• 09/01/2024
  • 10

Serif vs Sans Serif Font: Which Should You Use & When?

Graphic and visual design designers often are in a dilemma on the kind of typeface to use. The choice of a type is deeply rooted in what the design is meant for. What influences the decision to use a sans-serif or serif typeface? The industry, brand ethos, market trends, consumer research, the aim of the message, and other factors.

For graphic designers, type designers, visual designers, and communication managers – typefaces are a way to make a big impact and get their message through. Designing with typography is bringing a story to life. It’s an art of storytelling with words and type design.

By choosing the typeface, designers communicate a brand’s ethos in a visual form, via its logo, symbols, or communication collateral. In advertisements type design plays a pivotal role in subtly revealing the brand’s message. A book cover, posters, and movie screening covers will offer you an insight into the genre of each. Offering interesting insights about the book or the movie like the era/period, the influence, etc.

Let’s understand what Serif and Sans Serif fonts are:

Serif Fonts (written in Times New Roman – popular serif fonts)

They are identified by the extra marks at the end of letters. Small strokes that elongate the alphabet, giving them unique characteristics. These additional markers often carry with them a sense of tradition, history, and integrity. Often coined as classic fonts that have been traditionally used by many newspapers or books as title fonts.

What are the Most Popular Serif Fonts?

-Times New Roman, known as a transitional serif font for its style of stroke design.

-Garamond, known as an old-style serif for its design of markers.

-Rockwell, a slab serif for its markers thickness and style.

-Courier New

-Baskerville and more.

Uses of Serif Fonts

Serif fonts are known for their classic appeal. Here are some use cases where they become important:

a. Bringing out a traditional and classic mood considering the typeface style comes from the 18th century.

b. To bring out authority in a domain as leaders of the market.

c. To convey a message of reliability and dependability.

d. Bringing out a brand’s long-lasting legacy, heritage, and culture.

Popular Industry That Uses Serif Fonts

Financial institutions, insurance companies, law firms, newspapers, and editorial magazines are some popular sectors that use serif fonts. Brands that make use of serif fonts are evoking an old-style feel. Here are some popular global brands that use serif fonts:

a. Canon: Leading the camera and lens market for many years, Canon is known for being one of the finest in the market. The brand highlights its innovative, pioneering approach to leading a specific market segment with its typeface called Trajan.

b. Rolex: One of the finest-known brands in the luxury market, Rolex, uses a serif font, to no surprise. Using a typeface of serif, it brings out its traditional value, luxe unique watch design, and its timeless design approach. The font style Garamond is closest to the Rolex logo’s typeface.

c. Vogue: Leading editorial and fashion magazine in the world, Vogue makes use of serif font Didot. It helps the brand to bring out its authority in the world of fashion.

Other brands using serif fonts are Honda, Sony, Tiffany & Co., Time magazine and more.

The common aspect of all these global names is the way they hold authority in their domain. Known for being the finest, trustworthy, and notable in their choice of sector. The use of serif font aids brands to establish their authority in the industry.

Sans Serif (written in Calibri font – a popular sans-serif font)

Sans denotes the lack of, indicating that Sans Serif fonts do not come with the extra markers as Serif fonts. Without the strokes or markers, the sans serif font family is known as more modern. Many critics of type design have mentioned that sans-serif fonts grab more attention than serif fonts.

Most Popular Sans-Serif Fonts

-Helvetica is one of the most popular and clean sans-serif typeface designs.

-Arial is a slightly bolder sans-serif typeface font


-Century Gothic

-Futura, one of the first and most popular sans-serif designs.

-Proxima Nova and more.

Uses of Sans-Serif Fonts

Sans-serif fonts are often seen being used by tech companies and by several start-up brands. They offer brands a minimalistic and modern feel. A few use cases where sans-serif becomes important are:

a. Bringing out a sense of modernity and sophistication about the brand.

b. Evoking a minimalistic and simple design sensibility.

c. To target a younger, more globally connected audience.

d. Be more approachable, connectable, and practical in their type design.

Popular Brands That Use Sans-Serif Fonts

Have you noticed the number of brands on our social/digital platforms make use of sans-serif fonts?
In logos, headlines, taglines, advertisement text, titles, and digital campaigns. Here are some brands using sans-serif fonts:

a. Facebook: A leader in the social messaging market space, Facebook makes use of sans-serif type to bring the attention of the younger audience. Helvetica Neue typeface is most often used on Facebook.

b. Netflix: Noticed the bold use of sans-serif type on the leading OTT platform? With the bold red colour, the brand brings the audience’s attention to its quite easily. Using the font type -Gotham- Netflix has built a strong recall value in the audience.

c. Google: The global giant has been leading the market space for digital searches, AdWords, and campaigns. If you notice Google Pay, Google Store, Email, Google Drive, and other aspects – they all use sans-serif fonts in simple, modern, and elegant style. All bring out a clear message of what they are, and what they represent. The typeface they use is Product Sans and Roboto.

d. Spotify: The music application and brand have a modern, minimalistic, and clean logo design. Using a sans serif typeface design called Circular, the brand’s logo is scalable to different digital platforms.

Other popular brands that make use of sans-serif style of typeface designs are Microsoft, Burberry, Jeep, and HermanMiller amongst others.

When to Use Serif vs Sans Serif Fonts?

Serif fonts are more professional in their appeal. They carry a heavy tone of cultural and traditional feel to themselves.
For instance: If an author has written a book about the ancient past, serif fonts are ideal to use for the book cover. They offer the users a sense of distinction between modern times and historic areas. Attracting the attention of those who are curious to invest in a product that offers historical knowledge.

Sans-serif fonts are known to be more assertive, modern, and cutting-edge. Almost representing the changing industry times with the move from serif to sans-serif. They have a direct connection with the audience.
For instance: UX/UI designers or web designers may find it useful to use sans-serif fonts for designing a website. They are easy to read and have high legibility on mobile screens, laptops, i-pads, and tablets.

Designers need to understand the context of the brand and the typeface. This will assist them in making the best match between the brand’s ethos and typeface characteristics.

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