Generally speaking, the foundry says that “what emerges is a kind of struggle between our rapidly digitizing way of life and an equally strong desire for something tangible”. It plays out through the frontier push type on the one hand, which uses cutting edge technology to align and advance modern devices and platforms on the one hand. On the other, “a return to the familiar and comfortable letters of past decades”, as Monotype says, “driven by a desire for authentic connection in a world that we experience more and more through screens”.
The trends report is broken down into several key themes that Monotype has seen to be on the rise when it comes to typographic approaches and aesthetics or anticipate an increase this year and in the years to come. These themes include variable speed, tactile type, virtual is reality, culture of contrast and the hand was there. The latter is linked to the trend for hand-drawn lettering and wood-blocked textures – “type that evokes the nostalgia of your lunchtime stroll at the food market, hand-painted street-food signs and storefronts. mom-and-pop, reminders of the human experience that we covet so much back home, “says Monotype. The foundry adds:” In a fully digital world, it’s no surprise that people are looking for something new again. warm, familiar and human. “
Obviously, a key part of this trend is nostalgia – the idea of humanity and comfort told through letters. We chatted with Phil Garnham, senior director of the creative type at Monotype, about the type’s nostalgia: why he’s so popular right now, brands capitalizing on and what exactly a “retro” type family is.
There is so much nostalgia in the air. Why do you think it is?
It is certainly an interesting time for creatives. Zoom has pushed the Creative Day into increasingly focused time windows to “do” creation “hands-on”, and there is less social interaction within creative teams. Our domestic / professional life also straddles this border between on / off, rest / work; comfort meets deadlines. Could this lead to a fall-back mentality? I don’t really know, but the trends in brand typography seem a bit circular right now.
We have such a rich typographic heritage, and it has always been a source for new interpretations of type, re-modeling and revamping. Still, there’s certainly a feeling that brands think of the guy in a more directly nostalgic form. It could also be a step back from the ‘digital’ type geometric aesthetic that has dominated for nearly two decades.
Can you give us some recent examples of campaigns or brand identities?
The most remarkable example is obviously that of JKR Burger King name change, which has that ‘soft-serve’ aesthetic, but many others are moving in that direction … Fisher-Price, Mailchimp, Dunkin and Tentree also continue this trend towards the soft serifs of the 1920s. In the creative tech industries with brands like Twitch, Tweag, and Dreamhack, we see more of the 8-bit minimalism of the 1980s with “Blockheads” – it’s a type reminiscent of the ZX Sinclair and Atari era. Brands are now starting to harness the creative and practical benefits of variable font technology. This results in a type reminiscent of avant-garde wood typography, where a mixed-width type case has been slammed and inked. Paula Scher’s work for the Public Theater in New York in the 90s also revived this trend.
What type do you see, over and over again, following this theme?
Our recent type trends report really dug into what agencies are currently doing with type across all kinds of verticals and geographies. Before the report, we felt things were moving forward, but we really didn’t know how much. Our report highlights that brands today are seeking more distinction and authenticity in tone of voice than ever before. In a locked world, brands have limited exposure to rectangular devices, and many brands follow familiar patterns and themes.
Typing digitally is reading, and fonts are a big part of conveying the brand’s tone and creating that subliminal memorization. Brands know they have to brave to stand out, and our Trends Report highlights how brands seek to create more distinctive typography, and in doing so, imbue that sense of nostalgia. And maybe it only sounds nostalgic because of the context. We have cultivated our minds to accept the geometric sans as “digital”: we are not conditioned to read the serifs of the 1920s as “digital”. It doesn’t seem out of place, but that’s probably where its impact lies.
Do you see a wave of nostalgic families on Monotype?
The type determines the culture and the culture the type. Last year we published FS Rosa as a new take on what we anticipated as an emerging trend, and it’s certainly getting more and more popular. As a creative studio, we’ve certainly worked with brands that push more in this direction, bringing the legacy to life as new. It’s an exciting time to play around with notions of type and challenge on what’s okay with some big brands. We also want to create the typefaces that designers demand, the fonts that brands need to deliver on all fronts, so I would expect more creative work in this area over the next couple of years.
How do you think consumers and users will feel about this design trend?
The idea of pure nostalgia isn’t really a trend for change, but it is a vehicle for empathy in a world that seeks familiarity and comfort during difficult times. As we optimistically prepare to pivot, reopen out of lockdown, that sense of familiarity will help stabilize, reassure, and provide a foundation of confidence as we move forward. I think most of us love retro themes as well, so there’s a lightness and airiness in this new approach to design, and that’s what the world needs right now.
What defines a retro-type family?
I guess it’s a classic face, that of a bygone era, wrapped in all the connotations of a cultural aesthetic. Familiar letters that draw you emotionally and say “do you remember that time?” As the trend develops, I’m really curious how we can redefine these faces now, either by modernizing the letters themselves or by using them.