In typography, there are a lot of different terms that get thrown around that not a lot of people actually understand fully. 

Some of these keywords include typefaces, fonts and families. What are they? How are typefaces different from fonts? 

If you want to know more about fonts, families and how they all tie into typefaces, then this is the place for you.

We are going to take a closer look at typefaces and what the main families of fonts are. 

So, let’s dive in! 

What Are Fonts, Typefaces And Families?

Fonts are the style of text you choose to write with when writing text on a digital setting. The term specifically refers to the file you are using including its weight, style and width.

Together, lots of similar fonts that share the same style of letters, numbers, symbols and punctuation all come together to form a typeface. 

For example, a font would be Arial Light. However, Arial Light and Arial Medium and Arial Regular all come together (along with a lot of other Arial fonts) to make the Arial typeface. 

It’s kind of like the system we use to categorize animals. Your dog is a dog just how a font is a font, but dogs are also in the same category as wolves and foxes in the animal kingdom.

This is because they share a similar genetic make up even though there are some visual differences. 

The same goes for fonts – although some fonts look slightly different from each other because some are italicized and others are bold, they all still share the same style of letters.

This means that they are all grouped together into a typeface. 

However, what a lot of people don’t know is that there is  another type of classification when it comes to fonts – font families. 

Font families and typefaces are often confused because typefaces are often described as a family of fonts. However, typefaces also belong to another type of family of their own.

However, this classification process is pretty generic and is not often taken seriously – but it can be a great way to organize your fonts so you know where you can find a certain style really easily. 

This can be really useful for graphic designers who want to use a similar font but from a different typeface – so let’s take a look at the five generic font families so you can easily find the font you want for your design!

The Five Generic Font Families

Here we are going to look at each of the five font families so you can find the font you want with ease.

We are going to take a look at each one and the characteristics which define the typefaces in each family. 

So, let’s go! 


This font family contains typefaces which feature fonts that all have the same width of each letter, giving the fonts included a very uniform appearance.

Each letter is just as wide as the next, so it evokes a vibe similar to coding and retro computer programming.

If you want to go back further, you could say that these fonts look a lot like traditional typewriting.

This makes monospaced typefaces popular for retro-themed web design or those who want to evoke a more rustic, natural feel to their website. 

Popular monospaced typefaces include Courier, Space Mono,  Inconsolata, Apercu Mono, Pitch and Roboto Mono. 


Serif fonts are some of the most widely used fonts used in all manner of typography.

They can vary from modern to traditional, from elegant to retro because of their signature design features. 

These typefaces include fonts that usually have small extensions at the end of longer strokes of each letter, numbers, punctuation and symbols.

Serif fonts are rooted in Times New Roman – one of the most popular fonts used all around the world. 

It’s easy to find serif fonts used in large blocks of texts in published works like newspapers and magazines.

This is because these fonts are very easy to read and understand, especially in long form literature. 

So, for websites that will need an accessible font so your audience can understand large chunks of text and read them with ease, a serif font is ideal to use. 

Such typefaces that are included in the serif font family include Times New Roman, Rockwell, Farmond, and Georgia.

These fonts are probably already familiar to you – and that’s because they are so widely used for so many different forms of typography and text! 

Sans Serif

Sans Serif

On the flip side to serif fonts, there are sans serif fonts. The difference between the two is very obvious – while serif fonts have those little extendedures, sans serif fonts do not. 

This makes them very popular in digital formats as they are also super easy to read and understand when used to write large chunks of texts. 

So, despite the differences between sans serif and serif fonts, they both do have a lot in common.

You may even see such fonts used in professional publishing too but usually in textbooks over printed books like with serif fonts. 

Because of this, sans serif fonts are used mostly for modern designed websites that want to also evoke an air of professionalism and sophistication.

While serif fonts are a little more dated and give off a more classic vibe, sans serif are less traditional.

Despite this, they are just as easy to read which makes them a great choice to go with when it comes to writing large blocks of text for your website.

Example typefaces that feature in this font family include Verdana, Arial, Proxima Nova, Futura, Helvetica, and Public Sans. 


Cursive fonts are one of the easiest families to recognize because all the letters and characters have to join up using connective strokes.

This is what gives cursive writing its unique and iconic look that symbolizes grace and beauty. 

Because of this style, a lot of graphic designers use cursive fonts when they want to soften the look of a design or allude to the past.

Cursive fonts are also stereotypically associated with beauty and female-orientated websites and media. 

Example typefaces that use cursive fonts include Minstral, Edwardian Script, and Lucida Handwriting. 


And finally, we have come to the last font family – fantasy. 

This family is sometimes called the decorative font family where all the crazy, stylized typefaces go when they don’t fit into the above families.

So, the fonts found in this font family all range from the wacky to the fun and creative.

This also means that they are usually smaller typefaces and will have less variety from font to font due to their decorative styles. 

This is where you will most likely find the best fonts for things like children’s media, movie posters, or in games – anything that requires a super unique font that doesn’t necessarily need to be easy to read.

A few examples of fantasy typefaces include Cottonwood, Jokerman, Horror Hotel, and Outlaw. 


So, now you know about the five main font families out there – how can you decide which ones to use on your own site?

Well, I would say that if you’re looking at creating something that needs to be legible, then you should probably stick to serif or sans serif fonts.

If you’re trying to create something that looks really cool and different, then maybe try going with a fantasy font instead. 

Knowing what font families are out there can help you find an alternative typeface to the one you are already using to help bring some variety to your design. Good luck!