Selecting the Perfect Font for Your Wedding
An introduction to basic typefaces
By Natalie Tsang
August 31, 2011
Whether you decide to go to a stationer, take letterpress lessons, or print out your save-the-dates, invitations, and name cards on your home printer, it's good to know a bit about the hundreds of fonts that are out there.
Technically, a font is a complete letter set. However, now it just means a certain style or typeface. Impress your stationer by using the word "typeface" instead of "font." Every typeface was originally made by hand and many were based on a real persons handwriting. You can even create your own typeface. All you need is a pen, a piece of paper, a scanner, and an Internet connection.
There are two or three basic scripts. A script is a general type of font, kind of like a family. There are the Romans, cursive, and italic. However, italic is now used for emphasis rather than printing entire documents.
The Roman comes from Roman inscriptions that were chiseled in stone. From its sculptural origin, the letters are strong and tactile. They are beautifully geometric and formed with straight lines and perfect circles.
Over time this type of letter transformed as the medium changed from stone and chisel, to a reed pressed into clay, to the pen and paper. Romans can be crisp and sharp, or slightly rounded at the edges, or rounded and tightly packed together.
An important part of the Roman is the presence of a serif. A serif are little extra lines and details in letters. For instance, if the capital A has little horizontal lines that come out of its two points, it is a serif typeface. An example of a sanserif typeface is Arial and Century Gothic. The most famous Roman is Times New Roman.
Antiqua is a synthesis between Roman capital letters and the plump and curvy Carolingian writing. It is occasionally called old style, because of the uniform thickness of its strokes. It is extremely easy to read and less formal.
You would think that cursive fonts come from handwriting, and you're right. The earliest cursive approximated Latin handwriting and was adapted in the Middle Ages. A cursive font mimics handwriting and the letters are often joined. Did you know that until good ink was invented, cursive did not exist?
Although not exactly the same, there are now several typefaces known as scripts which resemble calligraphy. Examples are Edwardian Script.
The Gothic script is a script that is also known as Old English and Black letter. It was used throughout the Middle Ages and was in Germany until the 20th century. The name "Gothic" was used during the Renaissance, because people thought it was barbaric.
However, the Gothic is beautiful and have an old, medieval flavor. The letters are tall, narrow, and angular and wouldn't be out of place decorating invitations that take place in a cathedral.
Rotunda is a specific blackletter script, but sometimes categorized as its own script. Black letter has never been a popular option for letterpress, probably in the difficulty of forming the letters.
Modern type was actually invented in the late 18th and early 19th century. Its claim to fame is the varying thickness of its strokes, which gives it a mechanical look.