What's the difference between Serif and Sans Serif?

An Easy Breakdown of the Basics

As a designer, I sometimes speak in industry lingo and forget that not everyone speaks my language. That happened recently in a client meeting when I was referencing the differences between a serif and sans-serif typeface. If you happen to be in the same boat as our client, this is a blog series for you. In the first edition we’ll tackle the differences between serif and sans-serif faces, but stay tuned for more.

Serif verses Sans Serif

A serif is a small decorative line/shape that is added to a letter form. I sometimes refer to them as “feet”. Serif typeface refers to any font that has these embellishments.

Sans serif refers to letter forms that do not have “feet”. It comes from the French term sans which means “without” meaning “without serifs”.

Should we add just a little complexity? There are also serif faces commonly referred to as block serifs. This simply refers to the boxy shape of the serif. Block serifs are a subset of the serif category, so it’s still correct to refer to them as such.



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Aimee Goodwin
Principal + Creative Director
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