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Monotype Releases 2021 Type Trends Report

by Rudy Sanchez on 04/12/2021 | 4 Minute Read

The typography experts at Monotype have released their latest Type Trends report, looking at where designers are going and how those creative decisions are informing type choices. Monotype’s 2021 Type Trends report highlights some of the best applications of typography in design from the past year, and they see a creative community looking to typefaces and styles from the past to communicate a new, dynamic present with work getting applied in digital, virtual, and mixed spaces.

Varying widths and dynamic mixes of typefaces that harken back to avant-garde typography and Paula Scher’s work for NYC-based Public Theater in the 90s are rising in popularity, with designers recreating the same effect aided by variable font technology. Combined with other digital tools such as animated frames, data tools, and open-source code, fonts are coming alive in new ways inspired by the past.

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Brands have slowly been dipping their toes into augmented and virtual reality technology. But the approach so far has given the impression of a prevailing attitude that the physical (or “real”) world and the digital realm are separate spaces. A global pandemic has forced a new understanding, where our reality plays out across layers of screens, computers, and meatspace. Typography in AR and VR spaces plays a vital role in designing “The Matrix,” of Zoom calls, Pokemon Go, and the Oculus Rift that we now occupy.

Trends will come and go, burning bright but extinguishing just as quickly. Others become lingerers, often starting as something distinct from the crowd to eventually becoming commonplace. Monotype now sees brands move away from types like Avenir and Gotham towards typography with a more human touch, using the familiar geometric humanist base and adding slight “imperfections” and manipulations, lending some personality and soul through type.

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In contrast to designers adding a human touch to typography to better tell a brand’s story, others are blowing up fonts unbounded, using the elements, angles, and shapes of fonts to express their personality. Rather than use type choice subtly, some brands are amplifying type to convey confidence and strength.

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Using typography with a sense of craft, rustic scripts, and letterforms evocative of local markets and specialty shops is another way brands lend a human touch to their identity. In addition to thawing the coldness of geometric types, choices like Hylandia, Morning, and Rockland also add a sense of sustainability to brand identities.

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Another trend Monotype sees among brands is the use of fun, quirky, and more empathetic and expressive typography, like JKR’s recent redesign of Burger King. Applying round fat curves, organic shapes, and fluid forms is another design trend that aims to communicate humanity. However, nostalgia isn’t a trend in and of itself. There are nods to the past, some more obvious than others, and in 2021, visual staples of the 80s and 90s are now vintage cool. You can see this in the “R wars” trend Monotype has identified. Designers are taking elements like R’s leg and extending them, much like Suzy Rice did for the Star Wars wordmark. Examples include meal kit company Hello Fresh and wellness brand Ripe.

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Additionally, designers using the technology of the pre-information age pushed the computers they had as far as they technically could to create expressive, imaginative work. Using sharp lines, blocky shapes, and pronounced angles, the sense of retro-futurism of the 80s is getting cultivated by forward-thinking brands for the 2020s and making it their own.

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Lastly, Monotype sees a new, indirect use of Helvetica, taking the geometric purity and brutalism of the type design and applying it in a way it describes as “measured austerity.” It’s designing by not designing, by using a minimal touch. It’s practical, looks homebrewed, and mixes only a few design choices. Measured austerity is a punk rock approach that screams, “I have better things to do than dress up for you,” a visual middle finger that’s cool because it doesn’t want to be.

To explore the full 2021 Monotype Type Trends report, visit Monotype.com/type-trends.

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