Guide to Typestyles: Slab Serifs
You can’t go far, typographically speaking, without seeing a slab serif. Whether in a magazine article or an advertisement, on a book cover or signage, slab serif (often called square serif or Egyptian) designs, with their geometric, block-like appenditures, project solidity, style and confidence.
With the abundant availability of slab serif typeface families in digital form, it can be daunting to select just the right one. Here is a survey of seven of the most useful and well-designed slab serifs.
The Egyptian Slate™ typeface family is a recent addition to the Slate family, both designed by Rod McDonald. This smart, sturdy design includes six weights with complementary italics, as well as both lining and old style figures.
Designed by Adrian Frutiger in 1966, the Serifa® typeface family is based on the geometric linear forms of Frutiger’s Univers® design, with the addition of square, unbracketed, slab serifs. Serifa contains four weights, with complementary italics for the two lightest weights.
Frutiger designed the Glypha® typeface family in 1977 as a condensed extension of Serifa. Like Serifa, Glypha is modeled from the basic forms of Univers, with the addition of slab serifs. Glypha has a taller x-height than Serifa, and the proportions of its curves are based on the oval. Glypha is available in five weights, all with complementary obliques.
The Rockwell® typeface family was designed in 1933 by F. H. Pierpont for Monotype Corporation. This very American slab serif has nine weights: four Romans, three italics, and two condensed versions, making it highly practical.
ITC Lubalin Graph
The ITC Lubalin Graph® typeface family was designed by Herb Lubalin and drawn by Tony DiSpigna and Joe Sundwall in 1974. They based the geometric skeleton of this typeface on Lubalin's earlier ITC Avant Garde Gothic® typeface, retaining its characteristic tall x-height, but modifying the shapes to add big, squared-off serifs. The condensed weights, which include small caps and old style figures, were added in 1992.
The Memphis™ typeface family was designed by Rudolf Wolf for the Stempel foundry in 1929. It was the first Egyptian revival typeface to be released following their original popularity in the early 1800s. Memphis is available in four weights, three of which have complementary italics.
The Soho® typeface family was designed by Sebastian Lester for Monotype Imaging. Soho’s unique rectangular skeletal structure sets it apart from other, more geometric slabs. Its weight range is broad, consisting of nine weights with complementary italics in regular, condensed and compressed widths, as well as four expanded versions. All weights have both lining and old style figures, making Soho tremendously versatile.
- Editor’s Note: Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio, is a typographic consultant, designer and writer specializing in all aspects of typographic communication. She conducts Gourmet Typography workshops internationally. Read more about typography in her latest literary effort, Type Rules! The designer's guide to professional typography, 3rd edition, published by Wiley & Sons, Inc. This article was commissioned and approved by Monotype Imaging Inc.