In typography and lettering, a sans-serif, sans serif, gothic, or simply sans letterform is one that does not have extending features called "serifs" at the end of strokes.[1] Sans-serif fonts tend to have less line width variation than serif fonts. In most print, they are often used for headings rather than for body text.[2] They are often used to convey simplicity and modernity or minimalism.

Sans-serif fonts have become the most prevalent for display of text on computer screens. On lower-resolution digital displays, fine details like serifs may disappear or appear too large. The term comes from the French word sans, meaning "without" and "serif" of uncertain origin, possibly from the Dutch word schreef meaning "line" or pen-stroke.

Before the term "sans-serif" became common in English typography, a number of other terms had been used. One of these outmoded terms for sans serif was gothic, which is still used in East Asian typography and sometimes seen in font names like News Gothic, Highway Gothic, or Trade Gothic.

Sans-serif fonts are sometimes, especially in older documents, used as a device for emphasis, due to their typically blacker type color.

Serif and sans-serif 01 Sans-serif font
Serif and sans-serif 02 Serif font
Serif and sans-serif 03 Serif font
(serifs in red)
Ming serif
From left to right: a serif typeface with serifs in red, a serif typeface and a sans-serif typeface


For the purposes of type classification, sans-serif designs are usually divided into three or four major groups, the fourth being the result of splitting the grotesque category into grotesque and neo-grotesque.[3][4]


Akzidenz Grotesk Regular & Italic
Akzidenz Grotesk, originally released by H. Berthold AG in the 1890s. A popular German grotesque with a single-storey 'g'.

This group features most of the early (19th century to early 20th) sans-serif designs. Influenced by Didone serif fonts of the period and signpainting traditions, these were often quite solid, bold designs suitable for headlines and advertisements. The early sans-serif typefaces often did not feature a lower case or italics, since they were not needed for such uses. They were sometimes released by width, with a range of widths from extended to normal to condensed, with each style different, meaning to modern eyes they can look quite irregular and eccentric.[5][6] Grotesque fonts have limited variation of stroke width (often none perceptible in capitals). The terminals of curves are usually horizontal, and many have a spurred "G" and an "R" with a curled leg. Capitals tend to be of relatively uniform width. Cap height and ascender height are generally the same to create a more regular effect in texts such as titles with many capital letters, and descenders are often short for tighter linespacing.[7] Most avoid having a true italic in favour of a more restrained oblique or sloped design, although at least sans-serif true italics were offered.[8][9]

Examples of grotesque fonts include Akzidenz Grotesk, Venus, News Gothic, Franklin Gothic and Monotype Grotesque. Akzidenz Grotesk Old Face, Knockout, Grotesque No. 9 and Monotype Grotesque are examples of digital fonts that retain more of eccentricities of some of the early sans-serif types.[10][11][12][13] The term realist has also been applied to these designs due to their practicality and simplicity.


Helvetica, originally released by Haas Type Foundry (as Neue Haas Grotesk) in 1957. A typical neo-grotesque.

As the name implies, these modern designs consist of a direct evolution of grotesque types. They are relatively straightforward in appearance with limited width variation. Unlike earlier grotesque designs, many were issued in extremely large and versatile families from the time of release, making them easier to use for body text. Similar to grotesque typefaces, neogrotesques often feature capitals of uniform width and a quite 'folded-up' design, in which strokes (for example on the 'c') are curved all the way round to end on a perfect horizontal or vertical. Helvetica is an example of this. Others such as Univers are less regular.

Neo-grotesque type began in the 1950s with the emergence of the International Typographic Style, or Swiss style. Its members looked at the clear lines of Akzidenz Grotesk (1896) as an inspiration to create rational, almost neutral typefaces. In 1957 the release of Helvetica, Univers, and Folio, the first typefaces categorized as neo-grotesque, had a strong impact internationally: Helvetica came to be the most used typeface for the following decades.[14]

Other, later neo-grotesques include Unica, Imago and Rail Alphabet, and in the digital period Acumin, San Francisco and Roboto.[15][16][17][18][19][20]


Futura, originally released by Bauer Type Foundry in 1927. A typical geometric sans serif.

As their name suggests, Geometric sans-serif typefaces are based on geometric shapes, like near-perfect circles and squares.[21] Common features are a nearly-exactly circular capital "O" and a "single-story" lowercase letter "a". The 'M' is often splayed and the capitals of varying width, following the classical model. Of these four categories, geometric fonts tend to be the least useful for body text and often used for headings and small passages of text.

The geometric sans originated in Germany in the 1920s.[22] Two early efforts in designing geometric types were made by Herbert Bayer and Jakob Erbar, who worked respectively on Universal Typeface (unreleased at the time but revived digitally as Architype Bayer) and Erbar (circa 1925).[23] In 1927 Futura, by Paul Renner, was released to great acclaim and popularity.[24]

Geometric sans-serif fonts were popular from the 1920s and 1930s due to their clean, modern design, and many new geometric designs and revivals have been created since.[a] Notable geometric types of the period include Kabel, Semplicità, Nobel and Metro; more recent designs in the style include ITC Avant Garde, Brandon Grotesque, Gotham and Avenir. Many geometric sans-serif alphabets of the period, such as those created by the Bauhaus art school (1919-1933) and modernist poster artists, were hand-lettered and not cut into metal type at the time.[26]

A separate inspiration for many types considered "geometric" in design has been the simplified shapes of letters engraved or stenciled on metal and plastic in industrial use, which often follow a simplified structure and are sometimes known as "rectilinear" for their use of straight vertical and horizontal lines. Designs considered geometric in principles but which are less descended from the Futura/Erbar/Kabel tradition include Bank Gothic, DIN 1451, Eurostile and Handel Gothic, along with many of the fonts designed by Ray Larabie.[27][28]


Syntax example
Syntax, originally released by D. Stempel AG in 1969. A humanist sans serif.

Humanist sans-serifs take inspiration from traditional letterforms, such as Roman square capitals, traditional serif fonts and calligraphy. Many have true italics rather than an oblique, ligatures and even swashes in italic. One of the earliest humanist designs was Edward Johnston's Johnston typeface of c. 1916, and, a decade later, Gill Sans (Eric Gill, 1928).[29] Edward Johnston, a calligrapher by profession, was inspired by classic letter forms, especially the capital letters on the Column of Trajan.[30]

Humanist designs vary more than gothic or geometric designs.[31] Some humanist designs have stroke modulation (strokes that clearly vary in width along their line) or alternating thick and thin strokes. These include most popularly Hermann Zapf's Optima (1958), a typeface expressly designed to be suitable for both display and body text.[32] Some humanist designs may be more geometric, as in Gill Sans and Johnston (especially their capitals), which like Roman capitals are often based on perfect squares, half-squares and circles, with considerable variation in width. These somewhat architectural designs may feel too stiff for body text.[29] Others such as Syntax, Goudy Sans and Sassoon Sans more resemble handwriting, serif fonts or calligraphy.

Frutiger, from 1976, has been particularly influential in the development of the modern humanist sans genre, especially designs intended to be particularly legible above all other design considerations. The category expanded greatly during the 1980s and 1990s, partly as a reaction against the overwhelming popularity of Helvetica and Univers and also due to the need for legible fonts on low-resolution computer displays.[33][34][35][36] Designs from this period intended for print use include FF Meta, Myriad, Thesis, Charlotte Sans, Bliss and Scala Sans, while designs created for computer use include Microsoft's Tahoma, Trebuchet, Verdana, Calibri and Corbel, as well as Lucida Grande, Fira Sans and Droid Sans. Humanist sans-serif designs can (if appropriately proportioned and spaced) be particularly suitable for use on screen or at distance, since their designs can be given wide apertures or separation between strokes, which is not a conventional feature on grotesque and neo-grotesque designs.

Other or mixed

Stroke modulation sans-serif
Rothbury, an early modulated sans-serif font from 1915. The strokes vary in width considerably.

Due to the diversity of sans-serif typefaces, many do not fit neatly into the above categories. For example, Neuzeit S has both neo-grotesque and geometric influences, as does Herman Zapf's URW Grotesk. Other "trans-sans" designs include Whitney and Klavika. Sans-serif fonts intended for signage, such as Transport and Highway Gothic used on road signs, may have unusual features to enhance legibility and differentiate characters, such as a lower-case "L" with a curl or "i" with serif under the dot.[37]

Modulated sans-serifs

A particular subgenre of sans-serifs is those such as Rothbury, Britannic, Radiant and National Trust with obvious variation in stroke width. These have been called 'modulated' or 'stressed' sans-serifs. They are nowadays often placed within the humanist genre, although they predate Johnston which started the modern humanist genre. These may take inspiration from sources outside printing such as brush lettering or calligraphy.[38]


Forum inscription and lizard
Roman square capitals, the inspiration for serif letters
Cippo perugino, con iscrizione in lingua etrusca su un atto giuridico tra le famiglie dei velthina e degli afuna, 02
Sans-serif letterforms in ancient Etruscan on the Cippus Perusinus
Blackletter calligraphy in a fifteenth-century bible

Letters without serifs have been common in writing across history, for example in casual, non-monumental epigraphy of the classical period. However, Roman square capitals, the inspiration for much Latin-alphabet lettering throughout history, had prominent serifs. While simple sans-serif letters have always been common in "uncultured" writing, such as basic handwriting, most artistically created letters in the Latin alphabet, both sculpted and printed, since the Middle Ages have been inspired by fine calligraphy, blackletter writing and Roman square capitals. As a result, printing done in the Latin alphabet for the first three hundred and fifty years of printing was "serif" in style, whether in blackletter, roman type, italic or occasionally script.

The earliest printing typefaces which omitted serifs were not intended to render contemporary texts, but to represent inscriptions in Ancient Greek and Etruscan. Thus, Thomas Dempster's De Etruria regali libri VII (1723), used special types intended for the representation of Etruscan epigraphy, and in c. 1745, the Caslon foundry made Etruscan types for pamphlets written by Etruscan scholar John Swinton.[39] Another niche used of a printed sans-serif letterform from in 1786 onwards was a rounded sans-serif script font developed by Valentin Haüy for the use of the blind to read with their fingers.[40][41][42]

Grotto motto, Stourhead park (9313913818)
An inscription at the neoclassical grotto at Stourhead in the west of England dated to around 1748, one of the first to use sans-serif letterforms since the classical period.[43][44][b]
Itinerary of Greece title page
An early "neoclassical" use of sans-serif capitals to represent antiquity, drawn by William Gell for his book on Ancient Greek antiquities.[42]

Towards the end of the eighteenth century Neoclassicism led to architects increasingly incorporating ancient Greek and Roman designs in contemporary structures. The architect John Soane commonly used sans-serif letters on his drawings and architectural designs.[43] Soane's inspiration was apparently the inscriptions dedicating the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, Italy, with minimal serifs.[43] These were then copied by other artists. The lettering style apparently became referred to as "old Roman" or "Egyptian" characters, referencing the classical past and a contemporary interest in Ancient Egypt and its blocky, geometric architecture.[43][46] The inappropriateness of the name was not lost on the poet Robert Southey, in his satirical Letters from England written in the character of a Spanish aristocrat.[47][48] It commented: "The very shopboards must be... painted in Egyptian letters, which, as the Egyptians had no letters, you will doubtless conceive must be curious. They are simply the common characters, deprived of all beauty and all proportion by having all the strokes of equal thickness, so that those which should be thin look as if they had the elephantiasis."[49][43][c]

In London, 'Egyptian' lettering became popular for advertising, apparently because of the "astonishing" effect the unusual style had on the public. Historian James Mosley, the leading expert on early revival of sans-serif letters, has written that "in 1805 Egyptian letters were happening in the streets of London, being plastered over shops and on walls by signwriters, and they were astonishing the public, who had never seen letters like them and were not sure they wanted to."[51] A depiction of the style was shown in the European Magazine of 1805.[52][53] However, the style did not become used in printing for some more years.[d] (Early sans-serif signage was not printed from type but hand-painted or carved, since at the time it was not possible to print in large sizes. This makes tracing the descent of sans-serif styles hard, since a trend can arrive in the dated, printed record from a signpainting tradition which has left less of a record or at least no dates.) Around 1816, the Ordnance Survey began to use 'Egyptian' lettering, monoline sans-serif capitals, to mark ancient Roman sites. This lettering was printed from copper plate engraving.[52][42]

Base of the Reformers Memorial, Kensal Green Cemetery, showing Lloyd Jones
Simple sans-serif capitals on a late nineteenth-century memorial, London
Figgins sans-serif specimen
Sample image of condensed sans-serifs from the Figgins foundry of London in an 1845 specimen-book. Much less influenced by classical models than the earliest sans-serif lettering, these faces became extremely popular for commercial use.[55]

Around 1816, William Caslon IV produced the first sans-serif printing type in England for the Latin alphabet, a capitals-only face under the title 'Two Lines English Egyptian', where 'Two Lines English' referred to the font's body size, which equals to about 28- points.[56][57] No uses of it from the period have been found; Mosley speculates that it may have been commissioned by a specific client.[58]

A second hiatus in interest in sans-serif appears to have lasted for about twelve years, when the Vincent Figgins foundry of London issued a new sans-serif in 1828.[59] Thereafter sans-serifs rapidly began to be issued from London typefounders. Much imitated was the 1830 Thorowgood "grotesque" face, arrestingly bold and highly condensed, similar in aesthetic effect to the slab serif and "fat faces" of the period. Intended for advertising, these typefaces, often display capitals, became very successful.[52] Sans-serif printing types began to appear thereafter in France and Germany.[60][e]

The January 13, 1898 edition of L'Aurore (the J'Accuse…! issue): An early example of sans-serif in the media. Select headlines as well as the journal's title are in a sans-serif typeface.

Sans-serif lettering and fonts were popular due to their clarity and legibility at distance in advertising and display use, when printed very large or small. Because sans-serif type was often used for headings and commercial printing, many early sans-serif designs did not feature lower-case letters. Simple sans-serif capitals, without use of lower-case, became very common in uses such as tombstones of the Victorian period in Britain. The term "grotesque" became commonly used to describe sans-serifs. The term "grotesque" comes from the Italian word for cave, and was often used to describe Roman decorative styles found by excavation, but had long become applied in the modern sense for objects that appeared "malformed or monstrous."[7]

The first section of the avant-garde magazine Blast, published by Wyndham Lewis in 1914, used a condensed grotesque in order to give an impression of modernity and novelty.
Überwachung der Eisenbahnlinien - Warnung - Laibach - Mehrsprachiges Plakat 1914
Sans-serif type in both upper- and lower-case on a 1914 poster.

The first use of sans serif as a running text has been proposed to be the short booklet Feste des Lebens und der Kunst: eine Betrachtung des Theaters als höchsten Kultursymbols (Celebration of Life and Art: A Consideration of the Theater as the Highest Symbol of a Culture),[66] by Peter Behrens, in 1900.[67]

Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries sans-serif types were viewed with suspicion by many printers, especially those of fine book printing, as being fit only for advertisements (if that), and to this day most books remain printed in serif fonts as body text.[68] This impression would not have been helped by the standard of common sans-serif types of the period, many of which now seem somewhat lumpy and eccentrically-shaped. In 1922, master printer Daniel Berkeley Updike described sans-serif fonts as having "no place in any artistically respectable composing-room."[69] By 1937 he stated that he saw no need to change this opinion in general, though he felt that Gill Sans and Futura were the best choices if sans-serifs had to be used.[70]

LNER Class A4 4468 Mallard Nameplate
Gill Sans on the nameplate of a 4468 Mallard locomotive (built in 1938). It was marketed as a sophisticated refinement of earlier sans-serifs, taking inspiration from Roman capitals and designer Eric Gill's experience carving monuments and memorials.[71][72]

Through the early twentieth century, an increase in popularity of sans-serif fonts took place as more artistic and complex designs were created. As Updike's comments suggest, the more constructed humanist and geometric sans-serif designs were viewed as increasingly respectable, and were shrewdly marketed in Europe and America as embodying classic proportions (with influences of Roman capitals) while presenting a spare, modern image.[73][74][75][76][77] While he disliked sans-serif fonts in general, the American printer J.L Frazier wrote of Copperplate Gothic in 1925 that "a certain dignity of effect accompanies...due to the absence of anything in the way of frills," making it a popular choice for the stationery of professionals such as lawyers and doctors.[78]

Futura Helvetica capitals comparison
Different sans-serif designs take different decisions on the proportions of the capitals. Futura’s capitals are inspired by Roman square capitals, with considerable variation in width. Helvetica’s are more uniform in width, following the grotesque model. Different designers have expressed different opinions on which style is preferable.

In the post-war period, an increase of interest took place in "grotesque" sans-serifs.[79] Writing in The Typography of Press Advertisement (1956), printer Kenneth Day commented that Stephenson Blake's eccentric Grotesque series had returned to popularity for having "a personality sometimes lacking in the condensed forms of the contemporary sans cuttings of the last thirty years."[25] Leading type designer Adrian Frutiger wrote in 1961 on designing a new face, Univers, on the nineteenth-century model: "Some of these old sans serifs have had a real renaissance within the last twenty years, once the reaction of the 'New Objectivity' had been overcome. A purely geometrical form of type is unsustainable.[80]" Of this period in Britain, Mosley has commented that in 1960 "orders unexpectedly revived" for Monotype's eccentric Monotype Grotesque design: "[it] represents, even more evocatively than Univers, the fresh revolutionary breeze that began to blow through typography in the early sixties" and "its rather clumsy design seems to have been one of the chief attractions to iconoclastic designers tired of the...prettiness of Gill Sans".[81][82]

By the 1960s, neo-grotesque fonts such as Univers and Helvetica had become popular through reviving the nineteenth-century grotesques while offering a more unified range of styles than on previous designs, allowing a wider range of text to be set artistically through setting headings and body text in a single font.[5][83][84][85][86]

Other names

Sans-serif italics
Three sans-serif "italics". News Gothic, a 1908 grotesque design, has an oblique. Gothic Italic no. 124, an 1890s grotesque, has a true italic resembling Didone serifs of the period.[8] Seravek, a modern humanist font, has a more calligraphic italic.

Early appellatives

  • Egyptian: The term was first used by Joseph Farington after seeing the sans serif inscription on John Flaxman's memorial to Isaac Hawkins Brown in 1805,[52] though today the term is commonly used to refer to slab serif, not sans serif.
  • Antique: In about 1817, the Figgins foundry in London made a type with square or slab-serifs which it called 'Antique', and that name was adopted by most of the British and US typefounders. An exception was the typefounder Thorne, who confused things by marketing his Antique under the name 'Egyptian'. In France it became Egyptienne, and to worsen the confusion, the French called sans-serif type 'Antique'.[39] Some fonts, such as Antique Olive, still carry the name.
  • Grotesque: It was originally coined by William Thorowgood of Fann Street Foundry in 1832.[87] The name came from the Italian word 'grottesco', meaning 'belonging to the cave'. In Germany, the name became Grotesk. German typefounders adopted the term from the nomenclature of Fann Street Foundry, which took on the meaning of cave (or grotto) art.[88] Nevertheless, some explained the term was derived from the surprised response from the typographers.
  • Doric: It was the term first used by H. W. Caslon Foundry in Chiswell Street in 1870 to describe various sans-serif fonts at a time the generic name 'sans-serif' was commonly accepted. Eventually the foundry used Sans-serif in 1906. At that time, Doric referred to a certain kind of stressed sans-serif types.
  • Gothic: Not to be confused with blackletter typeface, the term was used mainly by American type founders. Perhaps the first use of the term was due to the Boston Type and Stereotype Foundry, which in 1837 published a set of non-serifed typefaces under that name. It is believed that those were the first sans serif designs to be introduced in America.[89] The term probably derived from the architectural definition, which is neither Greek nor Roman,[90] and from the extended adjective term of "Germany", which was the place where sans-serif typefaces became popular in the 19th to 20th centuries.[91] Early adopters for the term includes Miller & Richard (1863), J. & R. M. Wood (1865), Lothian, Conner, Bruce McKellar. Although the usage is now rare in the English-speaking world, the term is commonly used in Japan and South Korea; in China they are known by the term heiti (Chinese: 黑體), literally meaning "black type", which is probably derived from the mistranslation of Gothic as blackletter typeface, even though actual blackletter fonts have serifs.

Recent appellatives

  • Lineale, or linear: The term was defined by Maximilien Vox in the VOX-ATypI classification to describe sans-serif types. Later, in British Standards Classification of Typefaces (BS 2961:1967), lineale replaced sans-serif as classification name.
  • Simplices: In Jean Alessandrini's désignations préliminaries (preliminary designations), simplices (plain typefaces) is used to describe sans-serif on the basis that the name 'lineal' refers to lines, whereas, in reality, all typefaces are made of lines, including those that are not lineals.[92]
  • Swiss: It is used as a synonym to sans-serif, as opposed to roman (serif). The OpenDocument format (ISO/IEC 26300:2006) and Rich Text Format can use it to specify the sans-serif generic font family name for a font used in a document.[93][94][95] Presumably refers to the popularity of sans-serif grotesque and neo-grotesque types in Switzerland.
  • Industrial: used to refer to grotesque and neo-grotesque sans-serifs, that unlike humanist, geometric and decorative designs are not based on "artistic" principles.[96][97]


This gallery presents images of sans-serif lettering and type across different times and places from early to recent. Particular attention is given to unusual uses and more obscure fonts, meaning this gallery should not be considered a representative sampling.

Sample use of early sans-serifs, Dublin 1848. Setting is caps only for titling, with the letters very bold and condensed. Reasonably conventional except for the crossed V-form 'W'.

Nationaler Frauendienst

Light sans-serif being used for body text. Germany, 1914

Weihnachten im Feld 1914 Liebesgaben für Krieger cropped

Capitals on a German propaganda poster, 1914.

Patriotischer Landes-Hilfsverein vom Roten Kreuze - Laibach 1916

Condensed but somewhat decorative sans-serif with small flourishes on the 'v' and 'e'. Ljubljana, 1916.

3-2 Sammlung Eybl (Slg.Nr. 2268) Plakat 4. Kriegsanleihe 1916

A conventional, nearly monoline sans combined with a stroke-modulated sans used for the title. Austrian war bond poster, 1916.

Sátori Lipót Odette 1918

Broad block capitals. Hungarian film poster, 1918.

1920 poster 12000 Jewish soldiers KIA for the fatherland

A monoline sans-serif with art-nouveau influences visible in the tilted 'e' and 'a'. Note embedded umlaut at top left: accents are often compressed in sans-serif capitals as here to allow tight linespacing. Commemoration of Jewish soldiers killed fighting for Germany, 1920.

Affiche CM Font-Romeu Roux

Thick block sans-serif capitals, with inner details kept very thin and narrow lines down the centres of letters, characteristic of Art Deco lettering. France, 1920s.

Votation Kursaals 1928

Berthold Block, a thick German sans-serif with shortened descenders, allowing tight linespacing. Switzerland, 1928.


Simple Geometric-style sans (the line 'O Governo do Estado', Brazil, 1930. Curves are kept to a minimum.

Imperial Airway Switzerland Poster (19471597542)

Lightly modulated sans serif lettering on a 1930s poster, with pointed stroke endings suggesting a brush.


Classic geometric sans-serif capitals, 1934, Australia. Note the sharp points on the capital 'A' and 'N'.

Metrolite and Metroblack

Dwiggins' Metrolite and Metroblack fonts, geometric types of the style popular in the 1930s.

"Cancer Danger Signals" - NARA - 514028

Modernist setting on a 1940s American poster. The curve of the 'r' is a common feature in grotesque fonts, but the 'single-story' 'a' is a classic feature of geometric fonts from the 1920s onwards.

1952 Jersey holiday events brochure

1952 Jersey holiday events brochure, using the popular Gill Sans-led British style of the period

Initiative armement 1972

Neo-grotesque type, 1972, Switzerland: Helvetica or a close copy. The tight setting is characteristic of the International style of graphic design. The irregular setting may have been the result of using transfers.


Swiss TV logo: tightly-spaced neo-grotesque capitals with a more rounded sans-serif on the left.

See also


  1. ^ In this period and since, some sources have distinguished the nineteenth-century "grotesque/gothic" designs from the "sans-serifs" (those now categorised as humanist and geometric both) of the twentieth, or used some form of classification that emphasises a different between the groups.[25]
  2. ^ Mosley's book on early sans-serifs The Nymph and the Grot is named for the sculpture. The name is a dual reference, also to "grotesque" being coincidentally a term also applied to early sans-serif fonts, although Mosley suggests that the design does not seem to be a direct source of modern sans-serifs. Unfortunately, the inscription was destroyed by mistake in 1967, and had to be replicated from Mosley's photographs.[45][43] The corporate font of the National Trust of the United Kingdom, which manages Stourhead, was loosely designed by Paul Barnes based on the inscription.
  3. ^ Similarly, the painter Joseph Farington wrote in his diary in 1805 of a memorial in to Isaac Hawkins Browne in Trinity College, Cambridge engraved "in what is called Egyptian Characters which to my eye had a disagreeable effect."[50][43]
  4. ^ Apparently based on traditions in his industry, master sign-painter James Callingham writes in his textbook "Sign Writing and Glass Embossing" (1871) that "What one calls San-serif, another describes as grotesque; what is generally known as Egyptian, is some times called Antique, though it is difficult to say why, seeing that the letters so designated do not date farther back than the close of the last century. Egyptian is perhaps as good a term as could be given to the letters bearing that name, the blocks being characteristic of the Egyptian style of architecture. These letters were first used by sign-writers at the close of the last century, and were not introduced in printing till about twenty years later. Sign-writers were content to call them “block letters,” and they are sometimes so-called at the present day; but on their being taken in hand by the type founders, they were appropriately named Egyptian. The credit of having introduced the ordinary square or san-serif letters also belongs to the sign-writer, by whom they were employed half a century before the type founder gave them his attention, which was about the year 1810."[54][43]
  5. ^ A few theories about early sans-serifs now known to be incorrect may be mentioned here. One is that sans-serifs are based on either "fat face typefaces" or slab-serifs with the serifs removed.[61][62] It is now known that the inspiration was more classical antiquity, and sans-serifs appeared before the first dated appearance of slab-serif letterforms in 1810. A hint of the "classical" inspiration of sans-serifs is the fact that they for a long time only appeared as capitals without a lower-case.[42] The Schelter & Giesecke foundry also claimed during the 1920s to have been offering a sans-serif with lower-case by 1825.[63][64] Mosley describes this as "thoroughly discredited" and Walter Tracy describes the claimed date as "forty years too early";[42] Wolfgang Homola dates it to 1882 based on a study of Schelter & Giesecke specimens.[65]


  1. ^ "sans serif" in The New Encyclopædia Britannica. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 15th edn., 1992, Vol. 10, p. 421.
  2. ^ Serifs more used for headlines Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Childers; Griscti; Leben (January 2013). "25 Systems for Classifying Typography: A Study in Naming Frequency" (PDF). The Parsons Journal for Information Mapping. The Parsons Institute for Information Mapping. V (1). Retrieved 23 May 2014.
  4. ^ Baines, Phil; Haslam, Andrew (2005), Type and Typography, Laurence King Publishing, p. 51, ISBN 9781856694377, retrieved May 23, 2014
    In British Standards Classification of Typefaces (BS 2961:1967), the following are defined:
    Grotesque: Lineale typefaces with 19th-century origins. There is some contrast in thickness of strokes. They have squareness of curve, and curling close-set jaws. The R usually has a curled leg and the G is spurred. The ends of the curved strokes are usually oblique. Examples include the Stephenson Blake Grotesques, Condensed Sans No. 7, Monotype Headline Bold.
    Neo-grotesque: Lineale typefaces derived from the grotesque. They have less stroke contrast and are more regular in design. The jaws are more open than in the true grotesque and the g is often open-tailed. The ends of the curved strokes are usually horizontal. Examples include Edel/Wotan, Univers, Helvetica.
    Humanist: Lineale typefaces based on the proportions of inscriptional Roman capitals and Humanist or Garalde lower-case, rather than on early grotesques. They have some stroke contrast, with two-storey a and g. Examples include Optima, Gill Sans, Pascal.
    Geometric: Lineale typefaces constructed on simple geometric shapes, circle or rectangle. Usually monoline, and often with single-storey a. Examples include Futura, Erbar, Eurostile.
  5. ^ a b Shinn, Nick. "Uniformity" (PDF). Nick Shinn. Graphic Exchange. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
  6. ^ Coles, Stephen. "Helvetica alternatives". FontFeed (archived). Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2015.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  7. ^ a b Berry, John. "A Neo-Grotesque Heritage". Adobe Systems. Retrieved 15 October 2015.
  8. ^ a b Specimens of type, borders, ornaments, brass rules and cuts, etc. : catalogue of printing machinery and materials, wood goods, etc. American Type Founders Company. 1897. p. 340. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  9. ^ "Italic Gothic". Fonts in Use. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
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Arial, sometimes marketed or displayed in software as Arial MT, is a sans-serif typeface and set of computer fonts. Fonts from the Arial family are packaged with all versions of Microsoft Windows from Windows 3.1 onwards, some other Microsoft software applications, Apple Mac OS X and many PostScript 3 computer printers. The typeface was designed in 1982 by Robin Nicholas and Patricia Saunders, for Monotype Typography. It was created to be metrically identical to the popular typeface Helvetica, with all character widths identical, so that a document designed in Helvetica could be displayed and printed correctly without having to pay for a Helvetica license.

The Arial typeface comprises many styles: Regular, Italic, Medium, Medium Italic, Bold, Bold Italic, Black, Black Italic, Extra Bold, Extra Bold Italic, Light, Light Italic, Narrow, Narrow Italic, Narrow Bold, Narrow Bold Italic, Condensed, Light Condensed, Bold Condensed, and Extra Bold Condensed. The extended Arial type family includes more styles: Rounded (Light, Regular, Bold, Extra Bold); Monospaced (Regular, Oblique, Bold, Bold Oblique). Many of these have been issued in multiple font configurations with different degrees of language support. The most widely used and bundled Arial fonts are Arial Regular, Italic, Bold, and Bold Italic; the same styles of Arial Narrow; and Arial Black. More recently, Arial Rounded has also been widely bundled.

Bitstream Vera

Vera is a group typeface (font) with a liberal license.

It was designed by Jim Lyles from Bitstream, and it is closely based on Bitstream Prima, for which Lyles was also responsible. It is a TrueType font with full hinting instructions, which improve its rendering quality on low-resolution devices such as computer monitors. The font has also been repackaged as a Type 1 PostScript font, called Bera, for LaTeX users.Vera consists of serif, sans-serif, and monospace fonts. The Bitstream Vera Sans Mono typeface in particular is suitable for technical work, as it clearly distinguishes 'l' (lowercase L) from '1' (one) and 'I' (uppercase i), and '0' (zero) from 'O' (uppercase o). Bitstream Vera Sans is also the default font used by the Python library Matplotlib to produce plots.


Drogowskaz (Polish: Roadsign) is a geometric sans-serif typeface used in public signage in Poland. Originally developed in 1975 by Marek Sigmund for the Ministry of Transportation (to comply with its ordinance from 1960) and put into effect on April 1 of that year, it is currently used in accordance with the Ministry of Infrastructure regulation of July 3, 2003 on all types of road signs in Poland.

A free version of the font was developed in 2006 by Emil Wojtacki. Its capital letters show strong influence from Johnston, while its lowercase letters draw heavily from Spartan; its use of single-story lowercase a distinguishes the typeface from most other signage typefaces. Leading to type size ratio for this font equals 4:3, thus correct line spacing is, for instance, 12 pt for 9 pt text.

Droid fonts

Droid is a font family first released in 2007 and created by Ascender Corporation for use by the Open Handset Alliance platform Android and licensed under the Apache License. The fonts are intended for use on the small screens of mobile handsets and were designed by Steve Matteson of Ascender Corporation. The name was derived from the Open Handset Alliance platform named Android.

East Asian Gothic typeface

Gothic typefaces (simplified Chinese: 黑体; traditional Chinese: 黑體; pinyin: hēitǐ; Japanese: ゴシック体 goshikku-tai; Korean: 돋움 dotum, 고딕체 godik-che) are a type style characterized by strokes of even thickness and lack of decorations akin to sans serif styles in Western typography. It is the second most commonly used style in East Asian typography, after Ming.

IBM Plex

IBM Plex is an open source typeface superfamily conceptually designed and developed by Mike Abbink at IBM in collaboration with Bold Monday to reflect the brand spirit, beliefs and design principles of IBM and to be used for all brand experiences across the company internationally. Plex will replace Helvetica as the corporate typeface after more than fifty years, freeing IBM from the extensive license payments that face required.As of version 1.0 the family has four typefaces, each typeface has 8 weights (Thin, Extra Light, Light, Regular, Text, Medium, Semi-bold, Bold) and true italics to complement them.

IBM Plex Sans – A grotesque sans-serif typeface with a design that was inspired by Franklin Gothic. Other sans-serif classifications were rejected on the basis of being too soft (humanist), inefficient (geometric) and overly perfected (neo-grotesque). Some of Franklin Gothic's features such as the angled terminals, a double-storey g and a horizontal line at the baseline of the 1 are used in IBM Plex Sans.

IBM Plex Sans Condensed – A condensed variant of IBM Plex Sans.

IBM Plex Mono – A monospaced typeface based on IBM Plex Sans. The italic design was inspired by the Italic 12 typeface used by the IBM Selectric typewriter, which is particularly evident with the italicised i, j, t and x letters.

IBM Plex Serif – A serif typeface with a design that was inspired by Bodoni and Janson. Other serif classifications were rejected for being too humanist and outdated (old-style) and too clunky and unrefined for long text (slab-serif). Some of Bodoni's features such as ball terminals and rectangular serifs are used in IBM Plex Serif.

LLM Lettering

LLM Lettering is a set of sans-serif typefaces developed by the Malaysian Highway Authority (Lembaga Lebuhraya Malaysia, LLM) and used for road signage on expressways in Malaysia. The font was divided into two types: LLM Normal (Standard/Regular) and LLM Narrow (Condensed). The LLM Normal typeface is a modified form of the Transport Heavy and Highway Gothic Series D/E font. The lettering is special use for the Malaysian Expressway System.

Microsoft Sans Serif

Microsoft Sans Serif is a TrueType font introduced with Windows 2000. It is a successor of MS Sans Serif (formerly Helv), a proportional raster font introduced in Windows 1.0. Both fonts are very similar in design to Arial and Helvetica.

PT Fonts

The Public Type or PT Fonts are a family of free/libre fonts released from 2009 onwards, comprising PT Sans, PT Serif and PT Mono. They were commissioned from the design agency ParaType by Rospechat, a department of the Russian Ministry of Communications, to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Peter the Great's orthography reform and to create a font family that supported all the different variations of Cyrillic script used by the minority languages of Russia, as well as the Latin alphabet.Primarily designed by Alexandra Korolkova, the family includes sans-serif and serif designs, both with caption styles for small-print text, and a monospaced font for use in programming. They are available under the English-language SIL Open Font License; the original font, PT Sans, was also released under ParaType's own Free Font License. Additional styles, such as extended, condensed and extra-bold, are sold from ParaType as PT Sans Pro and PT Serif Pro.

Panno (typeface)

Panno is a Latin sans-serif typeface designed by Dutch typeface designer, Pieter van Rosmalen. It is one of two typefaces specially designed for South Korean traffic signs. (The other being Hangil, the Hangul counterpart.)

Product Sans

Product Sans is a geometric sans-serif typeface created by Google for branding purposes. It replaced the old Google logo on September 1, 2015. As Google's branding was becoming more apparent on a multitude of devices, Google sought to adapt its design so that its logo could be portrayed in constrained spaces and remain consistent for its users across platforms. A size-optimized version of Product Sans, called Google Sans, is also used as the display font of Google's customized and adapted version of Material Design, Google Material Theme.


Roboto is a neo-grotesque sans-serif typeface family developed by Google as the system font for its mobile operating system Android, and released in 2011 for Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich".Google developed the font to be "modern, yet approachable" and "emotional". The entire font family has been licensed under the Apache license In, 2014, Roboto was redesigned for Android 5.0 "Lollipop".


Rotis is a typeface developed in 1988 by Otl Aicher, a German graphic designer and typographer. In Rotis, Aicher explores an attempt at maximum legibility through a highly unified yet varied typeface family that ranges from full serif, glyphic, and sans-serif. The four basic Rotis variants are:

Rotis serif (antiqua) — with full serifs

Rotis semi-serif (semi-antiqua) — with hinted serifs

Rotis semi-sans (semi-grotesque) — with zero serifs but with stroke width variation

Rotis sans (lineale humanist sans-serif) — with zero serifs and with minimal variation on stroke width

San Francisco (sans-serif typeface)

San Francisco is a neo-grotesque sans-serif typeface made by Apple Inc. It was first released to developers on November 18, 2014. It is the first new typeface designed at Apple in nearly 20 years and has been inspired by Helvetica and DIN.


In typography, a serif () is a small line or stroke regularly attached to the end of a larger stroke in a letter or symbol within a particular font or family of fonts. A typeface or "font family" making use of serifs is called a serif typeface (or serifed typeface), and a typeface that does not include them is a sans-serif one. Some typography sources refer to sans-serif typefaces as "grotesque" (in German, "grotesk") or "Gothic", and serif typefaces as "roman".

Tahoma (typeface)

Tahoma is a humanist sans-serif typeface that Matthew Carter designed for Microsoft Corporation. Microsoft first distributed it, along with Carter's Verdana, as a standard font in the initial release of Windows 95.

While similar to Verdana, Tahoma has a narrower body, smaller counters, much tighter letter spacing, and a more complete Unicode character set. Carter first designed Tahoma as a bitmap font, then "carefully wrapped" TrueType outlines around those bitmaps. Carter based the bold weight on a double pixel width, rendering it closer to a heavy or black weight. In contrast with some other sans-serif typefaces, including Arial, the uppercase "I" (eye) is distinguishable from lowercase "l" (ell), which is especially important in technical publications. Since 2010, Ascender Corporation has offered italic and small caps versions of Tahoma.

Tahoma is often compared with Frutiger, another humanist sans-serif typeface. In an interview by Daniel Will-Harris, Carter acknowledged that Tahoma has some similarities with his earlier Bell Centennial typeface.The Tahoma typeface family was named after the Native American name for the stratovolcano Mount Rainier (Mount Tahoma), which is a prominent feature of the southern landscape around the Seattle metropolitan area.


Trafikkalfabetet (English: the traffic alphabet) is a sans-serif typeface family for road signs and license plates for cars (until 2002) in Norway. Developed in 1965 by Karl Petter Sandbæk, it was digitised in 2006 by Jacob Øvergaard.


Tratex (earlier called GePos) is a geometric sans-serif typeface family for road signs in Sweden. It was developed for maximal readability in traffic, and designed by Karl-Gustaf Gustafsson (known as Kåge Gustafsson).Tratex also contains Sami characters. It is free to download and use for illustrations and prints.

Ubuntu Titling

Ubuntu Titling or Ubuntu-Title is a rounded geometric sans-serif font. It was created by Andy Fitzsimon for use with the Ubuntu operating system and its derivatives. It is distributed under the GNU Lesser General Public License. Prior to the 10.04 release, the typeface was notably used in branding for the Ubuntu operating system and its related projects. Fitzsimon's design was created without any upper-case letters. A later release by Christian Robertson (who later created Roboto) added capitals and was released by Robertson at the 'release candidate' stage. This was called Ubuntu Titling.

Ubuntu Titling was ultimately replaced for branding use with a variant from the Ubuntu Font Family.

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