The style of your lettering is just as important as it’s message. As you may know, different styles have different connotations to them. So, it’s best to optimize your lettering by using the correct lettering style. This is also why you should avoid having a go-to lettering style.
Lettering is directly influenced by the history of type and typography. Many lettering styles mimic or modify the styles from the past. So, it’s important to gain a solid understanding of the basic styles and how they came about, in order to improve our lettering.
Blackletter style was the first type style that was used with the invention of movable type. It was modeled after the style of the illuminated manuscripts and bibles lettered by monks. Since the illuminated manuscripts were created before the printing press, these rare documents were reserved for churches, monarchs, and wealthy patrons. The style was intended to be elaborate and stylized so that they could give glory to the religion, or to please the patron.
Blackletter is a very formal, ornate, and intricate style. However, blackletter is particularly weak for legibility, readability, and casual messages.. There are also very strong connotations associated with the style, which can be hard to tame. However, if used appropriately, the style can be great to make a special piece stand out.
Serif style is known for the stems (or serifs) that extend from the end of a letter’s strokes. The serif style is the first clear evolution from the blackletter style. It still retains much of the hand-drawn influences, but it’s much more legible and readable. This makes the serif style more classic, elegant, and formal.
The serif style has four sub-styles:
Humanistic: As it sounds, it’s a humanistic and natural. It has clear hand-drawn, and calligraphic qualities. Tends to have low x-height and little contrast between the thick and thin strokes.
Transitional: Transitional is the transition between humanistic, and the modern style. This sub-style removes a lot of the natural imperfections and cleans things up to increase clarity. This sub-style has higher contrast between thin and thick strokes, and becomes more geometric.
Modern: The complete transition to a style that removes all influences of the pen and hand-drawn qualities. Has sharper serifs and extreme contrast between the thin and thick strokes.
Although the slab serif style is technically a serif sub-style, it’s often considered it’s own style for it’s distinct differences from other serifs. Slab serif is a very bold, block-like style. Slab serif styles often have little or no contrast between thin and thin strokes, along with block-like serifs. These qualities are what make slab serifs very similar to the sans serif style.
Ironically, possibly the simplest style has one of the more awkward names. The sans serif style has no serifs and is much more geometric than the serif style. Sans means “without,” which is how it gets its name. Just as with serifs, there are also humanistic and modern sub-styles.
Script style is the style that resembles the fluid, continuous stroke of hand-writing. The sub-styles can range from formal to casual. Script sub-styles are often characterized by their writing utensil. Calligraphy, brush, and mono-weight scripts are a few sub-styles. Each of those sub-styles have unique looks because of the different pens used for them.
Lettering is directly influenced by typography history, though it is not limited to it. A lettering style can be a mixture of one or two styles or sub-styles. The great part about lettering is once you have an understanding of the basics, various styles will begin to merge together organically forming interesting and unique work.
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