Serif, Sans-Serif and Decorative
Most typefaces belong in one of three categories: serif, sans-serif and decorative. Serif typefaces have curls or “little feet" on the ends of each letter. Sans-serif typefaces are those without curls or “little feet" on the ends of each letter. Decorative typefaces are those that don’t qualify as serif or sans-serif.
Understanding the differences between these categories makes it easier to narrow your sel ection when choosing typefaces. Generally, you pair serif typefaces with sans-serif typefaces.
For example, many designers like to pair Arial and Times New Roman in print projects. Arial is sans-serif and Times New Roman is serif. The two typefaces go well together because they are clearly different, and it creates a nice, clean contrast. Click the image to your right for an example.
As a rule of thumb, avoid pairing two different sans-serif typefaces together or two different serif typefaces. Using typefaces that are too similar, but not exactly alike looks like an error. Pairing serif with sans-serif looks different enough to let viewers know it was a conscious decision.
Decorative typefaces are creative, and do well when you want to express certain emotions. It’s easy to get overwhelmed looking at all the interesting decorative choices available. You might want to use many decorative fonts, but it’s best to use them sparingly, if at all.
Normally, decorative typefaces are for small areas of text. Examples include headlines for invitations, on ads or on flyers. However, it’s not a good idea to use decorative typefaces for large chunks of text. It might prove difficult to read for an extended period. When using decorative headlines, consider pairing them with sans-serif body text. Click the image to your left for an example.