Slab in the Dark?

dberlow's picture

Intersting probable learn-something-everyday day, in ttwitterrverrrse...

Was following a tweet by the every brighter glowing @jasonsantamaria, I found myself at odds with his classing Adobe's fantastic Chaparral family as a Slab Serif. 

My expectation of the term would be obviously with serifs, and they would all be horizontal portions of rectangles parallel or perpendicular to the baseline without exception. 
Such serif structure and the related lack of stress in curves team up to form what I always thought of as a slab serif... Chaparral has some in common with my definition in the baseline serifs, some of the curves are unaffected by a diagonal pen. 
But... Most of the common characters in Chaparral show the liveliness of the pen, and there are lots of angled serifs, more in the class of the “old style” class, than the Slab Serif sub-class of “modern”

Today's classifying and sub-classing of type designs is not entirely dissimilar to trying to guess the weight of angel, and it may be that my old definitions have been shifted by the sands of type, so perhaps some more opinions would help.

To partly establish a mass of examples of my opinion, I introduce, and, and then search for “slab serif”. Both seem to follow my definition, for at least a few fonts, and for the most part keep to it for 80% or so, before the search engines seem to break down. 
Why e.g. FontShop finds fonts with no serifs a way down the search results, or why Myfonts thinks “Oklahoma” is a slab, introduces mystery. But when the search result is wrong, it's really wrong. The other 80% or so of the search results do match my definition of slab serif.

Indra Kupferschmid's picture

I also always thought of Chaparral more as an old-style text face with sturdy serifs than a Slab. But if we agree on Clarendon-like typefaces as being Slab Serifs — with stroke contrast and features left over by the pointed pen — Chaparral could count for one too, a humanist one. (Serifa/Clarendon, Caecilia/Chaparral) Or do you mean to argue that Slab Serif is a subclass of modern? (Uh!)

Jason Santa Maria's picture

David, I think you're saying that the serifs alone aren't enough to classify something as a slab or not. And I totally get that point. I think I take a more loose approach on this one. I think a classification of slab or old style could both be considered right. Chaparral is a pretty thorough hybrid sharing lots of traits with both. But then perhaps one could also argue that its main use could have some influence (I certainly use it more in the way I would a normal text face, which only supports your point too).

I'm comfortable calling it either, though I still tend to prefer slab. It's where the essence of the face sits for me.

dberlow's picture


I'm with you. I'll find it useful from now on to qualify this classification as being Modern or Old Style Slab for additional clarity when talking type! It will also be useful for me to remember to do this classification relative to the type and typography a client is looking for, for best results.



Stephen Coles's picture

I introduce, and, and then search for “slab serif”.

Some of the unexpected results you're seeing come from the fact that you're using the search function — which on these two sites finds any text that matches your search term. This is a job instead for browsing which results in fonts that have been filed in preselected categories (see FontShop and MyFonts category pages). Of course, this is a usability issue which could be improved by including a link to a matching category when you perform such a search (search for "slab serif", get a link to the Slab Serif category page, then a list of all the fonts that match the search term).

On Chaparral: I empathize with all sides, and this example adds yet more fodder when I argue with those who find no use for narrower subclasses, or even classification at all.

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