Type design is evolving faster than ever – making your choice and use of type ever more challenging. Digit spoke to the industry’s type experts about the fashion for fonts in 2005.

1. What are the emerging trends in typeface design and typography?

Bruno Maag
DIN seems to be making a comeback – and it’s not in an ironic fashion. Maybe designers who were students during the first DIN fashion are now working and want to play, too? We may see more typefaces that play with character shapes within the tradition. I’m thinking of the new typeface for Channel 4, designed by Jason Smith. Tight leading and letter spacing are still all the rage. Don’t ask me why, because it’s rubbish and creates a lot of aesthetic problems.

Phil Garnham
Typographic trends are interesting. They creep up on us, they are very subliminal, you know that they’re about to kick off and then all of a sudden you’re caught up in them. Last year, we were seeing a massive rise in the use of slab serif types. At Fontsmith, we are noticing a need for rounded, curvaceous, friendly but serious typefaces. There seems to a huge amount of interest in geometric sans serif faces with the release of the Avant Garde Alternatives, and a rise in the use of Futura.

Jeremy Tankard
There has been a trend for rounded sans serifs – not as cartoon looking as VAG Rounded but in the same vein. There are lots of ‘me too’ designs: it seems that designers are afraid to push for something different for a project, or are not necessarily thinking creatively about type and what it can achieve.

Jill Bell
Because of the increasing prevalence of Unicode and OpenType, more typefaces are expanding into multi-lingual fonts, incorporating Greek, Cyrillic, Islamic, and Indian script. Textured scripts are popular, and scripts that look handwritten are in.

Sebastian Lester
Slab serifs have been making a return to favour. Life is being breathed into old classics like Rockwell and Serifa, while new slab serif designs continue to appear. Slab serifs offer similar functionality on screen and in print, and a fresher aesthetic.

Nick Hayes
We will see the widespread use of classical modern typefaces. Classical modern typefaces are fonts that are based on the classic sans serif shapes but have modern techniques and styles applied to them. A good example of this is the Alwyn typeface.

2. What is currently the most exciting use of type in print and online?

Phil Garnham
I visit the Daily Type, which is run by five Russian type designers. They post a new lettering scribble every day (www.typefaces.ru/dailytype/). It’s inspirational work that is enthusiastic and dynamic – and it contributes to people’s awareness of letters.

Jeremy Tankard
I am impressed by the use of the Aspect type for the Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand. Strategy Design (which handled the identity) have used the type in many interesting ways. Originally I wanted to produce a type that would be ‘a tool to design with’. Strategy have gone with this and handled the type as an extension of the art collection that the gallery contains. Compare it to the corporate monotony of the Tate Modern.

Sebastian Lester
I like non-format’s (www.non-format.com) approach to type. Some of their work has got a very organic ‘home made’ feel to it.

Jill Bell
Online, the use of fonts in Flash has been highly functional, effective and lends itself to some very creative typography. I find a lot of Flash typography really exciting. In print, InDesign has a great reputation for effectively handling type and creating better print documents, which is particularly relevant for neophytes.

Nick Shinn
I’m always most excited to see brilliant things done with my own fonts, such as the extensive use of Beaufort in Bird Watching magazine, in particular the way designer Trevor Ward mixes type size in the same word, and, because it's Beaufort with the infinitely sharp serifs, the sharpness is uniform. Otherwise, http://amaztype.tha.jp – not really type, but very, very strange! Not forgetting the intricate typography of the Speak Up forum – because it was always said you couldn’t do proper typography on the Web, and this proves that wrong. And: baroque decoration, taken to absurd lengths by Marian Bantjes, at Quatrifolio.com

Nick Hayes
I like the use of type as sculpture and within illustration. Designers and art directors are really starting to see the beauty of the shapes of the alphabet and creating some stunning imagery. The Music – a band from Derby – have adopted this kind of style on one of their albums, which is a great example.

3. What are the most exciting faces that have been recently created?

Bruno Maag
I’d like to refer to the Channel 4 type I mentioned before. I also think the typeface we designed with North for the Land Registry is forward looking. A lot of type designers work on quite traditional text types. Jeremy Tankard’s Kingfisher is a good example, or House Industries with their new face Paperback.

Phil Garnham
Although it has been about for some time now, I like the typeface Sauna. Which ties in with the trend for using rounded and shapely fonts. I also like Jeremy Tankard’s Aspect typeface in which he has utilized OpenType by creating an extensive ligature character set.

Jill Bell
Too many! Off the top of my head: fonts created for particular niches, such as Clearview by James Montalbano for highway signage, or even Officina by Spiekermann for office use (old news, but good news). I like Bickham in the traditional script department, by Richard Lipton. I like Escrita for the elegant, yet Wasabi quality of the script and for having initial, principle, and final letters.

Sebastian Lester
House Industries Ed Interlock is a good example of OpenType, with 1,400 ligatures and intelligent discretionary ligature features. Character sets are getting bigger too, to cater for corporate identity projects and EU expansion. Neo Sans is a good example of a typeface that has recently been developed in this way with new CE and Cyrillic character sets.

Nick Hayes
I really like the typeface we are launching this summer called Baksheesh. It really is a great typeface with a massive variation of usage. not only can it be used in body copy, it can also bring a fresh versatility to a tired branding industry.

Nick Shinn
Zapfino Extra Pro: Adam Twardoch has taken contextual alternates into another dimension. Channel 4’s new font, designed by Jason (Font) Smith. It’s so radical and un-corporate for a comprehensively used corporate face, and yet not only is it brilliantly distinctive, but also typographically solid across the range of uses.

4. In terms of type use and layout design, what would you say is the creative trend for 2005?

Bruno Maag
I am not sure that designers really should ditch traditional typographic values. Particularly not with the DDA in mind. I am being asked for advice, occasionally, on how to use type and what typeface to use, when working with corporate clients. These are of course very sensitive to the issues of inclusive design. I think this is going to be the hot topic for the next two years. And not only in print, but online, too.

Phil Garnham
I don’t think I have seen any clear layout trends emerging this year but I encourage anyone to set their type at a 45-degree angle. Just to see if you like it!

Jeremy Tankard
I would hope designers would not ditch any traditional type rules. Type is one of the simplest forms of communication. If you mess with its simplicity of structure you run the risk of reducing its prime function – to transfer information to the brain. It’s like chopping up type – designers tend to think that removing a serif here or adding something there will result in a clever new design. It doesn't. It just looks like a frankenstein font. No integrity. Far better to understand how a typeface works and build on it by using creative skill to combine the other elements of design – such as image, colour and layout.

Nick Hayes
I think it is about time that designers made a stand on the noughties decade we are in. Typographers are far ahead of their designer counterparts and they really need to catch up. Type designers are creating some wonderful advances in design, and we are let down by designers who continue to use Helvetica or Futura.

Nick Shinn
The creative trend continues to be Hel-fucking-vetica and retro modernism a lá 1960s. That’s not design, merely faux styling.

5. In what direction is type and typography developing?

Phil Garnham
Type design is getting a bit techy. With the arrival of the OpenType format there has been a huge investment into developing fonts that have special features.

Jeremy Tankard
OpenType has opened up the opportunity to include additional typographic elements such as small caps, fractions, ligatures and so on. The type designer now faces the burden of more work, and the typographer can get a font that covers a wide scope of work and uses.

Nick Hayes
Flash animation and type in film are really developing the new trends for typography and design. Type designers not only have to think of how their designs flow as a body copy but also how they can be animated on screen. This really has helped typographers create some of the best fonts around ever. I think we are on the edge of a golden age for typography here.

Nick Shinn
It's going in two directions. One is towards type as common commodity – a default where any degree of professional virtuosity in choice of typeface or typographic sophistication is perceived as counter-productive spin. The other is the continuing reinvention of the typographic tradition.

Timothy Donaldson
The biggest problem is education – except for a few voices in the wilderness, the people writing and teaching on design courses are just not aware of the importance of type.

6. Where should graphic designers be looking for inspirational use of type?

Nick Shinn
Inspiration is a personal thing, and if you go looking for it, it’s unlikely you’ll find it. All I can say is, open yourself to serendipity, move out of the rut. Similarly, I can’t tell you what fonts will work for you: all I can say is that it’s easier to work with the classics, because everyone is familiar with their capabilities – however, that makes for dull, impersonal, conformist design. Working with new typefaces is to a degree experimental, because you have to learn how to play them, and it takes time to find out what settings suit them, and how they interact with your typographic sensibility.

Bruno Maag
Generally, I’d say look around. Inspiration can be drawn from the incidental. I think there is a lot of great design in other cultures. I have seen some nice work coming out of Beirut, for example. Forms and shapes that are so different to ours that they create an interesting visual language.

Phil Garham
Inspirational type is everywhere – you just need to pick it out from all the visual noise surrounding us. www.newstoday.com and www.typophile.com are excellent online resources for posting and finding good uses of type.

Jeremy Tankard
If you’re a good designer you should know how to create and where to look for inspiration. Less bandwagon-jumping would be good. More creative thinking.

Robin Nicholas
Everywhere that type is used. The difficult part is identifying where type has been used skilfully and imaginatively.

Jill Bell
Everywhere. Historical and contemporary, at your local grocery store. And look at publications from Tokyo, at print, Web, television, and on billboards.

Timothy Donaldson
Anywhere. Everywhere. Get your antennae out. The most stimulating use of letterforms I see are often not type.

7. What advice to a designer using type creatively in 2005?

Rian Hughes
Avoid anything anyone else is doing.

Bruno Maag
Start using font specimen books. You’ll find treasure in these that will set you apart from others. And start using interesting type combinations, like Commercial Script and Univers, or Elan and Excelsior.

Jeremy Tankard
Designers should study the things they like more closely and ask themselves why they like it and how it was done. Be aware of proportion, rhythm, and size. I do this all the time. It helps open different avenues.

Jill Bell
Just do it. Always stay young, fresh, hungry, experimental whenever possible. Don’t follow trends, follow your own vision, your heart, your impulses, and your taste.

Patrick Giasson
Different is usually more interesting than trendy. Use type that you haven't seen anyone else use yet (or for a while).

Nick Shinn
Solidarity! Chances are you’re in a small business. So don’t buy your fonts from the large multi-nationals (or worse still, end up using bundled fonts), instead support your peers: licence fonts from the independent foundries of living type designers. Catch that vibe, let it inform your work, build synergy, express the here and now. Because the more typography becomes a generic, globally-uniform commodity, the easier it is for graphic artists to be low-balled, offshored, and replaced by software.

Timothy Donaldson
Learn to make your own letters. Don’t follow the herd; this can mean sometimes resisting the urge to use a ‘cool’ font. Think deeply about the job and allow it to suggest its own solution. And buy fonts.

8. Has the use of type run out of steam?

Rian Hughes
There are endless permutations on the shapes of the basic letterforms – like the three-minute pop song, we’ll never run out of new varieties. Some will be classics, others will be the type equivalent of the Birdie Song.

Timothy Donaldson
No, the use of type has not ‘run out of steam’, it is just chuffing along with a different engine. To continue the railway metaphor, type users and designers should become better educated, up to trainspotter level. Don’t just accept the few random facts that were placed before you during your education as the whole story.

Bruno Maag
Type will never run out of steam. It will change in the future. We may develop a new script system, reduce the character set, adapt to new technologies. But organized societies have a need to record and communicate. The most efficient way of doing that is via type.

Jill Bell
The type making machinery is full-throttle! Anyone and everyone can and is making fonts – not possible 100 years ago when it was a time-and money-consuming project.

Nick Hayes
I always say that there are never enough typefaces out there. With the rise of type sites on the Net and the gadgets that they adopt, such as flash movies and font testers, I feel that designers have never had it so good.

The typographic panel

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Sebastian Lester<BR>
<a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.monotypefonts.com" rel="nofollow" rel="nofollow" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">www.monotypefonts.com</a><BR>
Has been part of the Monotype team developing custom fonts for a wide range of clients including Waitrose and Opel. Helped develop the masthead for The Daily Telegraph.
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