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What is Serif? What is Sans-serif?

Serif and Sans-serif must be no stranger to graphic designers. However, for those who are just starting to step into Graphic Design, sometimes they are confused with these two names. So how to distinguish Serif and Sans-serif, let's find out through the article below.

What is Serif?

Definition of Serif

Serif, commonly known as a "serif", is a straight line or a small stroke on a text element and is usually placed in directional and stable lines for the text structure.

Serif font classification

Old Style

From 1465 old-style serif typefaces appeared and not long after that the "movable type" printing method was introduced by goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg. Printing shops in Italy have created a typeface that suits this printing method and is inspired by Renaissance calligraphy. Old-style was born and is favored and used by many printing shops because of their simplicity, simplicity and legibility when printed on paper.

The most prominent feature of this typeface is the low contrast between bold and bold strokes, where the thinnest part of a letter will be in the corner instead of at the top or bottom of the letter. . For Old-style, people keep the same form with handwritten italics, so this typeface is usually inclined along an axis of about 9 to 16 degrees and will use curved strokes to connect the serif to the main letter.


Serif Transitional, also known as Baroque, first appeared in the late 17th century. The name Transitional was inspired by the combination of old-style typefaces and modern serif typefaces.

The remarkable feature of the transitional serif typeface is that it possesses a high contrast between the bars and bold strokes of the letters, but compared to modern serif fonts, these lines are still not visible. clearly shown by . Unlike the old-style font, the letters of the transitional font are written in a vertical axis, the beginning of each letter will be replaced with rounder and softer strokes. Thanks to that, this typeface is also popular and widely used until now.


Didone, also known as modern serif, was actually born in the late 1700s and 1800s. This typeface was born and developed by the Italian, German and French printing shops Giambattista Bodoni respectively. , Firmin Didot, Justus Erich Walbaum. As a result, later printed text has a more elegant design using this modern serif typeface.

The most distinctive feature of this modern serif font Didone is that it possesses an extremely high contrast between the bars and bold strokes of the text. Therefore, the printing and paper production technology was subtly expressed at that time when using this font. In addition, Didone also has basic features such as:

The letters have thick vertical strokes and are oriented along the vertical axis instead of the slanted axis like Old-style fonts.

There is not much difference when comparing the length and width of a letter.

Extremely high contrast between bold strokes of text.

The serif part of the letter is usually represented by soft lines, with a circle or a very recognizable teardrop shape.

Slab Serif

Slab Serif is a typeface that appeared in 1817 to meet the needs of use in posters to attract viewers' attention. This is a typeface that possesses quite a few variations with different expression styles.

Some Slab Serif fonts are built in a geometric style with strokes that do not change much in the same letter. In addition, some fonts have a similar structure to regular serif fonts and are recognized by their bolder and clearer serifs.

Application of the font Serif

With the variety and richness of Serif fonts, they are widely used in daily life. Some typical applications of Serif fonts are as follows:

In printing, publishing

As seen above, most serif typefaces have a history of birth and development associated with the printing industry. Therefore, the most popular application of this font is undoubtedly in printing and publishing for books, newspapers or magazines. This typeface is appreciated by printers as well as designers and often chooses to use in their products. So if you have designs that use a lot of text, Serif fonts are a great choice to help your products look more beautiful and attract more viewers.

In brand identity

Serif typeface is considered to bring elegance, sophistication and reliability in design. Therefore, their application in brand identity is extremely correct and important. If your brand is serious, luxurious, high-class or even traditional (editors, law offices, ...) then a serif font is the most reasonable choice to make it stand out. Turn on your brand. In addition to images, logos, fonts are also an extremely important thing to create the face of your brand. So the right font will help customers better identify the brand and convey the content and characteristics of the brand.

What is sans-serif?

In contrast to serif fonts, sans serif in Latin means "no legs". In other words, sans serif fonts are just typefaces that do not add “serif” elements such as small strokes or lines on the text elements.


The Grotesque font type includes almost all sans-serif fonts and was created around the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Grotesque also drew inspiration from and influenced by Didone serif typefaces and drawing styles. expression at that time. The most distinctive feature of this typeface is its solid construction and suitable for use in headlines or billboards of the time. In addition, this font can also be recognized by characteristics such as the height between the top of uppercase and lowercase letters is relatively close and is often used in capital letters.


Neo-grotesque was born around 1950 with the International Typographic Style (also known as Swiss Style). If you do not know, Helvetica – the most popular typeface used for decades later is of the neo-grotesque line. The feature of this font is the simple and rustic design, but it is more popular than the Grotesque font thanks to its diversity and flexibility. The typefaces of this type are usually fonts with different bold strokes and are easy to apply in many types of text.


The Geometric Sans serif typeface is inspired by basic shapes like squares and circles. Born and developed in 1920 in Germany, Herbert Bayer and Jakob Erbar are believed to be the inventors of this typeface at that time. The most flourishing period when Geometric was used was in the 20-30s of the 20th century thanks to its neatness and modern design.

The most distinctive feature about the design of Geometric fonts is that the letter “O” looks like a circle with a perfect curve. With Geometric, people often use in title text or short paragraphs instead of application when writing long documents.


In general, the Humanist typeface possesses a more diverse design and letter structure than previous typefaces. These include typefaces that have a clear contrast between strokes in the same letter, or typefaces that have a slightly different geometric direction, others are modeled after ancient handwriting or calligraphy. .

With such richness and variety in typeface, Humanist is often used on screens or long distances to be able to follow easily thanks to the relatively large distance between strokes. This is also the distinguishing feature between Humanist with Grotesque and Neo-grotesque typefaces.

Besides serif fonts, Sans-serif is also popular and applied in many different fields, most notably in UI design and brand identity.

UI design

For Designer, sans-serif font is the most suitable and favorite choice when used on phone or computer screens. Sans-serif fonts have a simple design that is easy on the eyes and does not distract the viewer.

Brand identity

Both Serif and Sans-serif are widely used in supporting brand identity. However, using Sans-serif will help your brand identity become lighter, simpler but more sophisticated and modern than ever. This is a font that is loved by brands and brands aimed at young users. In addition, Sans-serif is also used a lot in logo design or brand identity slogan.

Distinguish: Serif and Sans-serif

So how to distinguish these two typefaces, here are the salient features to help you identify the right font in the design process:

Serif is only suitable for print design

In fact, Serif and Sans-serif fonts when applied in website design often confuse users because the resolution on the computer screen is not as large as that of printed products, so it is difficult for viewers to distinguish the two fonts. this word on electronic devices. However, Serif typeface is more often used because it makes the text less cluttered and easier to follow. With the great development of today's technology, the quality of the computer screen has been improved, so you can completely read and detect serif fonts easily.

Serif is a very difficult font to read

There are many studies that show that serif typeface is an easy-to-read font thanks to the structure of the footer of each letter that separates and affects the eyes of the viewer to make it easier for them to follow. Not only that, the serif part of the text also helps to better navigate the reader's eyes, making it easier to follow the entire article or text.

Sans-serif should only be used for interface design

Sans-serif is used by many designers in interface design. However, this font is not only limited to this field but has been tested for print design and they really work and gradually become more popular. The best application of Sans-serif can be mentioned in the design of children's books, because this font helps children easily recognize the font and remember it.

So the above article has brought interesting information about Serif and Sans-serif as well as how to distinguish these two fonts for readers.

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