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  • Writer's pictureIan Morris

Typography series: What is a Serif font?


Serif Typography Series

It goes without saying, had Ernest Hemingway or Shakespeare created their masterpieces in Comic Sans, our inner dialogue would be sounding closer to Peewee Herman. Luckily for us, most books are now printed in the deliciously familiar Serif. This makes me wonder – what is a Serif font and why are they so useful?


In this typography series, we understand what makes the selection of typography crucial. We explain how fonts help us to process information and how they change perceptions.


What is a Serif font?


The term Serif refers to a small stroke or ‘flicks’ attached to the ends of each letter. Since Serif was the first typeface to be created, it’s origins are debatable. Some argue that after Roman letters were painted onto a stone, a stone carver would trace the brush marks to mimic the flared strokes. Another theory explains how Serifs were created to neaten the ends of lines as they were chiselled into stone. Whichever the correct origin, Serif typefaces are considered to be a traditional typeface. Based on this heritage, they have become known as a respectable and formal typeface.


So what is a Serif font and what makes it one of the most popular typefaces used across novels and newspapers? The answer is embedded in how our brains process information. I came across an extract from Scribe which explains how these flourishes make all the difference:


“Serif fonts are usually easier to read in printed works than Sans-serif fonts. This is because the Serif makes the individual letters more distinctive and easier for our brains to recognise. Without the Serif, the brain has to spend longer identifying the letter because the shape is less distinctive.”

Take a look at the well known Serif examples below.


Serif typography family (Times New Roman, Georgia, Palatino, Garamond, Baskerville)

Easy on the eye


The Serif typeface has been instrumental to the written word for centuries. Its popularity doesn’t seem to be slowing down.


The Serif typeface continues to remain a key asset in today’s design trends. Due to its popularity, a newer twist of Serif has emerged, called Modern Serif. Seen as the charming cousin to the classic Serif, the Modern Serif is fashionable, glamorous and luxurious. Check out the below examples.


Examples of use of modern fonts (Butler, Playfair Display, Linguistics Pro, Abril, Spinwerad, Fatface


Stick with Serif


Serif remains a strong contender throughout the modern waves of design trends. This makes them a real heavyweight (no pun intended) of the typeface world. Like all typefaces, Serif fonts are crucial to brand identity design and help to shape our perceptions of brands. They add a sense of trust, grandeur and authority.


Typography fact


We actually read the space in-between letters. This is why it is harder to read text written in uppercase, as it is harder to process the negative spaces within the type.


Need some help?


There are many things to consider with a font whether it be in your logo or your day to day use. All Threerooms brands are created with carefully crafted logos and considered fonts. If you want to find your font, get in touch for a chat.


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An award-winning branding agency, Threerooms has spent over 15 years making brands stronger and businesses more successful. Whether modernising brands with meaning or crafting effective marketing campaigns, our amazing team is focused on delivering brand transformation while providing exceptional customer service.


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