Before we move on to the series of articles about the different type classifications (starting with 'Venetian/Humanist') I think it's important to establish a proper classification system.
Why do we need to establish a new classification system?
To be honest, a system is limiting, and with the modern typefaces taking elements from various type classifications it's hard and at times seems pointless to try to categorize these typefaces. Regardless, it's important to know the history of typefaces and when certain features developed and a type classification system can help you keep track of things and label typefaces according to a wide range of parameters like x-height, stroke weight, contrast, texture, the shape of the serifs, the direction of the weight distribution etc. As I said in the previous article, the Vox-ATypI classification is a good point to start but it does need refinement. When we've established a proper system, we can then base the series of articles on this system. Mind you, I won't be establishing a complete system but rather a simple and compact system by which I can write articles where I will discuss the details. We will also be getting rid of some generic terms and update some old ones.
As for the articles though, I will only be discussing the evolution of typefaces. So the chirographic category (hand-written) won't be discussed. I barely researched script fonts and the history of writing and never learned how to properly work scripts fonts so I will leave someone else to bestow his/her wisdom of chirography upon us. The articles to come really only focus on the Roman typefaces and their roots.
I thought a long time about the name of my type classification and for lack of imagination (or out of vanity; you choose) I decided to call it the Silvertant classification (after my last name).
The Silvertant classification
The serif typefaces are primarily characterized by their serifs of course, but also a medium to high stroke contrast, triangular serifs or wedge serifs and a weight distribution according to a diagonal to vertical axis depending on the style and age from which the features were derived.
The slab serif typefaces are characterized by a simple, functional feel that gained momentum during the industrial period. They're often called mechanistic or mechanized and feature slab serifs which are either squared (Egyptiénne) or bracketed (Ionic).
The sans serif typefaces are characterized by their absence of serifs and their medium to very low stroke contrast. The first use of a sans serif typeface was around 1720. The sans serif typeface wasn't considered attractive in the beginning, hence the names 'grotesque' and 'gothic' are often used.
The Chirographics are characterized by—a suggestion of—being hand-written.
The Blackletters are a dark script form which developed around 1150.
What is "contemporary" today, likely won't be tomorrow. One could just as well say "up-to-date" or "trendy" and it might be accurate. Using a separate category and simply describing what something is would make more sense. Only it does not work when so many things fail classification beyond the period they are made. In fact we classify modern types by which previous period they are most like. This is a problem that will probably be solved by future generations. Or, it will be solved when it becomes a real problem.
> they are made
I'm not sure if that's entirely true. The music industry always manages to popularize new (sub)genres when they sound just a bit different. I guess the market is saturated with genres now, but the type classification is obviously incomplete.
> In fact we classify modern types by which previous period they are most like.
> This is a problem that will probably be solved by future generations.
I suspect the typefaces of our time will indeed be given a specific name in the future. It's true that the typefaces are so versatile and usually based to a large extent on previous models but I still think contemporary typefaces are very distinct in many cases. My problem is not that the current movement isn't distinct enough to name but that I just find it so hard to come up with a name which makes sense.
It's actually interesting to look back at the categories and get a sense of when those names could be introduced. For example, 'Venetian' is a pretty generic term in my opinion. It makes sense now, but to name a distinct type movement after a location is a bit odd to me. Dutch Renaissance typefaces were very distinct but they never got their own category. And then there's 'Modern', which was also applicable "back then" but makes little sense now.
By the way, I just realized I didn't adapt the Scotch into my type system. Do you think it needs to be? I actually see it as the Egyptienne of the Transitionals if that makes some sense. The design is somewhere between Transitional and Didone. It's kinda retro modern.
I'm in favour of experimenting with tag-based font selection I think.
As for a tag-based system, I actually don't think this will work on DA. On MyFonts it works quite well, but of course all type geeks specifically go to that website. I honestly don't trust the people on DA to tag fonts accordingly. That's why I'm now working on a simple categorization to be introduced. A tag-based font selection could be something for the future when the DA users can be trusted with this matter. One small step at a time.
Appended in case it's useful.
Script and Written Fonts
Symbol, `pi' and `dingbat' fonts
> I struggled with this 8 years ago for an early font Web site that was never launched
> (the accountants said, "people will never accept credit cards over the internet,
> forget it!"
I must say I don't have a credit card myself and I agree with the accountants to some extent. It seems credit cards couldn't really be the primary method of payment as many people don't have one. Still, it's a weird statement. Who knows what other payment methods could've been in practice now if they were prominently used 8 years ago, or how high the percentage of credit card users would be if many digital companies would require it 8 years ago.
I must say I like your classification to some extent, however you're mixing classifications (like Transitional), methods (like Calligraphy) and features (like Flare Serif) which doesn't work in my opinion. What do you consider 'Roman'?
By the way, it's clear to me now that you know quite some about type. I always think this is a fun question to ask to knowledgeable people: What are your favorite typefaces?
On Wedge serif, I didn't distinguish between that and "flare", but rather consider it a spectrum. Although on people, bell-bottom jeans hiding bare feet, that's very different from drainpipe jeans and big heavy shoes
I think you will appreciate Tierra Nueva and Neacademia, if you don't know them already.
Hmm I think you can see the versatile possibilities for the serifs as a spectrum, but to me flare and wedge are very distinct forms. Flare serifs are kind of glyphic (though this is also a distinct form) and the result looks like a semi-serif. A wedge serif is just a serif with a sharp angle as opposed to a slope like in Garamond.