What is a serif font? Serif fonts have flourishes – often called tails – that protrude from its edges. Times Roman, Century, Bookman, Goudy, and Garamond are a few common examples of serif fonts. San-serif fonts lack these flourishes, and have smooth, plain, and often squared or rounded edges. Examples of common san-serif fonts include Arial, Geneva, Helvetica, Futura, and Impact.
It is thought that serif fonts date back to the Roman alphabet, where stone carvers followed the brush strokes of painters, whose brush marks had flares at the corners, thus creating serifs.
Traditionally, serif fonts are used for large bodies of text, as they are considered easier on the eyes over long periods of time – such as in printed books, magazine and materials. San-serif fonts are often used in headlines, headings, and shorter blocks of text.
With the computer screen being a different source than the printed piece, and it having a varying degree of resolutions, numerous surveys have found that san-serif fonts are just as easily readable as their serifed cousins.
In the digital age it all comes down to pixels. In lower resolutions, and smaller font sizing, serif fonts can often look blurry or pixelated, making them hard to read. This more modern viewpoint tends to predominate – just select 10 random websites and compare. But is this trend more about looking cool than readability?
Personally, I feel that serif fonts look dated and even “classic” where san-serif fonts have a more edgy and modern connotation. But, that being said, I feel it all depends on the subject matter, target audience, and overall feel of the design.
The answer is – there is no correct answer – it really all just comes down to personal preference.