Is there a standard for categorizing typefaces?

So I was reading two documents on typography and each classifies font types in completely different categories.

  • One document says we have : serif, sans serif, text, script, display and dingbats.
  • The other document says we have : roman, egyptian, sans serif, script and miscellaneous (to attract attention).

I went over different websites and each seems to “make up” their own categories (like slab serif).

So is there a standard way of categorizing fonts or is every one free to invent his/her own categories?


Typefaces are a fairly rich area of creative evolution so there are a lot of different facets to them that can be described in a lot of ways.

The categories you give overlap each other, even within the same document. For example, a display typeface can also be serif or sans-serif. So they aren’t all divided up into mutually exclusive categories; a typeface can belong to multiple categories based on its features.

Roughly put

  • Serif/sans-serif refer to the presence or absense of serifs.
  • Script typefaces are based on calligraphy (but usually not including blackletter, which is in a specific category of its own).
  • Display/book refers to whether the typeface is intended for large short words like posters and logos, or lengthy body text such as in a book. Not every typeface is one or the other, though.
  • Roman is often used to describe traditional/transitional serif typefaces that aren’t italics.
  • Egyptian has been used in a couple of different ways; sometimes to describe a “slab serif” and at other times it’s even been used to describe sans-serif.

There are also lots of other terms such as

  • Grotesque, grotesk and gothic have been used as alternative terms for sans-serif.
  • Blackletter is a specific type of hand-lettering very popular before the printing press. Sometimes also called gothic script (not to be confused with either gothic or script).
  • Italics are slanted forms of typefaces with some changes made to look more like hand-lettered text (that is a pretty basic, and inelegant, description).

and many more.

I’d probably generally group fonts into serif, sans-serif, script, and other (and possibly blackletter). Other may include stuff like this.

Source : Link , Question Author : nt.bas , Answer Author : thomasrutter

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