Serif vs. sans serif: Differences and Similarities

We talk often at Silo Creativo about font combinations and the best choice of these. Usually we talk about the differences between “Serif” and “Sans Serif,and although there are many occasions when we talked about the differences and similarities between the two, we believe it is time to go into depth. Are you ready?

Serif fonts

One thing we know of such fonts is that they are the “oldest modern.” They have been used since ancient times and on the first printing documents, and they are used on the press. Serifs help us not to lose the thread of the text and to mark the way forward.

For the record we say that the “serifs” are the scrolls and decorative ornaments that appear in each of the letters of this kind. Within the group they are different from each other, and have different styles that make them differentiate between them. Usually they characterized by a font with elegance and style.

I would also like to comment on my review that Microsoft was wrong when it decided to use the Times New Roman as the default font in Word. For a long time it was the most widely used typeface. Luckily that we have already left it behind! 😉


Sans Serif fonts

They are considered the most modern type. Nowadays we let go all the accessories and usually stay only with the functional (as in the flat design.) It is easy to think that it is a more current font, whose edges are simple.

This is a minimalist type that may appear to result in a clearer and more legible reading, but does not have to be that way. It is usually thought that they have a youthful touch.


Myths, legends and reality: Is there absolute truth?

When conducting our font choice, there are several factors that must and can be considered for this, but there is something from we must start: there is no absolute truth. It is responsible for that there is a wide range of possibilities when it comes to opt for one or the other.

Sans Serif digital / printed Serif

It is true that Serif fonts are even today the most used in the forms to be printed, but little by little they are introducing typefaces Sans Serif that meet the highest of all text to be read must be met: the readability.

Similarly, although Sans Serif has been used for those cases whose format is read through a screen, flexibility has increased. Before the quality of the screens was much worse and may scrolls complicated the good reading, but now we have already overcame that gap.


Serif fonts are well read on electronic devices and we, for example, have used them on some of our WordPress themes like Janice, Silvio or Christopher. Creative freedom is greater and therefore as we said in the previous paragraph, we can opt for a wider range of possibilities prioritizing readability.

In short, you set your own limits. You just have to be aware that font fulfills its function, and if so, just play!

Sans Serif fonts are more informal

It may be that this comes caused by the aging of Serif. Having been used for a type of documents that might be considered “most serious” at the time, it was able to convey the feeling that the “sans serif” has been relegated to informal documents, however it is not.

This is far from reality; Sans Serif fonts usually have a flexible nature that makes them perfect for combining with other fonts. If you think that the type you have chosen is somewhat casual, combine it with another to give it some warmth and elegance.

Generally they combine well with serif, and these combinations are often perfect to apply the character we are looking for.

The Sans Serif gets more attention

This is baseless. We do not like one typeface but the combination of everything that accompanies it. We may prefer a typeface, “Everyone has different tastes” but, one type cannot be better than another in general, except in special cases. As we say from the beginning, if we look for readability and we do not get it, it is clear that no matter the type we are using, our users will go away.

It is also very important to combine colours with the background. If these combinations do not let you reading the text, it does not matter the kind you have used.


Neither of the two types is above the other, as we say, there is no absolute truth, just choose in each case the one that best fits your needs.

Serif fonts do not work in small sizes

This is very close to the above. Serif fonts in very small sizes may have problems when read because the scrolls can “blur” the words.


But that’s not the only factor to consider in readability by the size of the characters but we must look at other factors as are the stroke, the ratio of width and height….

However from Silo Creativo we always defend readability and advise a size equal to or greater than 16 pixels.


Surely if you have read the text carefully, you will not be surprised: there is no one better than the others. In fact in most cases a good combination between the two is the best result.

Depending on the project to which we are, we have to decide what fits the best, but my advice is that (like most things in life) do not start from harm. Unless there is a key factor that determines the use of one or the other, decide objectively and not getting carried away by a “legend”.

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