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Logo Design: Serif vs Sans-Serif

Sans Serif vs Serif

Remember how people completely lost it when GAP changed their 20-year old logo in 2010?

Comparison of two GAP logos

While the brand was ready to push forward towards a more modern look, customers weren’t ready, or accepting. Gap ended up abandoning the logo after just one week due to customer backlash. The biggest change in their logo redesign that caused the whole debacle? Serif vs sans-serif font.

Serif vs sans-serif typography example

Pros & Cons of Serif Fonts

Serif fonts have little feet-like strokes extending from letters. While there are exceptions, serif fonts or typefaces are widely known as being traditional, conservative, elegant, formal, or established. Serif fonts are arguably more readable, but only in printed works. Books, newspapers and magazines most often use serif fonts for large bodies of copy because serifs make letters distinctive and easy for our brain to distinguish individual letters. However, a serif fonts readability on a desktop, tablet or mobile phone can get a little muddy because of screen resolution. But with technology like retina display and 4k screens, serif fonts are becoming more readable on the web.

Pros & Cons of Sans-Serif Fonts

Sans-serif fonts do not have serifs, or little feet-like strokes extending from the bars or beams of the letters. While there are exceptions, sans-serif fonts are typically associated with being modern, clean, young, and friendly. Sans-serif fonts are more readable than serif fonts on a screen. While serif letters can get muddy because of screen resolution, sans serif letters are so simple in design that they do not.

So who cares?

When it comes to serif vs sans-serif, does it even matter? Well, let’s take a look at some of the most popular sans-serif logos, in a serif font.

Brand logos with and without serif typography

We are so used to seeing these logos sans-serif, that seeing a serif logo with serif fonts feel obviously wrong. It completely changes the look, feel, and perception of the brand. When you replace a sans-serif font that can make a brand feel young and friendly, with a serif font, the brand suddenly feels uncomfortably formal.

Now let’s take a look at some of the most popular serif logos, in a sans serif font.


brand logos with and without serif typography With many of these brands, it feels unnatural to have them looking so youthful and modern. Without a serif font they no longer feel classic or timeless, and perhaps even less established. They feel abnormally, even questionably modern. It’s as if these brands have lost maturity and elegance, just by the sans-serif font.

Fonts have a large voice when it comes to your brand and sans serif vs serif is one aspect that can make a big impact. So how is your brand looking? Is the font evoking the right personality of your brand? Does the font support the overall look and feel of your brand? If not, it might be time for a redesign.

Maggie Call

Maggie is a Senior Designer at 97th Floor, developing content for print and web by creating infographics, websites, and interactives.

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