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The 14 types of letters (typographies) and their uses

The 14 types of letters (typographies) and their uses

May 10, 2024

Probably most of us have had to write on some occasion some type of work, evaluable activity, report, letter or document on a computer at some time. And most likely we have also had to choose from a large number of sources the most suitable typeface depending on the situation or even the aesthetic preference goal: Arial, Times New Roman, Calibri, Cambria ...

And it is that throughout history and since the invention of writing and the first letters generated to represent our ideas have arisen a lot of types of letters or fonts , even within the same language. There are so many options that have been made several attempts of classification, of which in this article we will see two concrete examples.


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Types of letters: elements to keep in mind

When making a classification on the types of letters, it is important to bear in mind that there are many factors in which their authors can be fixed: the line, the thinness of the lines, the presence or absence of auctions, the way (more rounded or more square), the direction of its axis, the maintenance or variability in the thickness.

Likewise, we must also bear in mind that writing, like oral language, is also evolving and changing over time, generating new types of graphics and uses for it. In general, in addition, it must be considered that the different types of letters may be more or less adequate in different contexts, although this would make more reference to their use than to the type of writing itself.


Next we will see two of the most usual classifications, although there are a great many ways to catalog them . We will focus on the Latin alphabet.

1. Classification of Thibaudeau

It is considered that the pioneer in trying to make a classification of the types or typographies was with a unified criterion was Francis Thibaudeau, which classified the typefaces into two groups clearly depending on whether or not it presents serifs or auctions . Later, it would include a third group as a tailor for those that could not be considered within the previous two.

1.1. Serifadas

We understand as serifadas all the fonts and fonts that have small ornamental finials, usually at their ends. It is a typeface that usually offers a more elegant appearance than in the absence of serif (or auction), giving a more professional appearance. One of the most used examples of this typeface is the Times New Roman .


Likewise, it is possible to subdivide the serifadas into three groups: ancient Romans (little difference between thick and thin strokes, concave and triangular serifs), modern Romans (discernible differences between thick and thin strokes but more stylized than the previous ones) and Egyptian (with an appearance of machine, with lines of the same thickness and rectangular serifs).

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1.2. Without serif

This group is characterized for not having serif, being its characters rounded and without any type of ornamentation in its ends. Is about a simple and easy-to-read typeface , with a cleaner and more informal appearance than those with serif. Also called dry stick. One of the best-known examples of this typeface is the one that appears in the Arial font.

1.3. Other

This group mainly includes handwritten and decorative letters, which either do not have an always stable and maintained pattern or Their main function is not so much to express at a written level but rather at an image level .

2. Classification of Vox-ATypI

One of the best known classifications is the one proposed by Maximilien Vox, typographer, historian, journalist and graphic illustrator. This man advocated the elaboration of a classification in different types of letters, creating Vox's typographical classification in France during the year 1954. It was based on the classification made by Thibaudeau .

In fact, this system of classification is one of the most widely used in all areas and accepted as a standard by the International Association of Typography. Over time it has been receiving reviews, the last one being carried out by the aforementioned association: the Vox-ATypI. In this last revision, the types of letters are classified in the following groups.

2.1. Human

They receive the name human, humanistic or Venetian to a typeface similar to that of manuscripts in the fifteenth century, in Renaissance Venice . They have small auctions, with little difference and contrast between strokes (there is no great difference between a broad line and fine line) and with a wide separation between letters.Some sources that use these types of letters are the Centaur and the Jenson.

2.2. Garages

The garaldas, also called aldinas, are a type of typography characterized by a more marked contrast between thin and thick strokes, although their proportions without more fine and stylized. They have his name Claude Garamond and Aldo Manucio, typographers of the XVI century. Another name given to this type of letters is that of Antiguas. Examples are the Garaldus and Palatino sources .

2.3. Real

Originally born in the Royal Printing House, the fonts known as real or transitional are characterized by being practically totally vertical (the former the part axis of the letters is more obliquus) and have a difference between thick and thin strokes more marked than in the previous ones. It combines characteristics of both classical and modern typefaces , although it is identified with the first group. The well-known Times New Roman is part of this group, as well as many others such as the Baskerville or the Century Schoolbook.

2.4. Didonas

The didonas owes its name to the French typographer Didot, although later his style was perfected by Bodoni. They appeared around the eighteenth century to differentiate from the typographies of the old regimes, at the time of the French Revolution. In this typeface the difference between strokes is very marked and there is little separation between each letter. Century and Madison are examples of this type of letters, also called Modern Romans.

2.5. Mechanical

Also called Egyptian, are typical of the Industrial Revolution and slightly emulate the technological aspect of the time. They have a lack of difference between thin and thick lines (all the lines are practically as thick) and rectangular serifs the same size as the rest of the letter, something that projects a certain image of strength . Rockwell, Memphis or Clarendon are examples.

2.6. Linear

The group of the linear ones includes in a great set the types of letters without serifs or auctions. They are cleaner and more informal, and were introduced for commercial and advertising use. Within them we can find four large groups:

  • Grotesque : Similar to the mechanics but without finials, they have a somewhat square appearance and with some contrast between strokes. An example would be the Franklin Gothic.

  • Neogrotesque : Like the previous ones but with less contrast and more stylization. One of the best known is Helvetica.

  • Geometric : These letters attract attention due to their monolineal or clearly geometric appearance. There is little difference between the different letters of the alphabet, having very similar forms. The Bauhaus letter is one of them, as well as the Futura.

  • Humanists : Partial recovery of Renaissance styles and with some similarity to the classic human and garaldas (although they are different from these, in addition to not having auctions). An example: the Gill Sans font.

2.7. Incise

This style tends to imitate the letters used in the engravings in different materials, being especially important capital letters (not existing in some types, in fact, the lower case). They seem carved, with a great similar amplitude in all their letters or with small and compact sarifas. An example of this is the letter Trajan or Perpetua.

2.8. Scripts

Imitation of the letter that arises when using writing instruments such as pen or brush when writing. They are usually in italics and there may even be no separation between letters being these together. One source of this type is the Hyperion.

2.9. Manuals

Similar to the previous ones, but made with more separation and in an apparently more calligraphic way. More advertising and used to highlight and make more visual the written . The type of font Klang or Cartoon are some of the types that are included in this group.

2.10. Fractured

Group that gathers the letters of the Gothic type, they are very ornamental and usually have pointed shapes. Fraktur is an example. In the original Vox classification are included in the previous, but the International Typography Association decided to separate them.

2.11. Foreign

This last group would include all types of spelling not corresponding with the Latin alphabet . Thus alphabets such as Greek, Arabic, Chinese or Hebrew would enter this classification.


Typography tutorial: Anatomy: Parts and shapes of type | lynda.com (May 2024).


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