Serifs—those unassuming little doo-dads hanging on the ends of letter strokes. Does anyone really care about these guys? Well they should. I wonder if designers today can appreciate the delicate thins and thicks of a letterform, the graceful curve of a stem as it elegantly transitions into a serif, the rich texture of a paragraph set in a classic typeface…
If you find yourself up at night agonizing over the state of typography like I do, I recommend the following: First, go see a movie—you need to get out more. Then, go check out “Who Shot the Serif?” for some good info about the definition and origin of these highly underrated letter bits.
Now, I come from a print background, which means I am old. It also means I remember when choosing a typeface was often the most important aspect of a design project. (I also remember Bonnie Bell lip balm and Tickle deodorant, but I digress.)
Ink on paper is crisp, clear and lends itself to subtle intricacies. Unfortunately, that kind of detail can be lost on the web. Notice that I’ve chosen to set my blog in a sans serif face. While the main reason I chose to do so was to contrast paragraph text against the IleenieWeenie logo, readability did come into play. There’s much more to say about contrasting typefaces, but that’s a subject for another post.
When used well, serifs lend a warmer, more traditional feel to a website. Here is a nice example: Black Estate. While the logo and largest headlines were created as separate art files, the rest of the text is editable html.
The challenge with web design is that there are so many variables. Not everyone uses the same operating system, video card, monitor, browser, etc., and typography can look different in varied environments. Scroll down to comment #12 on this post for an interesting take on the subject.
It bums me out that the inconsistent nature of web viewing limits many web designers from using serif typefaces. On the other hand, it pains me to see beautiful serifs mutilated by a lame-ass operating system.
I miss the variety of type that’s possible in traditional printed formats and the flexibility such variety allows. I miss the care designers used to take with their typography, and I miss seeing classic typefaces used the way they were meant to be. I also miss Orange Julius and deodorant that smells like cotton candy.