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March 4, 2012
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The Silvertant type classification

Journal Entry: Sun Mar 4, 2012, 8:10 PM

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



Serif


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.


  :bulletred:

Humanist/Venetian


Examples: Centaur, Roos, Brioso


  :bulletred:

Garalde


Examples: Garamond, Caslon, Minion


  :bulletred:

Transitional


Examples: Baskerville, Miller, Charter


  :bulletred:

Didone


Examples: Didot, Bodoni, Filosofia


  :bulletred:

Contemporary


Examples: Biblon, Coranto, Mokka




Slab serif


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).


  :bulletorange:

Egyptienne


Examples: Glypha, Pragmatica Slab, Salvo Serif


  :bulletorange:

Clarendon


Examples: Clarendon Text, Belizio, Suomi Slab Serif


  :bulletorange:

Tuscan


Examples: Buckboard, De Louisville, Wood Type


  :bulletorange:

Contemporary


Examples: Adelle, Museo Slab, Centro Slab Pro



Sans serif


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.


  :bulletyellow:

Grotesque


Examples: Helvetica, Univers, DIN


  :bulletyellow:

Geometric


Examples: Futura, Eurostile, Nobel


  :bulletyellow:

Humanist


Examples: Gill Sans, Frutiger, Ideal Sans




Chirographics


The Chirographics are characterized by—a suggestion of—being hand-written.


  :bulletpink:

Script


Examples: Reklame Script, Gelato Script, Metroscript


  :bulletpink:

Hand-writing


Examples: Andrij Script, Just Lefthand, Erik Righthand


   :bulletpink:

Comic


Examples: Comic Sans, Dion, Zoinks



Blackletters


The Blackletters are a dark script form which developed around 1150.


  :bulletblack:

Textura


Examples: Goudy Text, Old English, Textura Quadrata


  :bulletblack:

Schwabacher


Examples: Alte Schwabacher, SchwarzKopf, Sibyl


  :bulletblack:

Fraktur


Examples: Breitkopf Fraktur, Fakir, Fette Fraktur


  :bulletblack:

Rotunda


Examples: 1483 Rotunda Lyon, Bucintoro, San Marco


  :bulletblack:

Hybrida/Bastarda


Examples: Burgundica, Givry, Lucida Blackletter






Add a Comment:
 
:iconbrianskywalker:
brianskywalker Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
This is great! I do question the use of the Contemporary because of ambiguity, which I think I've mentioned before. Since I don't offer any solution, though, you can ignore that. This is probably the most all-around useful classification system I've seen. :)
Reply
:iconmartinsilvertant:
MartinSilvertant Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2012  Professional General Artist
Thank you! Your input was tremendously valuable to achieve this result. I'm not happy with the term 'contemporary' either but it's just as bad as 'modern' while not being monopolized by the Didone category. I will update it with a better term if I can think of one, but so far no luck.
Reply
:iconbrianskywalker:
brianskywalker Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm glad it has turned out as well as it is. I think this seems the most obvious, and certainly reflects what I see as current usage of terms.

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.
Reply
:iconmartinsilvertant:
MartinSilvertant Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2012  Professional General Artist
> Only it does not work when so many things fail classification beyond the period
> 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.
Reply
:iconbrianskywalker:
brianskywalker Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Scotch leans towards Didone. Strictly speaking, I think it can be classified as transitional. But it definitely leans more toward Didone.
Reply
:iconmartinsilvertant:
MartinSilvertant Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2012  Professional General Artist
So no need for an extra category.
Reply
:iconbrianskywalker:
brianskywalker Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I don't think so. :)
Reply
:iconbarefootliam:
barefootliam Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2012
One difficulty with most existing type classifications is that they were designed by typographers for typographers; these days a much wider range of people specify type, for good or ill.

I'm in favour of experimenting with tag-based font selection I think.
Reply
:iconmartinsilvertant:
MartinSilvertant Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2012  Professional General Artist
To be quite honest I don't give this "much wider range of people" a chance. I think a system should be adapted according to the evolution of the people, however I also want to maintain the integrity of the system.

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.
Reply
:iconbarefootliam:
barefootliam Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2012
Ah, sorry, I didn't realise you were hoping to introduce it to DA. Yes, DA is very much category-based. 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!"

Appended in case it's useful.

Liam


Decorative Faces

Decorative
Decorative/Wood

Script and Written Fonts

Script/Blackletter
Script/Brush
Script/Calligraphic
Script/Formal
Script/Freehand

Symbol, `pi' and `dingbat' fonts

Symbol/

Text Faces

Text/Egyptienne
Text/FlareSerif
Text/Grotesque
Text/Lineale
Text/Modern
Text/NewTransitional
Text/OldStyle
Text/Roman
Text/Transitional
Text/Venetian
Reply
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