Type Classification

There is no single recognized standard for classifying typefaces; rather there are several overlapping standards. For our purposes I'm going to use a simplified version of Adobe's type classification, showing three examples of each category.

Venetian Oldstyle

Named after the first Roman typefaces that appeared in Venice around 1470, Venetian typefaces were initially designed to imitate the handwriting of Italian Renaissance scholars. Distinguishing features:

  • Sloping bar on the lowercase e

  • Angle of stress that approximates that of a broad-nibbed pen held at an angle to the page

  • Little contrast between thick and thin strokes

  • Examples: Adobe Jenson, Berkeley Oldstyle, Centaur

Garalde Oldstyle

Garalde typefaces include some of the most popular roman styles in use today. Distinguishing features:

  • Horizontal bar on the lowercase e

  • A slightly greater contrast between thick and thin strokes than Venetian types

  • Axis curves that are inclined to the left

  • Bracketed serifs

  • Examples: Adobe Garamond, Bembo, Minion


Script typefaces mimic handwriting by joining letters with connecting lines. For this reason, scripts require extra attention to the kerning of their letters. Also, you never want to set a script typeface in all caps.

  • Examples: Linoscript, Kunstler Script, Mistral

Figure 3.3. Venetian Oldstyle.

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Figure 3.4. Garalde Oldstyle.

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Figure 3.5. Script.

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Representing a move away from letter shapes based on handwriting, transitional types were the first typefaces to be drawn as shapes in their own right. They represent a transition between Garalde and Modern (Didone) typefaces, and contain aspects of both. Distinguishing features:

  • A vertical, or near vertical axis

  • Pronounced contrast between hairlines and main strokes

  • Serifs are thin, flat and bracketed

  • Examples: Baskerville, Perpetua, Stone Serif

Didone (Modern)

Named after Firmin Didot and Giambattista Bodoni, Didone typefaces were a response to improvements in late 18th Century paper production, composition, printing and binding, which made it possible to develop typefaces with strong vertical emphasis and fine hairlines. Distinguishing features:

  • Strong contrast between thick and thin strokes

  • Vertical axis

  • Mechanical appearanceconstructed rather than drawn

  • Fine, unbracketed, serifs

  • Examples: Bodoni, Didot, Fenice

Slab Serif

With the Industrial Revolution came the increased use of posters, billboards, and other forms of advertising, and the need for bolder, more in-your-face typefaces. Slab serif typefaces were originally called "Egyptians," reflecting the public's enthusiasm for the archeological discoveries of the time. Distinguishing features:

  • Heavy, squared-off serifs

  • Relatively consistent stroke weight

  • Sturdy

  • Examples: Clarendon, Memphis, Rockwell

Sans Serif

The first sans serif typeface was issued in 1816, but it wasn't until the 1920s, with the influence of the Bauhaus and de Stijl art movements, that sans serifs became popular. Within the broad category of sans serif, there are four sub categories: Grotesque, Neo-Grotesque, Geometric, and Humanist.

  • Examples: Futura, Gill Sans, Myriad Pro

Figure 3.6. Transitional.

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Figure 3.7. Didone (Modern).

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Figure 3.8. Slab Serif.

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Figure 3.9. Sans Serif.

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The following classes of type all play a supporting role:

Decorative & Display

While typefaces in this group incorporate elements from many styles, they are most effective when used in large sizes for display purposes, such as headlines and titles.

  • Examples: Arnold Böcklin, Rosewood Standard, Industria

Tip: Formatting Type

In addition to using the Type Tool to select a range of text, you can also use the Selection Tool to select a text frame (or frames) and apply the same formatting options to the whole frame, including any overset text.


These typefaces are sometimes referred to as Old English or Gothic. They were used for text in Germany until World War II, but are now primarily used as display type.

  • Examples: Fette Fraktur, Goudy Text


All of the characters in a monospaced typeface have the same width. Most typefaces have proportionally spaced characters, but monospaced characters may be required when setting text on forms, financial statements and other documents where exact spacing is required.

  • Examples: Courier, OCR-A Std, Letter Gothic


Ornamental typefaces contain decorative ornaments or symbols and can be used to embellish or decorate documents. Some OpenType fonts include ornaments as part of their extended character set.

  • Examples: Adobe Wood Type Ornaments, Minion Pro Ornaments, Adobe Caslon Ornaments


Symbol or picture typefaces fulfill a number of nontext functions: musical notation, map making, mathematics, crossword, and puzzle publishing.

  • Examples: ITC Zapf Dingbats, Symbol, Carta.

Figure 3.10. Decorative and Display.

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Figure 3.11. Blackletter.

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Figure 3.12. Monospaced.

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Figure 3.13. Ornamentals.

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Figure 3.14. Symbol.

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Type Selection and Navigation Shortcuts

Move to start or end of story: Cmd+Home or End (Ctrl+Home or End)

Select start or end of story: Shift+Cmd+Home or End (Shift+Ctrl+Home or End)

Select one word: Double-click word

Select one line: Triple-click line (depending on Text Preferences setting)

Figure 3.15. Text Preferences.

Select one paragraph: Quadruple click

Select whole story: Cmd+A (Ctrl+A)

Select to the beginning of the line: Cmd+Shift+Up Arrow (Ctrl+Shift+Up Arrow)

Select to the end of the line: Cmd+Shift+Down Arrow (Ctrl+Shift+Down Arrow)

Move to the beginning of the line: Cmd+Up Arrow (Ctrl+Up Arrow)

Move to the end of the line: Cmd+Down Arrow (Ctrl+Down Arrow)

Access the Control Palette: Cmd+6 (Ctrl+6)

Toggle between Character/Paragraph Formatting Controls in the Control Palette (if the Type tool is selected): Cmd+Option+7 (Ctrl+Alt+7)

Double click a text frame with the Selection Tool to switch to the Type Tool. You can toggle back to the Selection Tool from the Type Tool (or any tool) by holding down Cmd (Ctrl).

Figures 3.16A and 3.16B. Hidden Characters Shown.

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Work with your Hidden Characters visible. This is a good way to troubleshoot potential composition problems because you can see any forced line breaks, tabs, and multiple spaces that may have crept into your text. You can toggle this view option on and off by choosing Type > Show Hidden Characters or by pressing Cmd+Option+i (Ctrl+Alt+i).