Will digital fonts ever enter the retro fashion cycle?

Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,078
edited November 2020 in History of Typography
The retro fashion cycle includes type.
  • art nouveau was popular in the 1960's
  • art deco returned in the 1970's
  • 1950's type showed up in the new wave 1980's
  • 1960's interpretations of art nouveau returned in the 1990's as well as a the 3rd Cooper Black wave and 1970's industrial as techno
  • 1970's Avant Garde (still popular in the 80's) returned in the 2000's along with geometrics like Pump
  • 2010's 8-bit look? Not sure if the retro cycle happened for type in the 2010's
  • 2020's?
I know fashion doesn't adhere to precise decade boundaries but if you look at album covers and movie posters from the mid twentieth century on, it's pretty easy to see some kind of retro trend for type. But so far, this cycle has mainly dealt with pre-digital typefaces.

Will digital type designs will get pulled to the cycle? Have they already? The 8-bit look is certainly one case that's already happened. By digital type designs, I don't mean digital interpretations of pre-digital typefaces. Obviously they used digital Cooper Black and Avant Garde. I mean original digital type designs like Industria and Museo. I'm more interested in overall trends rather than individual cases. 

Does anyone else ponder these things when they should be sleeping or is it just me?

Edit: just remembered a quirk about retro fashion. Things seem to have to fall out of use before they can make a comeback. When I was teenager in the late 1980's it was the paisley underground scene. The 60's polyester paisley shirts and peace sign belt buckles that littered thrift shops in the 70's were now hard to get and came with higher price tags. But most digital type never fell out of use so maybe that's the reason we haven't see a revival yet.


  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,322
    I think part of the problem is that there are so many more new faces generated today than prior times that they fly by and never get to the point of saturation.
    But then again, I am not "a dedicated follower of fashion" ;-)
  • There’s already a Y2K aesthetic revival movement starting. Metalheart is coming back, too. I think we’re going to start seeing those 1995-2005 display fonts from Typodermic and Device popping up again. The kids are getting sick of the geometric sans trend that’s been going on for most of their lives (Neutraface came out way back in 2002!) and they’re starting to explore other ideas.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,685
    edited November 2020
    (First off, Industria was a pre-digital design.)

    I would expect some smart alec irony first—a vogue for horizontally scaled distortion and faux bolding, Papyrus and Comic Sans shedding scorn. 

    When you look at the c.1990s faces that MoMA acquired, there doesn’t seem to be a stylistic commonality, as there was with those other movements you mentioned. Perhaps the deconstructed look of Fudoni and Caustic Biomorph would be more DTP-ish. That genre might also include the FF Dirty types, like the Trixie distressed typewriter font. 

    Or Licko’s pre-Filosfia reductive styles like Matrix and Base, as a quite different representative genre, that might also include Template.

    Let’s not forget Neuropol and the rave scene!

    I would imagine that the era will settle down in our collective memory and distill into one iconic “look”, but which?

  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,078
    edited November 2020
    I'd forgotten that Industria was pre-digital. 23 years isn't a hard rule but right now we should have already experienced an Emigre revival, especially the ones that even non-designers would likely recognize as 1990's like Exocet, Platelet, Senator, Triplex, Dead History, Template, Variex, Mason, Base and Dogma. And the Brodies like FF Blur, Tyson, Harlem. We should already be knee deep in it.

    What's the name of that blurry font that was everywhere in the 90's? It was mix of blurry and sharp, not FF Blur, the other one.
    Let’s not forget Neuropol and the rave scene!
    I try not to think about it too much...my earliest fonts are nearing 25. It seems like only a couple of years ago I was watching a Nick Shinn presentation at the type club in Toronto.
  • I think static digital fonts will be as retro in the future as metal type today. Fonts seem to become more and more adaptive liquid rather than concrete outlines.
  • What do you mean “will they ever”?
  • Ever enter? You mean ever leave?
  • Jess LathamJess Latham Posts: 26
    edited November 2020
    I think about this all the time. Some of my fonts have or will be turning 20 years old and I wonder if the kids will start using them in a "these are so bad" ironic sort of way.

    That did actually happen on an episode of Girls. They used my free font Stereolab and some other 90s rave looking fonts to spell Girls during the intro.

    I've been looking back on a lot of the early-mid 90s aesthetic and it was a lot of fun. The world needs a little fun right now.

    I noticed bring myspace back was trending on twitter yesterday. Do a google image search for myspace aesthetic, it's so wrong but so good.
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,078
    What do you mean “will they ever”?
    I mean they haven't yet in a significant way and maybe they won't. You can find isolated examples but nothing close to the visual impact that happened with pre-digital type from the 1960's to 2000's.
  • Windsor and similar faces have been trendy in recent years.
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,078
    edited November 2020
    @Dave Crossland That aligns with the mid 70's revival that happened 23 years ago. Hanson's MMMBop was 1997 and it was in the bell bottoms/platform shoes revival era. But Windsor, Souvenir etc. were pre-digital designs. I'm talking about new typefaces that were created after 1990 and were contemporary designs like most of the Emigre faces.

  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,322
    My guess is that Eric's Meta will be one to come back.
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