Question regarding Type Families

PrettyGeekySis's picture

Hi everyone,

I have a question regarding a typography quiz that I recently took for my class:

5) A type family is the complete range of variations of a typeface design, including roman, italic and bold. A type family is also used to describe the 5 basic font families (sans serif, serif, cursive, monospace, and fantasy) that are used to define fonts on the Web.

I answered this as false, but the professor says it's actually true. Can someone please explain this to me? I'm a bit confused with this one...

Many thanks in advance,

Ken Messenger's picture

I think your teacher is a bit in the weeds with their web reference. The CSS Specification does include a "font-family" property with generic values of serif, sans-serif, cursive, fantasy and monospace. But font-family and type family (aka. typeface family or font family) are not nearly the same and has little to do with typography.

And I've never seen anyone use the cursive or fantasy values.

PrettyGeekySis's picture

This is the response that she wrote to me in her email reply, when I asked her why she believed the answer to the question was true:

"A type family doesn't just include the typeface (ie Times) but also includes the type style within that typeface (ie Times italics, Times bold etc). A type family can also be classified as a san serif type family (ie. Arial, Verdana etc) or a serif type family (ie. Times, Georgia etc). They are groupings of some commonality, depending on its criteria."

I don't understand how her email reply proves that the answer to the question is "true". :0/

HELP! :0(

David Sudweeks's picture

Though relatively uncommon, type families occasionally include complementing sans and serif faces. Sounds to me like your teacher was hoping to throw everyone off by including words such as cursive and fantasy. The trouble is the wording: A type family is also used to describe... It's not commonly used to describe collections of cohesive yet widely varying typefaces, much less groupings of serif faces such as Times and Georgia.

Stephen Coles's picture

If she's spelling sans serif "san serif" then typography is surely not her area of expertise. Nor is language.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

In her response to your e-mail, she throws in classification, which doesn't have much to do with what constitutes a family. Apples and oranges. And as you suspect, she's not really answering your question.

Even her first sentence, in which she does try to address your question (A type family doesn’t just include the typeface (ie Times) but also includes the type style within that typeface (ie Times italics, Times bold etc)) is worded in a confusing way.

The thing about the test question is that it's a little tricky -- if you answer "False" to the second part of the question, you are also saying that the first part is false! But you aren't allowed to explain that difference in your answer...

aurelie's picture

If any part of a sentence is false, it should deem the whole statement false as far as T/F answers go.

PrettyGeekySis's picture

I emailed her again to ask for further clarification, and she sent me the following in an email reply:

"Font family is the different styles within one font (ie. Times italics, Times bold etc). Type family really depends on how you want to group the type. For example, I want to have a group (or family) of san serif type, so that can be Georgia, Verdana and Arial. Type family has a larger definition."

I also researched this before writing to her, and every publication I came across says the correct answer is false. It sucks because I lose ten points now, on my quiz as a result of this question...but I don't want her to feel as if I'm somehow being pushy (even though I should be, as this is not the grade that I deserve).

I'll just make a mental note of what the correct answer really is. Although, I'm pretty sure I'll never forget this one... Thanks everyone. :0(

Thomas Phinney's picture

Ken has it exactly. The second sentence of your prof's question is regarding web fonts, and is an accurate definition of the CSS property "font-family" which is NOT the same as type family.

So your response, "false," is correct.

(And I could reasonably be cited as an expert on font terminology in general and web fonts in particular.)

Luma Vine's picture

Your email response should be a link to this thread.

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