What’s Your Type(face)? Serif vs. Sans Serif

Now that we’ve settled the difference between Font and Typeface, let’s clear up the confusion with serif and sans serif. So, what’s your type(face)?


A serif typeface is identifiable by small, decorative lines attached to the end of each letter or symbol.

Typically, serif typefaces are used for printed works and for body copy. The serifs can increase the contrast between each letter, making them more distinct; thus, improving the visual identification of a word. These distinctions can work as small cues to guide the reader’s eye horizontally.

Popular Serif Typefaces

Sans Serif

Sans serif typefaces are typefaces without any serif attributes. The word “sans” is derived from the Old French word “sanz” meaning “without.” The width of each letter and symbol of a sans serif typeface tends to be more consistent than serif typefaces.

Sans serif typefaces are recommended for use in digital copy, or anything meant to be viewed on screen. Screen resolution doesn’t usually render serifs as cleanly as printed works; so, the words can appear blurry. This same principle applies to fine print in printed collateral, because at a smaller scale, sans serif typefaces are easier and cleaner to read. Headlines are also typically sans serif typefaces in print.

Popular Sans Serif Typefaces

Designers’ Preference?

Devices and computer screens are constantly improving, rendering serif typefaces more readable — but designers still tend to default to using a sans serif typeface to achieve that clean display and simplicity. However, serif typefaces do often find their way in to add a little “flourish” or “pop.”

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