Intro & Anatomy of the Slab Serif

The Slab Serif knows how to demand the attention in a room. Notably its visually loud and imposing nature is what made slab serifs initially the front-runner for display typefaces. With its popularity resulting from the aftermath of Napoleon Bonaparte’s failed Egyptian empire, the slab serif can be referred to as the Egyptian. Following this, Vincent Figgins formerly introduces this typeface style which can also be commercially referred to as the Antique in 1815. This Slab Serif/Egyptian/Antique typeface style emerges at the rise of print advertising when they required visual language that made noise, thus giving its start primarily as a display typeface. Although this subset of serifs soon was in competition with the new sans-serif style, its prominence during the Industrial Revolution has made it an everlasting impactful typeface. Not to mention the Slab Serif’s versatility and commanding attributes lead to many subsets like Fat Faces, Clarendon, and the Typewriter faces all of which express their own unique tones. Equally important, its adaptability also allows for its use as a body text typeface —specifically seen on Amazon’s Kindle which is a contemporary testament to its legibility and readability. In addition to this, the Slab Serif’s geometric adaptation of typefaces like Archer and ITC American Typewriter provides a multifaceted use for this subset of serifs in design practices. Particularly we are more-so concerned with the Slab Serif’s role in the new wave advertising during the Industrial Revolution as well as how its usage has expanded over the years into modern advertising.

With this in mind, to understand what makes the Slab Serif special we must dissect the elements of its typographic anatomy. Generally, but not limited to, Slab Serif elements can consist of slight variation or uniform stroke widths, horizontal unbracketed serifs that terminate at a ninety degree angle, terminals that are angular or rounded, circular or oval like bowls, varying bold stroke widths, and many other variable characteristics. It is important to note that these elements, like its heavy weight, are what distinguished the Slab Serif amongst typefaces such as Baskerville’s contrasting thin strokes. Although the Slab Serif’s elements like the flat serif and geometric structures are interchangeable, they actively participate in many different modes of visual language. All these characteristics work together to respond to the mechanization of labour and the advertisements needed to promote it as well as being aesthetically involved in much broader design practices of the present.