatino, Garamond, and Bodoni

2. Sans-Serif Fonts

If serif-fonts have lines (or feet) at the end of particular strokes, then non-serif fonts are marked by the absence of these features.

This image shows the font Ariel. It is a sans serif font.

Image Caption: Arial

Above is one of the most well known non-serif fonts. Notice how in comparison to the serif fonts, the line strokes end cleanly without any additional flair.

Popular Sans-Serif Fonts include:

This image shows popular sans serif fonts. These include Ariel, Comic Sans, Gill Sans, Franklin Gothic, and Trebuchet.

Image Caption: Popular Sans Serif fonts

3. Decorative Fonts

Sometimes called script, novelty, or ornamental, decorative fonts stand out for their unique shapes and personalities. These tend to have a stronger personality or character than traditional serif or sans-serif fonts.

Some examples of decorative fonts include:

This image shows the decorative fonts Blackmoore LET, Cracked, Papayrus, and Playbill.

Image Caption: Decorative Fonts Blackmoore LET, Cracked, Papayrus, and Playbill


This image shows good and poor examples of heading fonts. The good example uses a sans serif font for the header and a serif font for the body text. The poor example uses a serif font for the header and another kind of serif font for the body text.

Image Caption: What to Do for Headings and Body Text

This image shows an example of a script font that is difficult to read.

Image Caption: When Not to Use a Decorative Font

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