What will the future of typography look like?

I was thinking about the changes typography/lettering/calligraphy as a whole has gone through within the ages, with all the different trends that have come and gone and come back again. Also the analogue to digitalization and now more and more web. 

I was hoping to get a view of what you think about this, where do you think typography is going? What will typography look like in the future? What will it be like in, say, 5 or 10 years? 


  • My thinking is:
    Five years forward:
    There has been a stream of hipster-aimed layered distressed fonts. The handmade wagon is deteriorating but still alive and with new layered sections. Arial will still be used for faux-OS X popups. Maybe the plain text-only ads will get better in typography as I've seen some good font usage. There will likely be a variety of fonts, and maybe a new language like "ArrestRecord" will catch on and be used to create Brush Script Neue, as Comic Neue has been done, but with realistic strokes. The main trend though is neutral fonts that are essentially tweaked Metapolated Gotham, Frutiger, and Avenir. We are going to see a nice steady of stream of cheapskates that expect prices like MyFonts using Glyphs Mini and FontForge. Also there will be combinations as striking as Gotham and Bookman Old Style.
    Twenty years forward:
    There will be many designers offering 95% discounts for 3 months to compete with the rest. By now desperate Arial-loving product inventors will be offering "Dr. Oz's Miracle Cocoa-Almond Extract for Repairing Skin! Find out the special formula millions use in this video." There will be aspiring coder-font designers building the FontLab-Glyphs-Fontforge hybrid with advanced smart-scaling/smart-interpolation feature to gain traction with the lazy crew.
  • I forgot something. In five years:
    All the head-banging, perfectionism, nudging by one unit, and procrastination has paid off. I made a font!
  • Thanks guys, interesting to read about your thoughts!

    Also, what do you think about the difference between analog/print typography and digital typography in a couple of years? Will these become more different or grow more towards each other? 
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,364
    I would imagine that screen resolution and rendering will continue to improve to a point where it is not much of an issue.  Perhaps browser standards would help but who is  going there?
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,767
    By 2020 computers that can drive a HiDPI display will no longer be high-end and will be 90+ percent of the market. By 2025 the vast majority of 72/96/120 DPI screens will have been replaced with HiDPI displays. Improvements to rasterizers will take advantage of the new screens and types made for print will do just fine on any screen. So the type will look the same across media.

    Layouts will still vary. I have no idea where they'll go because publishers and designers can't even grasp simple concepts like using one responsive web site instead of an app and an ebook and a web site. Predicting what they'll do in the next decade is hopeless, except that one can safely assume most of it will be backward and ill-informed.
  • James: ‘As the growing number of new type designers run out of ideas and look for ways to reprocess the old ones we can look forward to countless derivative fonts with octagons instead of curves, distressed outlines, ink traps, etc..

    EEEK!!! It’s a scary prospect that this all will come together! Reminds me a bit of my all-time favorite all-together scary movie:

  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,720
    I imagine screens where each pixel is a tiny piston, enabling bas-relief effects such as the mimicry of letterpress.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,364
    There will be a throwback to cursive handwriting and all type will become passé.
  • Finding it difficult to place myself in the mindset of a Japanese teenager, I never had much use for emoji. I've always preferred hand gestures and I'm especially fond of the Italian ones. But the truth is that I need only two: one for "hello" and the other for, well, something else. 

    An op-ed piece in the Sunday Review section of today's New York Times makes a case for something that will keep a lot of font designers (note that I didn't say "type designers") busy for years: emoji that are specific to national cultures. I suppose that, eventually, everyone will have their own—a Tower of Babel filled with emoji.


    Everyone here has been wondering what the future of typography will look like. I've seen it: it has a round, yellow face and its middle finger is raised high.

  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,767
    edited March 2015
    I doubt emojii will spread much beyond Japan and China. The rest of the world doesn’t have the input problems that those scripts do.
  • To be able to predict the future, one has to look at how the future was predicted in the past IMHO. Two type-related examples:

    Three years  after releasing the New Alphabet (1967) Wim Crouwel noted on the fact that the NA-concept was not restricted by historical conventions: ‘The letter-type for our time will, therefore, certainly not be based on the written or drawn examples of the past. The type which will now come into existence will be determined by the contemporary man who is familiar with the computer and knows how to live with it.’ (1)

    This statement is in contradiction with Hermann Zapf’s view on the future of type, which he described also in 1970: ‘The type of the future will surely more and more strip away the historic style elements of the past, yet without descending to a geometric-abstract form of letters. For the optical requirements remain the same so long as the letter-images are still received by the human eye […].’ (2)

    1. Wim Crouwel, ‘Type Design for the Computer Age’, Visible Language, Volume IV, Number 1, (1970) pp. 51–58 (p.53)
    2. Hermann Zapf, About Alphabets (Cambridge/Mass., 1970) p.66

    And the image below shows how our environment will look in 11 years according to Fritz Lang. I can imagine that airplanes were very modern in 1927.

  • Russell McGormanRussell McGorman Posts: 215
    edited March 2015
    The funny thing about predictions that come in the form of fanciful illustrations is that future designers look at those pictures and say, "Oh, wow, that's awesome! Let's do that." And, so now - 11 years ahead of schedule, right here in Toronto, there are condos that look just like the one in the background. (Well, almost. Same idea, but after the normal budgeting process that goes into building a building ... Big question is, how did Fritz know about condos.)

    For type design... It's been around for 550 years. I think that counts as a mature industry. The methods of production and rendering have obviously evolved - even been revolutionized lately, but at the core, what people actually need and expect as an end product isn't going to change a lot, outside of fads that shift a little one way or an other just to make type designers scramble to figure out if they are wasting they time or not. I think.
  • Ray, truer words were never said.
  • Alex KaczunAlex Kaczun Posts: 163

    It’s not that print is bad—it’s that digital is better. Digital has too many advantages. Technologies and non-verbal communications will continue to advance. And print, unfortunately, will die.

    Just think of how much easier it is to view a video rather then reading a printed manual on how to do something. Visual learning beats print learning every time. Shortly we will be able to communicate with the internet directly via mind in-plants, and the like. Information will be downloaded visually. Furthermore, as information grows in scope and complexity, paragraphs of printed information will be reduced to a single visual image. No need to read volumes of text on the events of “911”, for example, when a few select images will relate the information faster and easier.

    I suppose, that the romantics among us, will always purchase a book for pleasure. But, as time progresses and less people learn how to read even that will eventually disappear. Print had a good run. Long live the digital revolution!

    But, in case I'm wrong I'll still keep making cutting-edge typography and fonts!


  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,096
    Last month, I quit typeface design to devote myself full time to designing stickers for chat applications. I no longer have any confidence whatsoever in the current font market. Monotype's recent acquisition of a sticker company for $20-million or so, had something to do with my decision. But I think new font markets will happen soon.

    Maybe they'll be be driven by storefronts in chat applications and other social media. In Japan, the booming sticker marketplace in the Line chat application is, perhaps a sign of things to come for fonts as well. I think it's possible for an in-app social media marketplace to support fonts.

    My bet is that sort of marketplace would be a sticker/font combination where fonts are style-matched to a sticker set or theme. Like Garfield stickers where the lettering looks like Garfield comic lettering. Or perhaps a combination of sticker/font where the words become part of the sticker. For example, words appearing on a character's t-shirt, in a comic word balloon or written in mustard on a hot dog. It could be an evolution of the current sticon/sticker lookup that occurs while you're typing. For example, when you type "I'm late", the word "late" will bring up a selection of sticons/stickers with the keyword "late". In a font marketplace scenario, the content of the message might bring up a an appropriate font option such as melting letters for "I'm bored" or angry letters for "I'm pissed off." Chat messages are short so there's probably more need for display fonts that text fonts. People aren't really reading paragraphs in these things.

  • I doubt emojii will spread much beyond Japan and China. The rest of the world doesn’t have the input problems that those scripts do.

    James, you need to get out more. Or, if you're staying in, you might want to watch the infamous Chinpokomon episode of South Park--an episode that has its own Wikipedia page.

  • I'm actually guessing that the future won't look too different. Increasing screen resolutions will mean that the need for hinting and anti-aliasing will essentially disappear and the gap between page and screen will continue to shrink. Paperbacks will essentially disappear and the the print market will move even more upscale, with durable binding, nice paper, and beautiful type all growing in importance. The few printed magazines that survive will also rely on good printing and durable materials to increase collectibility.
  • Fonts will retail for a $1.00 This will be the norm.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,364
    Type designers will need second jobs as waiters to make a living.
  • joeclarkjoeclark Posts: 122
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,720
    Type designers will continue to find new ways to express the current zeitgeist in the shape of letters, and typographers and engineers will continue to find new ways to display those new letter forms.

    Barring a wholesale desertion of reading, I see no reason to fear for typography.

  • ...and by July of 2033, it'll be impossible to compose a novel that is not entirely composed of typeface names.
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,151
    "It was the best of Times, it was the worst of Times..."
  • Chris DChris D Posts: 76
    edited March 2015
    Here's my 2¢...

    I don't think things will be as bleak as some are saying here, even though some of it is probably tongue in cheek... I think the general awareness and interest in typography is increasing overall and while we're drowning in free / bargain fonts that are poorly crafted, there's also going to be a market for high end, properly designed fonts, in particular ones that are created for a specific purpose or client.

    I see programs like Glyphs helping to introduce talented graphic designers and illustrators into this complicated niche industry and creating designs that are both well made and cost effective. It's a perfect type design tool where it's not too complex to learn, but it's full featured enough for those who want to mature as professional type designers.

    Procedural design will play a big part in type design as time goes on, but it will supplement rather than overtake hand crafted typography. No matter how well you write an algorithm, it just won't have the same human touch that a crafted design will.

    Blow the dust off your Doc Martins and flannelette shirts, because I have a feeling that the 90's is just about to come back huge in the way the 80's did for 2000-2010 - You're probably going to see a bit of Bodoni and Franklin Gothic coming back, and maybe the distressed / grunge / David Carson type movement might enjoy a boom... which would be awesome frankly, those were some really inventive times for page layout. Combine that type movement with procedurally generated fonts and you will have some fantastic possibilities for type design.

    The type design community will be more competitive, but competition is always a key component for vitality and longevity - the more we have of it, the better work we do.

    Anyway I'll be bookmarking this thread, it'll be a good read in 2020!
  • Wes AdamsWes Adams Posts: 59
    edited March 2015
    I agree with Michael as to the future of print.

    Another thing that gives me pause as I consider it now is the durability of digital fonts. Whereas in previous centuries time could be relied on to turn under existing designs, vectors will preserve what we do from the 80s on.

    It also appears that as digital communication becomes more prominent, our ability to write will continue to change. When you consider manual writing's foundational role in defining typographic forms, it seems likely we will have a future in which most readers are not so familiar with the handwritten models. Most cirricula, at least here in America, do still involve handwriting lessons even if the monoline print script typically employed is a painfully tedius one. What this means for tools of the next generation is probably more reliance on procedural tools.

    As a matter of aesthetic preference, it is difficult to imagine typography's progression. Perhaps the next wave of software will bake into the process of designing the muscle memory we now lose. Frank's above comments seem prescient as does his research from what I can gather.
  • joeclarkjoeclark Posts: 122
    By the year 2030, it will be possible to compose an entire novel using only the names of typefaces

    …if supplemented by names of 1980s musical groups (the The, Let’s Active, Orchestral Manœuvres in the Dark). Put enough of those together and you’ve got a full lexicon (Dutch Type Library).
  • Russell McGormanRussell McGorman Posts: 215
    edited March 2015

    Well, if you really want to know:

    It's all light and shadows on the back of your eyeballs.

    Consider how with today’s type, both composition and comprehension are so drastically slowed by the need to put letters and words into a strict sequential order and the need to have individual sounds represented by very specific,  peculiar and fussily ordered shapes which all need to be deciphered, one weird shape after the another by some convoluted and confusing voodoo in the brain, about which nobody seems to know anything...  All before you can read a single word. Think of the investment of time and labour that goes into just learning how to make sense of it all. Think of the huge social investment in schools and fonts for dyslexics.

    In the future, written content will be in the form of amorphous blots and specs flickering and floating about in in no particular order. Screen displays will look like snow on a CRT monitor. Meaning will be conveyed telepathically by the interface, broadcaster, IP, or in the case of live chats, by the author, or a robotic facsimile. Given - not so much the pace of technological innovation, but the pace of the acceleration of the acceleration of that innovation, I estimate that, except for North Korea and certain elitist cults in the developed world,  this will effectively be the way we read and write by July, 2021. At some point between September and February of the following year, screens will no longer be necessary. The technology will exist to display the new "snow" text on your retina,  independent of any devices. But that won’t matter because Apple will have nailed down and quashed all related patents to  protect their share of the tablet and smartphone market. This will be the state of the written word and by extension, typography and type design for the next 3000 years. The same stylistic cycles, design trends and corporate branding that drive most of the font market now will continue to be a factor, so type design will continue to be the vibrant and robust industry it is today. And just as today, very few in the industry will have any idea how any of it works.    

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