Typography transforms words from mere text to artful communication. So much can be said by the font & type design – from prominent, bold san-serif fonts to delicate serifs. From traditional, timeless variations to totally new techniques.
Typography’s prominence in modern culture and business was influenced by the Bauhaus art movement. Herbert Bayer was a student of Bauhaus and left a prominent mark on typography by adopting the principles of reductive minimalism.
Another artist, Jan Tschichold wrote Die Neue Typographie – The New Typography. The book was published in 1928, and called “a masterpiece of the modern typography and graphic design.” This book helped standardize and modernize communication styles that affected many designers and advertisers.
While the strong roots were laid early in the 20th century, the explosion of digital graphics mediums and designers themselves has allowed for a wide array of amazing ideas and evolution. Some ideas are simply fads, while others are trends that are here to stay. We’ve highlighted what we see as the top typography trends for 2021.
1. Svelte Serif Fonts
Serif fonts are, of course, timeless – and so they appear back on the trend map when they’re used in a new, modern way. With a juxtaposition of slim and bold elements, we’re seeing classical serif fonts make their way back into designs as a persistent trend. Adored by beauty and DTC brands especially, the style offers a soft aesthetic that can work across many industries. We welcome this as a breath of fresh air against the overuse of sans-serif in recent years.
Our examples show elegant pairings of svelte serif fonts with earthy colors that soften the overall vibe. LOFF Wellness uses a prominent svelte serif font overlaid on a beautiful storefront shot. The playful text alignment works perfectly with this font as well.
Neubel, themselves a font foundry, use a soft and elegant color pallet and overlay the text on contrasting artwork for a bold statement.
Design agency Autumn shows the power of visual hierarchy paired with confident typography and simple shapes. With a minimalist aesthetic and simple implementation, their home landing page evokes earthy strength.
2. Outline Fonts
In contrast with svelte serif fonts, we have the powerful presence of outline fonts. Just as the name states, outline fonts are totally transparent in the middle, with varying line thickness on the outer edges. Outline fonts have made a big appearance in 2020 and we expect to see more of the same in 2021. The transparency is extra powerful when aligned next to bold, filled-in fonts as well.
Envato’s Senior Designer Sophie Dunn says of outline fonts, “They’re modest and elegant in the way they hold their space, and ideal for making a statement that doesn’t shout from the rooftops. It’s the perfect pairing of confidence and class.” We agree that they are at once bold and confident, yet transparent and approachable at the same time.
Our examples show outline fonds prominently taking center stage in the web designs. Heetch uses a blue-violet outline font on top of a solid sans-serif of the same color for a bold contrast.
Aldo uses shades of the Pantone color of the year for their Step Into Love campaign. With the campaign centered around confidence and expression, the bright yellow brings that feeling front and center. The outline font is a great choice here to let the bold yellow shine through. Japanese designer Ukyo Masuda rounds out this group with a neutral gray color palette that nonetheless is brought to life by the creative svelte-serif outline font.
3. Evolved Brutalist
If you’re looking to create visual tension and a break from standard web design, brutalist typography combined with modern brutalist elements gets the job done. The clear, raw, slightly retro design of brutalist fonts is modernized to become what we call ‘evolved brutalist.’ In the evolved version, the harsh elements are softened and combined with a variety of color palettes and shapes, figures real and imagined.
Our examples show different variations and combinations of evolved brutalist. Green Meadow reminds us of Dropbox’s new design launch. Confusing to many with its bold, dark colors, and harsh fonts choice. It works well here for Green Meadow, and the experience evolves as you scroll through their page.
Porter Packaging has a strong, clear message upfront stating what they do and who they work with. The packaging industry they’re in strongly connects with the color palette used.
Nathan Taylor uses a lot of experimental elements and interactivity. The entire design is brutalist, not just the font. This is a great demonstration of more chaotic brutalism, but the modern elements make this feel refined and evolved.
4. Text Layering with Other Elements
When clients say they want something to pop, this is what they mean. What was once just a Photoshop trick is now making an appearance on more established sites. By arranging the text and images in a layered way, with intention, the whole page pops. This combination makes it very clear where the focal point is – not the text or the image, but both. It allows the user to pause for a second and take it all in, before the scroll.
We’re seeing a lot of text layering with other elements like images and illustrations and love the look.
These examples are the most fun yet. The cinematic feeling as soon as you land on the Mammut Baikal page is powerful. The motion of the image and the Baikal text is interwoven with the human to make you feel like you’re part of the experience. It’s almost as if the screen is shouting at you.
German branding agency MJND has a much simpler layering composite, but the feeling of adventure is still very prominent. This design is much more approachable for those working with text and images.
Owlsome Studio makes the typography much more prominent, and layers a smaller square image behind. This is an alternative to the other two examples, yet can be impactful in its own way as it breaks the status quo of the web.
5. Text-image Blending
One step further than text layering is text-image blending – where the text becomes enmeshed with the image itself and the two are inseparable. This gives the image a really premium feel and makes you pay attention. Instead of a combination of layers of text and images, they are becoming one and the same. It starts to become difficult to see where the photo ends and the typography begins.
We love the creative expression this format allows, with endless combinations available. Satellite414 uses transparent outline text that truly becomes part of the photo. It’s dynamic, modern, and fresh all at once.
Kieran Baybutt allows typographical domination, with the text fully taking over the hero images. This makes the text portions just as important, if not more, than the typical shots – an interesting dynamic. Craig Reynolds also allows images and text to slide in and out of combinations, merging them together, causing the user to pause and pay attention for once.
6. New Psychadelic
The new Psychadelia vibe is a retro throwback to groovy colors blended with a modern twist. It draws from psychedelic designs of yesteryear.
The radical social upheaval from the 1960s through 1970s brought with it transformation new art and design. The influence of psychedelics was clearly apparent in that era, and we’re seeing a new wave of that today. Wes Wilson was an important designer from that era, creating a new font that became a symbol of the area – the famous melting psychedelic design.
Victor Moscoso brought bright colors to his typographically-heavy designs, which have influenced modern-day neon color palettes as seen in the examples.
Zeus Jones is a perfect example of the trends we’re seeing more of – an assortment of vivid colors across the spectrum, combined in a dreamlike way with typography italicized and placed to bring communication clarity to the flowing gradients.
Charlie Le Maignan gives us a hilariously retro font that expands and collapses on the pages. In addition, we get a trippy cascading rainbow of text in the Showreel section, reminiscent of albums from the 1970s and songs of dropping acid.
St. Martin Agency brings us a lava lamp of joy and emotion in the bedazzling scene. The typography plays well with the background – a juxtaposition of simplicity and endlessly complex colors.
7. Bold Modern Serif Fonts
This one isn’t totally new for 2021, but the classic bold, modern serif treatment of typography continues to evolve with new looks.
One new change, is we’re seeing bold serif fonts totally taking over the screen and making a statement more often. The text is the entire design in many cases, and bold modern serif fonts do the trick. In a world full of paywalls, endless feeds, and too much dopamine, the simplicity evoked in this trend is welcomed.
Spline uses black on red for a really strong statement, and fully uppercase text to build on the power. For a firm trying to evoke skill, confidence, and authority, the combination works well.
Orto keeps it simple but takes the grandeur to another level. The oversized, bright typography just forces you to pay attention and dive deeper.
Pizza Pizza also uses bold sans-serif typography paired with the universally useful red and black palette to show you aggressiveness and fearlessness.
8. Cyberpunk & Vaporware
Perhaps one of the most divisive ideas is the cyberpunk and vaporware aesthetic. A vague combination of computers, video games, and 1980s pop aesthetic come together in some weird, mesmerizing combination.
The 80s were the beginning of digital gaming and the new wave of computers. Cyberpunk and vaporware designs are variations of retro-futuristic 80s designs. As computers and AI evolves, we may see new blends of typography and aesthetics to match.
Next Big Thing Academy clearly has its eyes to the future. While the font choice here isn’t anything extreme, it fits in overall with the retro-futuristic aesthetic.
Buoy also doesn’t use any drastically innovative fonts, but the overall pairing of imagery with typography fits in with this trend.