In this serie of articles about Typefaces, I would like to show you the various categories of typefaces. First category, the Slab serif fonts, are getting more and more attention nowadays due to their elegance and strength, combined with high contrasts makes them perfect for headlines.
In typography, a slab serif (also called mechanistic, square serif or Egyptian) typeface is a type of serif typeface characterized by thick, block-like serifs. Serif terminals may be either blunt and angular (Rockwell), or rounded (Courier).
Slab serif typefaces generally have no bracket (feature connecting the strokes to the serifs). Some people consider this type of typefaces as a sub-category of modern serif typefaces.
Slab Serif typefaces are seldom used in body text, the only exception are the monospaced Slab Serifs, because of their usage in typewriters (although the usage of this is declining as electronic publishing has become more common). Another recent exception is the typeface designed for The Guardian newspaper in the UK which is an Egyptian used through the paper as body text.
In general, there are four subgroups of slab serif typefaces:
Clarendon typefaces, unlike other slab serifs, actually have some bracketing and some contrast in size in the actual serif (stroke transition). Typeface examples of this model are: Clarendon and Egyptienne.
The Neo-grotesque model is currently the most popular type of slab serif type, these typefaces have no bracketing and evenly weighted stems and serifs. The letterforms are similar to neo-grotesque or realist sans-serif fonts. Examples include Rockwell and Memphis.
In the Italienne model, the serifs are even heavier than the stems, forging a dramatic, attention-drawing effect. Some Italienne slab serifs, such as Playbill, have a characteristic Western appearance, likely as a result of their frequent use in western-era posters.
Typewriter slab serif typefaces are named for their use in strike-on typewriting. These faces originated in monospaced format with fixed-width, meaning that every character takes up exactly the same amount of horizontal space. This feature is necessitated by the nature of the typewriter apparatus.
Examples include Courier and Courier New (both Neo-grotesque model) and Prestige Elite (Along with Courier, it was extremely popular for use in electric typewriters, especially the IBM Selectric. Unlike Courier, however, its popularity has not extended into the computer age).
Free Slab Serifs to Download
There are a lot of commercial Slab Serifs out there, and a lot of them are pure classic typefaces. You’ve already heard Clarendon and Rockwell, for me personally 2 of the most gorgeous Slab Serifs available! But typefaces like ITC Officina Serif, Archer, Chaparral, Ziggurat, PMN Caecilia, Lucida Fax and FF Unit Slab are great examples of other great commercial Slab Serifs.
The problem with free fonts is they’re always missing some character, style or symbol and some have really issues problems like the kerning (you know, around every ‘A’ and ‘Y’). But here are some beautifully designed and crafted free Slab Serif typefaces you can use in your commercial work and even some of these you can use on screen (by using @font-face, Cúfon or Typekit).
This slab serif font is by Manfred Klein. Manfred’s fonts are free for private, charity use and for commercial use. The family consists of 6 weights, regular, bold, extra bold, black, small caps and small caps bold, making this typeface very useful as a corporate typeface.
Designed by: Manfred Klein
AW Conqueror Slab
AW Conqueror Slab draws inspiration from geometrical slab serifs of the 1930s, of which Rockwell is a perfect example.. This slab serif font is part of the Conqueror free family of fonts designed by award-winning type designer, Jean François Porchez. The font family was inspired by the 60-70’s spirit. I have contacted AW Conqueror Paper because I really didn’t understand the EULA (licenses), their reply you can read here.
Designed by: Jean François Porchez
Download Link (registration required for more styles)
This particular font called “Hefty Regular” was actually made as a copy-cat of the “Hellenic Wide” font. I’ve tried to do some research and figure out its origin but I didn’t have a lot of luck. Hefty has a distinct mid-century modern poster aesthetic that is almost cartoonish – I use this font in my Tumblr blog.
Designed by: Unknown
Chunk (Five) is an ultra-bold slab serif typeface that is reminiscent of old American Western woodcuts, broadsides, and newspaper headlines. Used mainly for display, the fat block lettering is unreserved yet refined for contemporary use. Chunk is bold & confident, set this type at larger sizes to maximize potential (exactly the reason why I use this font in my corporate website, see gonzodesign.nl).
Designed by: Meredith Mandel
Adelle Bold and Bold Italic can be downloaded free of charge at TypeTogether’s website. While Adelle is conceived specifically for intensive editorial use, its personality and flexibility make it a real multiple-purpose typeface. The intermediate weights deliver a very legible and neutral look when used in text sizes.
Designed by: Veronika Burian and José Scaglione
Download Link (registration required)
A well-designed Slab Serif made by Jos Buivenga, from the Dutch typefoundry exljbris. The use of Museo Slab has exploded in popularity, and with good reason – it’s a unique & usable typeface with character. Museo Slab 500 is a boxy and affectionate slab serif font.
Designed by: Jos Buivenga
Bodoni is invariably stylish, original, and designed by Manfred Klein. Manfred Klein looks at type as an essential part of visual communication, and that theme unifies his work. It gives his typefaces a unique cachet.
Designed by: Manfred Klein Fonteria
Kontrapunkt is an independent brand and design agency, that also developed a new slab serif called, .. Kontrapunkt (Who could have thought of that, brilliant name!). The aim was to develop a distinct font, with regards to both the inidividual character and the overall image as such. The typeface has so far been developed in a light, light italic and bold version.
design by: Bo Linnemann
St Marie Thin
Sascha Timplan is a graphic and type designer based in Trier, Germany. Sascha wants to offer typefaces that are in some way unique and not blending in, but also classic typefaces. St Marie (thin version is for free) are glyphs with an elegant and playful character, there is also a @font-face variant that you can download.
Designed by: Sascha Timplan
Download Link (also web variant)
A medium-bold Egyptian face, Mido Medium (2007) is a contemporary font by Swedish designer Eva Wilsson Grinder. Taking inspiration from the delicate stems, leafs, and joints of plants and flowers, Eva’s goal with Mido was to create a typeface “with friendliness of the Egyptians but to eliminate the heaviness.”
Designed by: Eva Wilsson Grinder
Typo Slab Serif
The Typo Slab Serif typeface wouldn’t be available without the great work of the Manfred Klein. A beautiful light slab serif typeface, and it’s one of the more condensed versions of the shown Slab Serifs.
Designed by: Manfred Klein Fonteria
This serif typeface is available for free download; the only requirement for using it is to send a PDF or any other copy of the work using this typefaces to its designers. Designed by Switzerland-based graphic designer, Nadia Knechtle, Nadia Serif is a clean, thin but strong slab serif font.
Designed by: Nadia Knechtle
Tertre Extra Bold
Tertre is a display/short text typeface with a wide range of applications from signage or posters to menus and pricelists; branding, packaging or publishing. The letters have no overhangs and the stroke thickness of capitals and lower case letters is identical, making hinting or anti-aliasing more uniform at any point size and zoom combination. Two weights, Extra Bold and Extra Bold Italic are available for free download and use.
Designed by: Paragraph (no link found)
Beautiful bold slab serif typeface, just great for headtitles, gives a uber-vintage look. Combined with a nice serif and it’s pure magic. This free typeface is designed by the German Typographer Dieter Steffman.
Designed by: Dieter Steffmann
Slab Tall X
And again a tall and condensed Slab Serif designed by Manfred Klein, very much like Typo Slab Serif (also from the same designer) only here the X-height is even taller.
Designed by: Manfred Klein
Alexandria is a serif font typeface created by Hank Gillete. It corresponds to the neo-grotesque sub-classification.
The possibility to upload free fonts on your website by using @font-face or Google API Fonts makes free fonts a great replacement for some of the commercial fonts. In an earlier article, The Best Free Typefaces (‘fontfamilies’), I already wrote about a couple of free fonts with a big(ger) typeface family, meaning more styles and weights you can use (even as a corporate typeface).
Free Fonts versus Commercial Fonts? The question which to use will always stay among graphic and web designers. But the possibility to have a choice in different styles, loads of characters and symbols extra and no (well, almost none) license issues means that you probably choose for a commercial typeface? What’s your opinion about this, I’ld love to hear it ..
 ~ The bracket (also known as fillet) is a curved or wedge-like connection between the stem and serif of some fonts. Brackets can have different shapes with deep or gentle curves. Brackets may taper all the way to the end of the serif or attach at a midpoint before the serif ends.
 ~ Lineale typefaces , they have less stroke contrast and are more regular in design
 ~ Not all letters have a stem, such as C or S. The vertical, non-curved portions of L, l, d, B, and p are examples of stems. H, N, and M have two stems each. Some letterforms such as y and A may have a sloped or diagonal stem.