Being adopted in 1962 the Vox-AtypI classification defines archetypes of typefaces, but a typeface can easily show the characteristics of more than one class. Vox’s system was expanded to eleven classes these being:
Hand Drawn Display Type
Fraktura / Blackletter
Since these classifications they have been apadted into to the following classifications:
Blackletter, the gothic script, is a classification used in 1150 right up to the 17th century in European countries and up to the 20th century in German language when it became used in the second world war propaganda. Blackletter is also referred to as “Old English” this is because it was a very old typeface and can resemble older signage. Blackletter is a form of heavily calligraphic script employing broad nibbed stroked.
Humanist, a classification of typefaces based on calligraphic letterforms with moderate stroke contrast; can be applied to both Serif and Sans Serif. Humanist designs have more of a variation than gothic or geometric designs. The axis of the curves is inclined to the left and there is no major contrast between thin and thick strokes. Within the Humanist classification the serifs of the ascenders in the lower case are also oblique.
Garalde, also known as Old Style, is a classification in which the axis of the curves is inclined to the left. There is a high contrast in the thickness of the strokes than in Humanist designs. In Garalde the serifs are bracketed, the bar of the lower case ‘e’ is horizontal and the serifs of the ascenders in the lower case are oblique. All these features gave the Garalde typeface a more precise and proportionate look.
Transitional classifications is a group of typefaces that bridge the distance between Old Style and Modern Serifs. In Transitional the axis of the curves is vertical or inclined slightly to the left. The serifs are bracketed, and those of the ascenders in the lower case are oblique. Transitional is influenced by the letterforms of the copperplate engraver. It was a transition from Garalde to Didone, and incorporates some characteristics of each.
Didone was used in the late 18th century to the early 19th century, Didone is a serif family that possesses very hight stroke contrast with unbracketed serifs. The axis of the curves are vertical and the serif ascenders of the lower cases are horizontal.
- Slab Serif
Slab Serif, typefaces where very heavy serifs are squared and equal to the stroke height and either have or do not have brackets. Slab serif became popular in the 19th century and were mainly used for advertising displays.
- Lineale Grotesque
Lineale Grotesque was the first commercially popular san serif typeface. There is a slight squared quality to many of the curves. There is also similar characteristics shared with the Roman types. The stroke is also less pronounced than earlier designs. The most recognisable difference is in the bowl of the ‘g’ and more monotone weight stress.
- Lineale Neo-Grotesque
Lineale Neo-Grotesque typefaces came from the grotesque. The typeface has less stroke contrast and is more regular in design. The jaws are wider than in the true grotesque. The ends of the curved strokes are usually oblique.
- Lineale Geometric
Lineale Geometric this classification refers to the use of geometric shapes such as circles, circles and rectangles. Usually monoline and often with a short lower case ‘a’. The most famous example of this font would be Futura.
- Lineale Humanist
Lineale Humanist is a typeface that is based on the proportions of inscriptional Roman capitals and Humanist or Garalde lower case. There is stroke contrast, with two storey ‘a’ and ‘g’.
Glyph is a single character, mark or icon. Within a typeface classification Glyphic emulates inscriptions rather than calligraphic typography. The distinguishing features of this typeface would be the triangular serif design.
Script is a typeface that aims to imitate and replicate cursive handwriting. It is based on letter forms from the 17th and 18th century. Script is a very personal typeface as opposed to Blackletter. The elegance, personal and detailed effect that script portrays makes it a good for large scale print but virtually useless for small print.
Contemporary typefaces are very similar to decorative types, draw inspiration from the current time and trends. They are often used within pop culture. Contemporary also mixes historical, formalist and even internationalist readings of type.
- Beyond Contemporary
Beyond Classification is a classification where the typefaces have taken heavy influence from technology. OCR-A, for example, is a font that was made to be viewed and resemble a typeface that you would get on computers screens.
Decorative is the largest category and one of the most diverse. These typefaces take decoration as inspiration and there are no said or set characteristics as they all follow different and unique styles. They popularly used for titles, signs and headlines and they add a creative and personal flair. Some decorative typefaces use unorthodox letter shapes and proportions to achieve dramatic and distinctive outcomes.
The field guide to typography. Typefaces in the urban landscape. Peter Dawson.