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.
This year we had the pleasure of interviewing type designers, foundry founders, art directors, educators, calligraphers, graphic designers, hand-letterers, and more. Our 4 Questions 4 series showcased these ultimate typographical innovators and some of their stories. We asked each artist four questions, and they shared what led them to typography, which trends they were admiring, the projects in which they took the most pride, and their dream projects.
As 2016 draws to a close, we want to celebrate the project by thanking our 4 Questions 4 contributors, and sharing a few of their excellent responses.
1. How did you originally get interested in typography and design?
“I used to make little teen magazines as a kid – tiny folded spreads about the Jackson 5 and the Partridge Family.” – Gail Anderson
Many of our interviewees are like Anderson; they’ve been involved with art and typography since a young age. Going back through all of our 2016 interviews, we are inspired by the number of grandparents, teachers, and friends who encouraged our budding type-stars.
Roger Black’s dad was an architect. “While grounded in history,” Black said, “my father was an individualist, and he said that good designers should have their own styles.” Alejandro Lo Celso’s father and grandfather were architects, too, and his grandmother was a calligrapher. Of his early influences, he said: “it came naturally.” Even for those designers who did not necessarily have artistically inclined families, early exposures and positive encounters with art were important motivators. Dan Rhatigan recalled: “Although I thought I wanted to draw comic books when I was growing up, my time helping with my high school newspaper really exposed a much greater love for design and playing with type.”
2. What typography trends are you loving these days?
“Hand lettering…. We live in such a digital world nowadays that anything made with evidence of the human hand has become something special.” – Alexandra Snowdon
Many of our 4Q4 artists expressed a sentiment similar to Snowdon’s. The rise of hand lettering has been an exciting trend to follow, admire, and practice. Some of our interviewees explained it as a response to the internet boom; others cited improvements in web type and technology. “Web typography is no longer just trying to imitate print, but is developing into a culture of its own,” said Shoko Mugikura and Tim Ahrens. And Ludwig Übele rejoiced in aesthetic and functional typographic innovations. “The quality of use releases creative energies!” Übele exclaimed. Jackson Cavanaugh also acknowledged that graphic designers have been more committed to creative type. “Designers are looking for more expression and authenticity,” Cavanaugh said, “and this is opening the door for some people doing really interesting (and great) work.”
Our foundry founders and type makers chimed in as well. As a font creator, David Berlow considered his relationship with trends. “As a tool maker,” Berlow considered, “I love what I’m making for others to use, and when I let it go, I love the next one.” According to Berlow, trends are for those consuming his work to decide, while he moves on to the next creation. Alejandro Lo Celso summed up Berlow’s ideas saying, “A typeface you publish is like a daughter that leaves home and makes her own path. One day she comes back home with a boyfriend… and who knows if you’ll like him.”
3. Which of your projects are you most proud of thus far in your career, and why?
From window displays to experimental multicolored designs, our interviewees had ample projects to be proud of. The range of creations were impressive, and the reasons to consider them fondly were even more endearing. A few of our artists were proud of the project that most challenged them. Kyle Bean described a highlight of his career by saying: “It was an amazing experience, but also kind of terrifying.” Bean wasn’t alone in embracing fear to create an unforgettable product. Chank Diesel is most proud of his Liquorstore font, which was used on the cover of the Hunger Games and Zodiac Legacy books, “because it’s taken a long time to mature but it looks stronger than ever now.”
The struggle and the pride that comes with tackling a challenge were echoed throughout many interviews. Laura Worthington talked about Charcuterie, which she designed in 2013. “Very few collections were out at the time, and the concept of a collection was still very new,” Worthington said. She described Charcuterie’s launch as a huge risk, but one she continues to take pride in.
Artists are innovators, and innovation is driven not only by talent, but also by a willingness to take a risk, and step into the unknown.
4. Describe your dream project.
“Hi, it’s Costa Rica calling. Would you mind coming over for some weeks to design a new typeface for our tourist board? We have a beautiful apartment for you at the sea.” – Ludwig Übele
Our artists’ dreams ranged from redesigning the information system on Germany’s highway to working with the Detroit Red Wings hockey team. Other artists were nostalgic, dreaming of finishing the first typeface they ever designed. However, on the whole, most were either content in the present or eagerly looking forward to the future. Roger Black was especially enthused about his present work. “It’s always the current project!” he said proudly. Mark Simonson felt similarly saying, “I don’t think I have a ‘dream project.’ I’ve always tended to follow my interests wherever they might lead.” David Carson mentioned enjoying projects that give him creative freedom, or a new topic or audience, but he agreed that he’s done some of his “dream jobs” already. Our future-facing artists dreamed of working with large design-conscious brands and good-hearted non-profits alike; they were excited to produce work across a series of platforms, and to get into the details of typesetting.
Others dreamed of travel, guided by their passion for type. “My dream project starts with: ‘And so we’re sending you to Italy for a few months…’ Enough said.” We think so, too, Anderson.
We wish each of our 2016 interviewees good luck on their current projects, dream projects, and beyond. From those who felt “inside the dream” to the artists on the brink of the next best thing, we are grateful for your tenacity and creativity and look forward to all that you will accomplish in 2017!
An announcement last week has pretty much rocked the type development world.
An update to the OpenType specification (v1.8) was announced at a typography industry event in Warsaw, Poland called ATypI. Didn’t make it to Warsaw for the conference? Here’s a video recording of the session.
While the release of a new specification might not seem like earth-shattering news, the inclusion of “variable fonts,” and the partnership of the big players to make it happen was big news. Microsoft, Apple, Adobe and Google all came together to make the specification something that they could all get behind.
So what exactly are “variable fonts?”
Variable fonts can be changed along multiple “axes” – by weight, width, optical size, slant or italic. These settings can be set by YOU, the designer.
What this means is you can implement a font, say on a website, and only need to implement one font, rather than multiple faces, to get the job done. In current web development, for example, you need to script in a normal, bold, italic and bold-italic font files to cover the typical weights required in body copy. In the future, with a “variable font” you will use one font file and specify how the font needs to vary for each text element.
The result is a faster websites for your readers, and the gratitude of your IT department as your web hosting costs go down. Mic drop, slow clap, walking away from an explosion, yada yada.
What shall these the new fonts be called?
If you know the type development community, you already know that there are bound to be a wide variety of opinions.
Let’s nip this in the bud and agree to immediately stop calling variable fonts “super fonts”. Please.
— Nick Sherman (@NickSherman) September 18, 2016
Of course, we might end up having different foundries calling them different things (Variable Fonts, Dynamic Fonts, Super Fonts, Modern Multiple Master, who knows). In the end you can be sure that you’ll be getting a better product that comes in a smaller file size – no matter what the name.
Extensis Support of Variable Fonts
The main technological needs to support of these files comes from the major players who are already onboard – Microsoft, Google, Apple and Adobe. As support begins to be implemented, Extensis font managers will inherit much of their support naturally through OS support. We will also of course fully test and update our applications to meet the demands of the new formats.
We are also keenly interested in responding to the needs of the creative community as they evolve.
So, what features would be most helpful to you? Sliders in Suitcase Fusion and Universal Type Client that show the different variations possible? Specific metrics required reported in Extensis apps so that you can get the best results in your designs? You tell us.
We want to know what you think – drop us a line in the comments below.
There has been a bunch of interest in this topic in the type design community and beyond. Check out these other articles:
- John Hudson’s detailed article on Medium
- Typekit blog
- Microsoft’s overview
- Discussion on TypeDrawers
- Matthew Butterick’s takedown
- Typographica’s commentary
- David Berlow of Font Bureau gives his support
- Web typography guru Jason Pamantal reviews the changes
- Designmodo’s intro for web designers
- Viljami Salminen’s ntroduction including code examples
September 6th, 2016 by Extensis
There are number of common challenges all teams face when it comes to sharing and managing fonts. Suitcase TeamSync allows you to curate and distribute your font library automatically across your entire team.
This new cloud-based font server makes professional font management easy so you can focus your time and energy on doing great work.
An on demand version of our latest webcast introducing TeamSync is available to watch. Check it out:
International versions of this webcast will be hosted in September, join us on the time zone and language that are most convenient for you, or register to get the recording sent to your email:
- Date: September 8th, 2016
- Time: 11:00 a.m. BST – British Summer Time / British Daylight Time
- Presented by: Chris Stevens
- Register here.
- Date: September 14th, 2016
- Time: 2 p.m. CEST – Central European Summer Time
- Presented by: Jean-Michel Laurent
- Register here.
- Date: September 15th, 2016
- Time: 11:00 a.m. CEST – Central European Summer Time
- Presented by: Torsten Koebel
- Register here.
Hope you can join us!
August 10th, 2016 by Extensis
In a recent What’s New in Publishing article Jim Kidwell, Senior Product Marketing Manager from Extensis, takes a closer look on how typography is trending in today’s society and what it means for publishers.
What’s New in Publishing is a United Kingdom news portal focused on the Publishing industry and reports on innovative solutions; case studies and success stories relevant to publishers worldwide.
In Jim’s own words: “If you’ve been in business more than a few months, you’ve likely been building up quite a collection of fonts. Average solo design professionals have around 4,000 fonts in their collections, and the average business can easily have many multiples of that baseline number.”
Sounds familiar? In the full article Jim highlights how the increasing number of fonts launched to the market daily is increasing the number of challenges publishers and designers are facing with managing their font libraries… And, how to best deal with it!
Read the full article here: http://www.whatsnewinpublishing.co.uk/content/beyond-fad-typography-mainstream
Choosing the right font style can be a time-consuming and difficult challenge. Typography experts estimate that there are over 30,000 font families to choose from. Yikes!
So…how do you find the RIGHT font/typeface in an endless sea of options? Some basic guidelines might help.
April 29th, 2016 by Joe Spencer
Handwriting fonts are everywhere these days. Designers love the organic aesthetic they convey and consumers respond to them on a personal level because of their handmade, human quality.
Examples of handwriting (also known as handwritten, cursive, or script) fonts
But did you know that modern handwriting evolved because of the Fall of the Roman Empire? When the Romans succumbed to invading barbarian hordes, widespread plague, and political corruption, the educated world experienced a major lull in literary and cultural works.
An Italian poet and writer named Petrarch labeled this period “The Dark Ages” and began to campaign for a form of writing that was infinitely more “simple” and “clear” than the ornate Gothic lettering which was popular with the ruling class at the time.
On April 21st, the world mourned the loss of Prince Rogers Nelson, one of the most prolific and successful musicians in history. Prince sold over 100 million albums during his remarkable career that spanned four decades. Though he was clearly influenced by legends like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jimi Hendrix, and James Brown, Prince was always completely unique and creative in his artistic expression as well as the way he chose to live his life. There will never be another Prince.
You might be familiar with Prince because of his long list of hit songs like When Doves Cry, Kiss, or Let’s Go Crazy. Or maybe you first became aware of his genius during his breathtaking performance at the Super Bowl. Though he achieved mainstream success, he never conformed to trends or pandered to his fans. His music was complex, moody, and singular—much like the man himself.
I’m not a woman, I’m not a man, I am something that you’ll never understand.
In 1993, Prince legally changed his name to this symbol to protest what he believed was a Draconian clause in his contract with Warner Brothers. The Love Symbol, as he called it, was a combination of the male and female symbols and represented liberation from corporate control as well as societal norms regarding sexuality and gender.
“The only acceptable replacement for my name, and my identity, was the Love Symbol, a symbol with no pronunciation, that is a representation of me and what my music is about.” -Prince,1993
TechDirt recently uncovered a story that, while amusing, does point directly to how typography directly relates any entity’s branding – band, company, non-profit, etc.
The punk band Misfits recently sent a cease and desist order to the Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market demanding that they stop using a font that the band considered too close to the typeface used in their logo.
A somewhat humorous exchange of letters between lawyers ensued, that was more than a bit akin to name calling.
In the end, it seems that the Misfits have declined to pursue their claim.
Yet, this does underscore the power that a typeface can have. It’s understandable that many organizations work with type foundries to build their own custom typefaces.
Most people know Times New Roman as it’s pre-installed on most computers. Yet, originally it was created for the British newspaper, The Times as the distinctive typeface for the newspaper.
Some brands choose a typeface and own it for their branding. For example, it’s hard to separate Myriad Pro from the recent decade or more of Apple marketing.
If you’re interested in building your own custom typeface, while it doesn’t come cheap, it can definitely be worth it.
What typeface have you adopted as your own?
Fonts are a critical element of every publishing workflow—improperly licensed fonts can quickly derail any creative project. But many creative professionals are still unaware that fonts are licensed just like any piece of software and covered by various laws like intellectual property, trademarks, and copyrights. More than ever before, it’s imperative that creative teams have the current and correct information about best practices in font management.
Extensis surveyed a wide variety of industry leaders and discovered the most common issues with font compliance.
Here’s a scary finding- more than half the designers surveyed bring personal fonts into the office, one of many ways unlicensed fonts can enter your workflow. This not only poses legal and financial risks, but can lead to serious layout and design issues. Document reflow issues can chip away at the profits, and will squelch the creative spirit out of design teams who put their hearts into their work.
If you’re not sure if you are at risk, or simply want to prevent your organization from facing problems, we’ve created a new Best Practices Guide for Font Compliance in Publishing. The guide identifies the risks and consequences, and most importantly, what you can do to avoid them.
Want to safeguard your organization? Get the Font Compliance in Publishing Best Practices Guide here.