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Slab Serif


Sans Serif



Introduction  Design   History   Family Classifications

Family Classifications of Type


For most of type's history, the use of decorative characters was applied to the page design of books, and usually limited to ornamenting title pages, chapter headings, and initials. In the 19th century, the proliferation of Slab Serif typefaces did not ultimately satisfy the insatiable public appetite for distinct and ornate types.

Posters and advertisements relied heavily on large size type, called display type, to attract attention. Because of the size of display type, readability was less important than visual impact. Display types began to display ornamentation to achieve this impact.

The designs which emerged in profusion during this period completely abandoned centuries of aesthetic evolution in favor of nearly any visual trick which might catch the public eye. Types became bolder, incorporated outlines and inlines, were colored and shaded, or cast three-dimensional shadows. Most of these ornate, even flamboyant, typefaces were received with immediate, if short lived, success.

Categories of Early Decorative Typefaces

Fat Faces
Decorative types based on extreme weight.\

Inlines and Outlines
Decorative types based on ornamentation

Illustrative types, often inspired by Art Nouveau

Shadowed or three-dimensional types


Competitive typefoundries, by mid century, discovered that they could successfully market any unusual typeface.

This trend was so prevalent that by the turn of the century, popular typography in Europe and the United States had become overly ornate.

Typographers regarded the visual anarchy of type design as a giant step backward, thus fueling the new design movements of the early 20th century.


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