Typograph 101: Serif vs. Sans-Serif

At a theatre of selecting fonts, a engineer mostly asks himself, “to Serif or Sans-Serif”? Choosing a kind of typeface to use in a pattern is of pinnacle significance as it severely affects readability, user experience and a altogether aesthetics of a design.

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Although, no matter how many knowledge we have with typography, we can always get stranded in a serif vs. sans-serif dilemma. we privately consider that a good approach out of it is by understanding a unequivocally basics of serifs and sans-serifs, and this is only what this essay aims to do.

Let’s take a demeanour during a following write-up that highlights vital differences between serif and sans-serif fonts for a improved bargain of a two.

Where did serifs come from?

Serifs are small skinny lines trustworthy to a finish of strokes in typefaces. They are believed to have originated from a Latin alphabet Romans used to sketch their papers into stone.

Although there is no zodiacally ostensible start to this decorative square in typography, it is believed that a Romans used to paint letters with outlines onto a stone, so when a mill carvers followed a brush marks, that flared during ends, that resulted in a origination of serifs.

serif exampleserif example

What about sans-serif?

Sans-serif, on a other hand, literally means “without serifs”. Any rise that is absent of these swinging strokes during a finish of any corner, can be deliberate as a sans-serif font.

sans-serif examplesans-serif example

Knowing this, how can a choice of going with serifs or sans-serif impact your design? Here are a few things to consider:


Readability is mostly totalled as how simply a reader can digest a content. Of course, as prophesy is customarily subjective, there are a lot of factors that come into play including a interest turn or a reader, and how a calm is arranged in a retard or space that it has been given.

The “old school” process of presenting calm uses serifs for a reason. Did we ever consider why many newspapers use serif typefaces for their content? Because serifs are easier to read. These tiny musical lines in any impression beam your eyes fluidly as your pierce from line to line and join a letters together that creates reading longer texts reduction fatiguing for your eyes.

The spaces between letters (since we have to take a serifs into comment when it comes to spacing) also gives some-more room for a reader to simply brand letters from any other.

Look during a instance next and we would notice that a serif fonts emanate an easier reading knowledge to a eye given it creates gaps between a letters and a words. This creates relocating your eye from one word to another easier.


On a other hand, the serif rise becomes some-more formidable to read regulating a same spacing. This is given a subdivision of any minute is smaller as we don’t have to put a serifs into comment when spacing it.


Legibility is a peculiarity and clarity of lettering. This concerns excellent sum of a typeface and is essential given it helps a reader compute one impression from another. This differs to readability given a latter is endangered mostly in coming a calm as a whole.


In a box of a picture above, the reduce box L and we for sans serif in Arial demeanour flattering many alike. Imagine typing a word “Illinois”.

Here’s to stress my point.


However, it is critical to note that if your typeface is illegible, it can never turn readable. But there many cases of clear forms that can seem mysterious given of how they are spaced or scaled relations to their pattern purpose.

Alex Poole wrote a well-explained article comparing serif and sans-serif fonts in an try to find out that was some-more legible.

According to him, there are 5 facilities to note when it comes to legibility:

  • Serif or Sans-serif
  • Point Size
  • X-Height
  • Counters
  • Ascenders and Descenders

Poole concluded, basing from arguments that support both sides, that there unequivocally was no disproportion in legibility when it comes to typeface selection. He also remarkable that there is a probability that serifs or a miss of them can impact legibility but a disproportion is not even measurable.

However, he pronounced that:

Greater disproportion in legibility can simply be found within members of a same form family than between a serif and a sans serif typeface. There are also other factors such as x-height, opposite size, minute spacing and cadence breadth that are some-more significant for legibility than a participation or deficiency of serifs.

Scaling and Resolution

Text in web pattern isn’t static. It can differ from shade to shade and would need to be scalable. This is finished so that a calm would still be readable notwithstanding a shade size.

In this area, it is protected to contend that sans-serif wins a conflict as it is some-more stretchable to scaling. Sans-serif fonts are many easier to yield importance and readability in smaller resolutions since they tarry staining due to a miss of fact in them.

scaling and resolutionscaling and resolution

Here is a primary example of how serif is used badly. Take a demeanour during a bottom divide on a Time Magazine cover above and you’ll simply notice how comparatively hard it is to read, as it does not upsurge easily generally with that tiny size. But notice how ideal a outcome is as it transitioned to sans serif for “Jonathan Franzen”.

The same is loyal when a sans-serif rise is blown up. The scale of a typeface retains a ubiquitous figure and creates it some-more recognizable. So, when it comes to scaling, sans-serifs tend to be simply blending into improved sizes given they adjust good to smearing in tiny sizes and ripping in bigger ones.

To serif, or sans-serif?

So, what is a answer to a question?

Well, we can contend that it is an apparent tie. Choosing between sans-serif and serif fonts ultimately boils down to your purpose of regulating a text. If a calm we are styling ostensible to stay on roughly a same size? Then we would wish improved readability which creates serif a improved choice.

On a other hand, if we wish to make a text partial of a manageable website, afterwards selecting a sans-serif rise competence be wiser given we don’t wish your calm to seem too tiny to read.

gq magazinegq magazine

Take a demeanour during these GQ repository covers that use both serif and sans serif fonts. The ubiquitous accord is that serif fonts are used on grave and printed materials, while sans serif is mostly used on a web. But in this case, both were used, and if we will notice it’s always a name of a cover indication that is in serif, so emphasizing it.

Some final words

Just remember that consistency is a key. Your choice of rise needs to go with a altogether aesthetics of a pattern we are creating. You can mix and compare typefaces that are similar, dally with resizing them in sequence to figure out that works. However, remember that we are doing this so that a user would know a message and your pattern looks cultured as well.

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