Type On Screen
Clean, Lean Serifs for Science & Tech
Thursday 26th June 2014
After centuries of use in print materials, and in recent decades print-like approximations on the web, we’ve convinced ourselves that serif typefaces are not a fit for modern industries. But in our efforts to distance our designs for ’new things’ from ‘ye olde’, we’re missing out on some lovely, clean, new-fashioned type with the character to fit in the worlds of science and tech. Here are five just for starters!
Thanks to its chunky serifs, Turnip has a strength and density that makes it feel authoritative—but in a cool substitute teacher kind of way. Those squared counters give it a geometric flavor that sets it apart from your typical serif, and there’s such a great tension between that squareness inside the counters and its smooth outer curves. I can see it working well on science or tech projects that need a sturdy, modern face with just a hint of tradition. The family has a number of weights to choose from. It also has a Reading Edge version (Turnip RE) that’s been tweaked and hinted for use at smaller sizes—a great accompaniment in body copy.
You know that unfussy leanness we identify with sans serifs? Well here it is in a serif. Pancetta Serif Pro strikes a nice balance between the serif and slab style, which works perfectly for use on screen (those squarish serifs render so nicely!). It’s very legible thanks to its generous x-height and wide-open apertures, and it comes in 16 weights. Couple that with its extensive language support and Open Type features and you’ve got a typeface that’s ideal for larger type systems. And its Thin, Light, and Extra Light weights really lend themselves to the uber clean, minimalist headings we often want when working on software and tech projects. Super simplicity and not a hint of bookishness about it.
If ever there was a typeface destined to shine in chrome on the back of flying cars, Lunda Modern is definitely the one—it’s that cool. It has that ‘50s retro sci-fi vibe that says ‘future’ and ‘progress’, but with a bit of kitsch thrown in. I really like the contrast with the thin angled cross strokes against the rhythmical off-kilter thick stems. It adds a real sense of restless energy, like race cars revving at the starting line ready to burst forward. And that lowercase ‘r’ is a thing of pure beauty. Try it out in some big display sizes for headings.
Metronic Slab Pro has a sleek, contemporary, and technological tone of voice that could just be perfect for your next project. It has hefty serifs and is near monoline in weight, helping it to render well even when reversed or overlaid on imagery. I love the chunky and impactful Black weight. With 12 weights in its Pro family, another 12 in its Slab Narrow family, its Sans Serif accompaniment, an icon set in the same style, and many OpenType features, Metronic is a truly great workhorse typeface.
Not one you might expect to find on this list, but it deserves its place. Clarendon is a classic that has stood the test of time. Using it can add an air of experience to your design—which can be useful when designing for a new start-up. If it doesn’t do it for you, take a look at a modern revival such as Belizio or Volta.
As you can see, your science and tech projects don’t have to be constrained to your sans library. There are plenty of serifs with the character to do the job. So, next time you approach a project, maybe step away from Open Sans and Proxima Nova and consider giving one of these serif typefaces a go instead. You might just find what you’re after.
For more web font recommendations, check out the other posts in our breaking stereotypes series: Masculine Scripts and Brighter Lighter Blackletters. Or browse the rest of our Type on Screen collection. We’d also like to extend a big thanks to our guest author Jake Giltsoff for writing today’s post. Guest authors are paid for their contribution, and all opinions are their own.