Have you ever wondered about the difference between serif and sans serif fonts? Fonts are a crucial consideration for anyone designing a brand. Like your brand logo, colors, and even your tone of voice, fonts say something valuable about your company.
The right typography can define you as a playful, informal company with nothing but a glance.
A different kind of font in your logo could improve your chances of capturing your customer’s eye or differentiating you from the competition.
There are a lot of things to think about when you’re picking your brand fonts, but perhaps the most common is whether you want to go serif, or sans serif.
Today, we’re going to look at what makes a sans-serif font different from a serif font.
We’ll also cover why and when you may use each kind of typeface.
What is a serif font? What is a serif?
To understand the difference between serif and sans serif, you’ll need to know what each option looks like. A serif font is named for the “serifs” present on each character.
A serif is a little foot or embellishment that appears on the edges of words. If you think of a typeface like Times New Roman, you’ll know what we mean here.
Serif fonts “finish” the strokes of each letter with a little flourish. It’s similar to the kind of ink dot left behind when people would write in old calligraphy. Serifs can be either extremely distinct, or subtle.
Serif fonts are distinctly more ornamental than their sans serif counterparts. They mimic old-fashioned writing styles, and have histories dating all the way back to statements carved in rock by stonemasons.
Today, serif fonts are common in newspapers, magazines, and even in books. These typefaces are seen as classic and elegant.
Using serif fonts: Serif font examples
Serifs are popular in the typography world for many reasons. Serif fonts are easy to read because each letter is beautifully distinguished. Many serif font examples are also well-renowned for their sophisticated and professional appeal.
Designers use serif fonts when they want to convey a formal, authoritative personality for a brand. Think of Time Magazine for instance. The font on the magazine immediately brings to mind the historical impact of the company.
Serif fonts are perfect for conveying a more classical aesthetic. They appear often in the financial world, because they demonstrate authority and sophistication. Serifs are also very common among companies who want to convey class and quality.
The distinct typography for Rolex demonstrates the heritage of the Company, but it’s also ideal for creating a sense of high-value and class.
Because Serif fonts are so easy to read, they work well in a variety of environments. You could use them on your packaging, on your website, in an app, or for a logo.
Newspapers usually use serif fonts combined with sans-serif fonts to draw attention to the headers and subheadings in a story.
What is a sans serif font?
Definition of sans serif
Now you know what a “serif” is, we can answer the question: “what is the difference between serif and sans serif?” The word sans simply means “without”.
If a “serif” font is one with the little feet or marks on the edges of characters, a sans serif font is one that drops these marks entirely.
Sans serif fonts are deemed more modern and informal. They’re closer to modern handwriting, where writing with a quill or fountain pen is less common.
Like serif fonts, sans serif typefaces are excellent for the digital age, because they’re easy to read in a range of sizes and formats. You probably know sans serif fonts in the form of designs like Arial, Helvetica, and the dreaded Comic Sans.
When to use sans serif fonts
Sans serif font examples
If serif fonts are fantastic for showcasing class, formality, and sophistication, sans serif fonts are perfect for modern, more playful brands. These typefaces are intended to be more approachable, without the harsh edges and feet to worry about.
Sans serif fonts are simple and clean, with crisp lines and soft curves. Sans serif fonts deliver a feeling of informality, friendliness, and approachability. The companies which use these fonts are often deemed more relatable and youthful.
Look at companies like Airbnb, Facebook, and Hulu, for instance:
Sans serif fonts are a popular choice among tech companies, start-ups, and innovative companies who want to be more approachable to the masses.
A sans serif font is very easy to look at and work with. You can use sans serif fonts on their own or match them with more decorative typefaces in logos and packaging designs.
Many companies have even updated their font-based logos to sans serif versions over the years.
Google switched from a serif to sans serif alternative to showcase a more fun and friendly vibe.
When to use serif and sans serif fonts
Answering the question “what is the difference between a serif font, and a sans serif font” gives you the guidance you need to determine what kind of typeface you should be using for each product.
Both serif and sans serif font have their distinct benefits. The key to choosing the right font is deciding what kind of image or atmosphere you want to build.
Here are some quick questions and answers about sans serif and serif fonts to guide you.
Which is more readable? Serif or sans serif fonts?
Both are extremely legible, making them a popular choice for all kinds of online and offline content. Serif fonts are seen as more readable because they’re extremely uniform and easy on the eye.
However, sans serif fonts are more “legible”. Most books and magazines use serif typefaces where the reader won’t have to recognise every letter to read. Serifs help in seeing the letters in unity.
What does sans mean in fonts?
Sans simply means “without”. If a font is a sans serif, it’s a design that doesn’t include any of the feet or serifs of a more traditional font.
Which is more modern, sans serif or serif?
Many people consider sans serif to be a more modern typeface because it’s closer to the modern handwriting we have today. Serif fonts are closer to the brush strokes and calligraphy of older writing styles.
Which is more professional, sans serif or serif?
Serif fonts are often more authoritative and sophisticated than sans serif fonts. A serif font indicates heritage and history, which also makes it more trustworthy.
The difference between sans and serif fonts
On the surface, the difference between serif and sans serif fonts is simple. One kind of typography has little feet, or embellishments, and the other doesn’t.
However, if you understand the importance of branding, and the emotional impact fonts can have, it’s easy to see a much greater divide between both options.
Serif fonts are there to demonstrate sophistication, heritage and authority. Sans serif fonts are more modern, playful, and relatable. Both are an excellent choice for your design project.
In fact, you can even use a combination of different serif and sans serif fonts to create a unique experience for a viewer or reader. This is a common practice among newspapers.
Now it’s up to you to decide which font is right for your brand.
Fabrik: A branding agency for our times.