Hot Faces & Cool Type

There is little risk in using classic typefaces. Helvetica, Garamond or Gill Sans? You can’t go wrong. These typefaces are as versatile as a basic black dress or a navy blue blazer. But what if you want to walk on the wild side type-wise? Or if you have a yen for something that is typographically up-to-the-minute? How to know which typefaces are fresh, stylish and hip? Read on. Beware, however, that typographic fashion can be as fickle as the attention span of a chipmunk.

New Old Designs

mastertypedl-500No-nonsense industrial strength typeface designs like Flexo from Durotype and Geogrotesque from Emtype are some of the new bestsellers. They provide alternatives, albeit not terribly original ones, to the household heavies in this category, like DIN and ITC Conduit. Industrial strength sans are not fancy — but neither are they temperamental. They work well at just about any size and in pretty much any environment.

More new revivals and interpretations of 19th and early 20th century sans serif typefaces are also showing up on the bestseller lists. Brandon Grotesque from Hannes von Döhren is just one example. Von Döhren found his muse for the design in geometric sans serif typefaces that were popular during the 1920s and 30s. “I love the old magazines that are set in these typefaces,” he says. “I wanted to create a typeface that echoed the designs used in these publications, strict in its architectural forms and yet evoking the warmth of the yellowed pages.”


Brandon Grotesque, from Hannes von Döhren

Rod McDonald’s Classic Grotesque is another powerful interpretation of these early sans serif letterforms. “I found myself working on a new design inspired by turn of the last century sans serifs,” he says. “I’ve always loved these old typefaces.” The popularity of the new “old” designs is probably a reaction to cool, germ-free designs like Univers and Akzidenz Grotesk. Sure, the likes of Akzidenz Grotesk can be used just about anywhere —and for just about anything — but graphic designers seem to be seeking a little more humanity in their typeface choices.


Classic Grotesque, from Rod McDonald

I Get a Round

Rounded sans like Akko Rounded and Gotham Rounded continue to be popular, but they are tending to be replaced by designs that are only “half-round.” The newer half-round sans maintain a friendly and approachable quality while, at the same time, putting a little more structure back into the designs. Typefaces like Foco, from Dalton Maag, and Omnes, from Joshua Darden, are among the most popular of these new interpretations of the sans serif theme.

Omnes, from Joshua Darden, in use.

Organic Sans

Other views on the sans serif genera are more humanist sans, like Steve Matteson’s Massif and Bree, from Type Together. These designs have a more organic foundation than typical sans serif typefaces. Matteson found inspiration for the Massif family in the dramatic granite formations of North America’s Sierra Nevada mountain range. The faults and fissures that define a massif formation are integral to his design, providing rich texture at small point sizes and revealing the characters’ distinctive shapes and proportions at larger sizes.


Bree, from Type Together


Massif, from Steve Matteson

Square-Jawed Communicators

New Slab serif typefaces also continue to be added to the graphic communicator’s palette. From enlarged and revived families like Neue Aachen by Jim Wasco to brand new designs like Turnip from David Jonathan Ross, new slab serifs are showing up everywhere from magazine ads to brand redesigns. “In spite of Aachen’s limited range of sizes,” says Wasco, “I knew that more weights would expand the reach of the face.” Where slab serifs like Neue Aachen are urbane and well mannered, Turnip is coarse and down-to-earth. Ross crafted an energetic tension between Turnip’s inner and outer shapes to give it vigor, while strong strokes and sturdy serifs yield dense paragraphs with a horizontal emphasis.


Neue Aachen, from Jim Wasco


Turnip, from David Jonathan Ross

Powerful New Serifs

Traditional serif designs are also being drawn that take full advantage of OpenType’s character substitution capabilities – and can present a challenge in terms of using them in projects. Bookmania from Mark Simonson and Levato by Felix Bonge are solid, yeoman designs that take on “special powers” when their plethora of swash and alternate characters are put into play.


Levato, from Felix Bonge


Bookmania, from Mark Simonson

New Scripts: A Plethora of Fabulous Fonts

In addition to stylish designs from the likes of Laura Worthington and Ale Paul, a new crop of script typefaces are finding favor; more funky than fancy, more naive than elegant. Typefaces like the frisky Serge, from Cyrus Highsmith, and the Lady Rene collaboration of Ale Paul and Laura Varsky, are stealing some of the limelight from more traditional scripts. If there is a common typographic melody to these designs is that they, like 19th century sans, have more of a human quality to them. While they may not be sophisticated or dazzling, they perform with charm. They are the street dancers that serve as a refreshing counterpoint to typographic ballerinas.

TypeTrendSerge Serge, from Cyrus Highsmith


Lady Rene, from Ale Paul and Laura Varsky

Sans Are Still Strong

Most new typeface designs are sans serifs. We’re still far from reaching the end of the very long rope of variations type designers can create from the same 52 serifless shapes. Noteworthy new fonts continually show up in the “What’s New” section of type web sites.

Where to Get ’Em