This blog was established for the Typography 3 students of Kendall College of Art + Design.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Mixing Serifs and San Serifs

You know it is your worst fear as a Designer. Feeling like a Serif doesn't quite match the San Serif that you've already fell in love with. Change one? Change them both? Some avoid it all together and others aren't afraid to make mistakes in order to learn, and others just seem to do everything right. What fonts do you love together.......yes we all know Jason loves Comics Sans with a touch papyrus for good measure.....but what are your true favorite combinations?


At 1:29 PM, Blogger jpoletis said...

you know, this is kind of a hard question for me. I don't feel as if I have a very strong hold on typography yet...I find myself using certain fonts frequently throughout my work-- baskerville, century gothic, helvetica, carlson and random others-- mostly because I feel comfortable using these..But I'm still exploring and hope to get a better grasp on what I truly like and dislike.

At 5:40 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

I have to agree with what jpoletis said. I think that type is something that many designers, especially students, have a difficult time grasping. I myself am a huge fan of century gothic, gill sans, Helvetica, and a mixture of curlz and papyrus(j/k…seriously). typically I'll use either all san serif fonts or just serifs I rarely mix the two, its defiantly something I need to explore more.
I only really feel comfortable using all san serifs, mainly because they still hold their integrity at any point size. Don't get me wrong serifs can do it as well, but I think they tend to get muddy if they are too small. Anyone agree or am I on my own on this??

At 4:35 PM, Blogger Nicholas Cole said...

Some history on the subject people might find interesting:

"Unserifed leters have a history at least as long, and quite as distinguished, as serifed letters. Unserifed capitals appear in the earliest Greek inscriptions. They reappear at Rome in the third and second centuries BC, and in Florence in the early Renaissance. Perhaps it is no more than an accident of history that the unserifed letters of fifteenth-century Florentine architects and sculptors were not ranslated into matal type in the 1470's.

"At Athens and again at Rome, the modulated stroke and bilateral serif were the scribal trademarks and symbols of empire. Unserifed latters, with no modulation or, at most, a subtle taper in the stroke, were emblems of the Republic. This link between unserifed letterforms and populist or democratic movements recurs time and again, in Renaissance Italy and in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in northern Europe...

"...Most, though not all, of the unserifed types of the nineteenth century were dark, coarse, and tightly closed. These characteristics are still obvious in faces like Helvetica and Franklin Gothic, despite the weight reductions and other refinements worked on the over the years..." (-Robert Bringhurst, "The Elements of Typographic Style", pg. 255)

So basically sans-serifed type is an indicator of cultural movement?!?! Hmm...

I think mixing serifs and sans serifs can be an integral part of a mood you create as a designer. It's important to recognize that before going all "willy nilly" with your font selections. If you choose fonts with a high contrast, you're going to create a piece with a lot of interest. On the flip side, if you create a piece with little contrast, you have a very safe, almost "monotoned" piece.

In my work, I find that my favorite pieces combine all types of font...display, serif, and sans serif, and anything else I throw in there. This didn't come about until Joan practically forced me to get comfortable with it, however. Now that I'm revisiting work as I'm creating a portfolio, I'm sprucing up pieces I've already created (as well as my personal identity) with a lot of type variation. I don't cling to fonts for very long. When I'm working on something, I usually pick a font that I feel captures the mood I'm trying to create and then I pick fonts to balance that. For example, for my identity, I'm using a font called Santa Fe, which is kind of a retro script font. I decided that to contrast that I would pick a geometric sans, and I chose Century Gothic.

Jordan- I used a fairly small (I think 8 or 9 pt) serifed font in a project I did (theater program) and it looked great. Again, I think it depends on what feeling you are trying to create. This was a program for the opera Carmen, so I used a lot of old world influence and chose Baskerville, in combination with a lot of elaborate scripted font, to get that feeling across.

In short, "Mix, but mix wisely."

At 5:07 PM, Blogger harrisf said...

I don't really have any favorite combinations. I kinda play it safe and try not to fall in love with any certain typeface. Granted its hard not to or not have some that you use more than others. I do use myriad, futura, gils, garamond, and jension quite a bit but I try not to limit myself. I too am still experimenting and learning about type. I just try to focus more on how the type benefits the tone of the project than my personal preference, which is more important.

At 6:03 PM, Blogger lieza said...

I agree that it can be difficult to know when and where to used a mix of serif or sans serif fonts. However, I think that using a combination of the two is half the fun of being a designer. Nick made an interesting comment about being "forced" into exploring this range of type, but I think it's something we all have to do to better our designs. Think of how most of us were probably "forced" into using InDesign, and now can't imagine design without it. My favorite combination of typefaces have to be ones that are not the most common. For example, I did a piece recently with AvantGarde and Diotima. It was most likely my favorite use of type, at least last semester.

At 4:01 PM, Blogger Steven said...

Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure I've avoided serifs for a while now. Not untill today listening to Jason speak about the relationship between the time period, culure, etc. did I give any true thought to why I did. Before I thought I was just nervous to use them, I kinda am, but now I can see into it a little better.

At 3:49 PM, Blogger damonshuck said...

The thing i hate about it is when you've found a combo that you "know" works, like right when you see it, and then do a project with them, and then some critiquer say's that they don't think they match, or say the right thing. You knew that font worked, you spent about a half an hour going through every one of your fonts, and that one was the "aha!" moment. Only to be totally scrutinized instantly by the entire class.
But, on the actual subject of mixing sans and serifs, I don't mind at all. I just look for that right look, almost like not knowing the meaning of sans or serif. I think i could work better that way.

At 11:44 PM, Blogger conranc said...

When mixing serif and sans serif fonts in past projects, I have followed a few rules, which make sense to me. However, some may disagree. I always try to limit the number of typefaces to a minimum. Ever since I have been at Kendall I have been trying to wrap my brain around the modern typefaces (Grotesque + Slabs). Just understanding how they work, what letter combination look right, what letter combinations don’t, what is perfect leading at 8.5pt, how about 14pt. And I still feel that I am just starting to scratch the surface, I am smart enough to know that I don’t know very much about those typefaces and I have been studying those sans for around two years. Now try throwing in a serif that I really don’t understand and I am starting to tread on dangerous water as a designer. Well, that was a lengthy explanation as to why I try to limit my number of typefaces.
One way of combination that I have used (with fairly good success rates) is using serif body copy mixed with sans headline. However, when I have mixed serif and sans I try to make sure each font has a similar feel (shape, ascenders, etc.). Mixing typefaces is sophisticated stuff; I need to explore it more.


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