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3 Common Characteristics of Type

May 27, 2009

Recently I was reading about the evolution of typefaces.  I thought this was an interesting piece of information to share from Designing with Type, by Craig. It is how we identify Old Style, Transitional and Modern Typography.


Variation in Stress


From the early pen and ink fonts drawn by scribes,  a distribution of weight in the letters which creates “ STRESS” can be seen. The example of the letter “O” is shown here to illuminate the differences of Old Style fonts to the most Modern fonts.  See the diagonal stress line as it changes over the centuries?



Variation in Strokes


“The degree of contrast between the thick and thin strokes of letters is VARIATION.”

The example below shows Garamond which has little contrast between the weight of the thick and thin strokes vs. Helvetica which has no variation at all.







 Variation in Serifs

Serifs are the ornament that decorates the stroke of a letter. Serifs vary in the way the serif meets the vertical stroke of the letter.  You can see the weight difference in the example here:

 SERIF Variation




Next time you choose a new font – ask yourself — is this old style, transitional or Modern? Notice the subtle differences that make the characteristics of the new font stand out. Is it easy to read and comfortable to follow across the page? Will you use it in your design or layout?




Kristine Sheehan

“Your Stationery in Flight”


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