Posted by Megan Lane Patrick on Friday, May 16, 2014 - 00:00
No designer wants to be a copycat, but adding a twist to current typography trends can lead to original work. Here are five sources of inspiration ready to be taken to the next level.
There's no better way to discover the latest typography trends than to look at a whole lot of design work all at once. You'll soon start to see patterns and styles repeated over and over again. After doing the first-round of judging for more than 3,000 entries (and counting) for Print Magazine's 2014 Regional Design Annual, the most comprehensive survey of design in the United States, I've started noticing some distinct trends that have taken hold in print and web design over the last 12 months.
1. Distressed Fonts
The grungy style that first became popular in the early 90s is making a comeback. Similar to the trend toward handwriting fonts, distressed type adds an element of the handmade to things like beverage labels and restaurant menus, and the websites for those types of products and businesses.
2. Layered Type
Another early 90s trend that originally rose and fell with the groundbreaking magazine Ray Gun is type that is so layered that it becomes nearly unreadable. This is a tricky trend to do well, but it creates a great sense of energy and infuses designs with an avant-garde sensibility that can be appropriate for clients like dance companies, theaters or other arts organizations.
3. Handwriting Fonts
Fonts that mimic the look of handwriting or hand lettering lend a more authentic feel to designs, especially websites. Hiring a lettering artist doesn't always fit into the budget, so these fonts allow designers to create a similar aesthetic for a much lower cost.
4. Chalkboard Fonts
This trend has just about reached its saturation point. Unless you've hired famed chalkboard lettering artist Dana Tanamachi-Williams, using a font that mimics her style won't look original. But that's no reason not to try adding your own twist to this kind of aesthetic. What if you went outside and used real chalk on a real sidewalk and photographed the result?
5. Hipster Fonts
These fonts are usually thick and quirky or super thin and look hand drawn. They often come with a selection of dingbats that include arrows, bicycles and, of course, mustaches. They impart a very contemporary feel to design work, but must be used carefully to avoid looking too "trendy."
The trick to making a typography trend work for you and your clients is to add your own unique spin. Designing a label for a new craft beer? Look at the competition and see how you can make your design stand out. A lot of beer labels use very bold fonts, often distressed or "hand lettered" to look authentic. Instead of a strictly typographic approach, could you include an original illustration in the design? What about going with clean type but including the real signature of the brew master? Using the best parts of multiple trends can lead to a whole new look that you can call your own.
Related post: Comic Neue Teaches an Old Font New Glyphs
Megan Lane Patrick is the former editor of HOW magazine and has been writing about typography and design for more than 15 years.