New Year’s tends to bring a few traditions you can always count on. Champagne, Auld Lang Syne—and the inevitable yearly predictions listicles. With 2017 around the corner, we’ve been anticipating these predictions and considering how to categorize and quantify what we’ve seen in the world of typography. Our conclusion for the year: track the technology and you’ll find the trends.
There are an estimated 2 billion smartphone users in the world, and the average American spends anywhere from 5 to 11 hours per day using electronic media. Unsurprisingly, typography trends have been influenced by the challenge to increase readability, aesthetic desirability, and language-accessibility across multiple media platforms. Most people in the U.S., for example, are not only using a laptop or smartphone, but a combination of many gadgets that have access to the ever-growing Internet.
Generally speaking, predictions articles fall into one of two categories: aesthetic trends and industry or functionality trends. We’ve seen technology heavily influence both. Here are five trends that we found particularly exciting to watch this year:
1. Custom Fonts
Custom fonts were a hit this year, as tech giants created custom typefaces for their latest devices. Readability was widely debated among techies, artists, and internet-users alike. Amazon created a typeface called Bookerly to decrease eyestrain for Kindle readers. Google launched Product Sans and Apple created the typeface San Francisco for the Apple Watch. Meanwhile, new tools like Prototypo and FontArk were introduced to help typographers create custom typefaces to meet the marketing, branding, and creative needs of clients who want to keep up technologically and aesthetically with these tech giants.
2. Responsive Typography
Another trend driven by increased consumer demand for readability and accessibility, responsive typography went mainstream this year—and with good reason. Not only are we spending more time online, we are doing so across numerous platforms, often simultaneously. Anyone looking to brand, market, or share anything on the Internet is now hard-pressed to ensure that their reader can do so on their desktop, laptop, smartphone, tablet, or any other tool they may be using to access information. Responsive typography has made major strides in solving for this issue, and has become more accessible to designers who must get their message across to large and diverse audiences.
3. Personable Font Selections: Watercolor, Handwriting, Script, Grunge, and Caps
So readability and accessibility are essential. But typography is still an expressive art form. Typographers have been tasked with utilizing technology to enhance the practicality of their art, while creating work that is inventive, fresh, and beautiful. 2016 saw an increased use of watercolor, script, retro fonts, grunge, hand-lettering, and titles in all caps.
Most of these trends touch on how we are consuming—and, perhaps, feeling—about the greater technological advances. As we’ve spent more time on our phones and computers, and less time with older, more traditional types and texts, a sense of nostalgia seems to have grown. Some artists have been making their mark with handmade lettering, while others have paid tribute to the bright, whimsical signs and symbols of the pre-internet-boom 80s. In a time when many of us threaten to spend increasingly more time with machines than with one another, it seems that we’ve wanted to humanize our online text and media.
4. Innovative Fonts & Accessibility
The public response to the hand-lettering craze has been significant enough to push many designers to digitize their work. These lettering trends coupled with new font technology and availability has brought the “font game” to a new level. From small foundries to larger corporations, a number of new and exciting fonts were released this year.
Even more thrilling, artists, creatives, and entrepreneurs were busy inventing and innovating in ways that were both cross-cultural and multi-lingual. A large Norwegian study was conducted on readability for the visually impaired; Comicraft artists took on the ambitious project of inventing hand-lettered fonts in Japanese, Taiwanese, and Chinese. And two Guinean brothers hit the ground running and invented a script that would make their native language available on every smartphone. As font accessibility grows, we expect this trend in font innovation to continue.
Apple, Google, and Microsoft teamed up and launched variable fonts this September. The gathering of these tech giants marks the beginning of a new age in typography. Instead of downloading separate files for every font style and width, variable fonts allow developers to place everything in one, highly optimized file. We are eager to see how and when this trend will grow, and whether it will go mainstream in 2017.
Because that, after all, is the question of the hour: What will happen in 2017? What do we anticipate? What will take us by surprise? What trends are you seeing? What have we missed? Where will the technology and our typography take us next? Let us know! And—
Happy New Year from all of us at Extensis.
Want to learn more about type trends? Check out Getting Free Fonts From Google Fonts.