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Introduction  Design   History   Family Classifications

Family Classifications of Type


Sans Serif

The early 20th century saw continued technological advancement in printing and typesetting, flourishing of advertising and print journalism, and a contemporary movement in type design, influenced by the European Bauhaus and De Stijl design movements. For new generation of designers and typographers, the notion emerged of the typographic character as an expressive design element. Very much a backlash against the typographic excesses of the 19th century, the new design direction sought a basic letterform which was suitable for contemporary communication.

Sans Serif Characteristics

  • little or no variation between thick and thin strokes
  • lack of serifs
  • larger x-height
  • no stress in rounded strokes

A classic example of this movement is Futura, designed by Paul Renner in 1928. Renner, a German design teacher, attempted to fashion an alphabet from the most basic geometric components, completely devoid of ornamentation. Futura became the first popular Sans Serif typeface (Sans Serif type actually appeared more than fifty years earlier, but were ignored in favor of the more popular Slab Serif designs).

Futura
Designed by Paul Renner in 1930

While the first Sans Serif designs appeared in the 19th century, the first such typeface to become popular was Futura.

Futura’s geometric simplicity was in perfect harmony with the prevailing design aesthetic of the Swiss Bauhaus movement.

  • The lack of serifs and obvious weight variation requires spacing between letters and lines in order to maintain readability.
  • It is generally difficult to read in long text passages, especially in smaller sizes.
  • It is an excellent type for headlines and shorter amounts of text.

 

Sans serif typefaces abandoned not only the serif, but variation in stroke weight. The x-heights were significantly increased, a practice which has come to exemplify contemporary taste (many 20th century revivals of earlier type designs included enlarging the original x-heights).

The Sans Serif movement continued for several decades with the development of immensely popular designs such as Univers, designed by Adrian Frutiger in 1956, Helvetica, designed in 1957 by Max Meidinger, and Avant Garde, designed in 1970 by Herb Lubalin and Tom Carnase.

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