Putting a (type)face on design trends

Credit: Yves Peters

By Yves Peters

Posted on 10-29-2020

Besides the words they spell out, the shapes of letters influence how we perceive a message: The typeface is the first visual cue that sets the mood.

As creatives, we have the crucial task of choosing appropriate fonts that will achieve a cohesive look. Using the wrong typeface can be like attending a wedding in a tuxedo and flip-flops; unless that’s the dress code, it just looks off.

At the beginning of the year, Adobe Stock offered three curated font choices to match each of the year’s design trends (some of which do include fashion choices): Handmade Humanism, Semi-Surreal, Art Deco Updates, and Modern Gothic.

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So: which fonts lean more toward flip-flops, and which ones say tuxedo? Or, rather, how – and why – do fonts communicate the things they do?

Take a look at the following featured design trend fonts to learn more.

Handmade humanism

Handwritten fonts emerged as a reaction to the sometimes-sterile look of geometric and tech-inspired faces in an effort to inject computer-based design with a human touch. These fonts took over a subset of both professional and amateur graphic design. Today, there are quite a few foundries that are specifically known for their natural-looking scripts and hand-drawn typefaces – for example Tart Workshop, Laura Worthington Type, LiebeFonts, G-Type, and Resistenza.

Type choices

Tart Workshop’s Chelsea Market is a happy medium between geometric sans and the look of a human touch. Crystal Kluge studied the typical character shapes found in typefaces like Futura and Century Gothic, then drew her own interpretation, loosely tracing letterforms with a thin marker pen. This method lent the solid and open variants a quirky bohemian feel.

Credit: Adobe Stock/Tanya Syrytsyna

Alejandro Paul partnered with seasoned wedding calligrapher Kathy Milici to design Gratitude Script. Using her passionate writing style and highly ornamental pen flourishing, Milici created a festive font rooted in tradition but with a modern twist; a casual, whimsical script that is as elegant as it is versatile. The space-saving, vertical style helps fit more words on a line, and reads well at large sizes.

Credit: Adobe Stock/Nadezda Grapes

supertype’s Scarlet Wood brings digital type back to the physical world. The typeface is the textured counterpart to Scarlet, a joyous, top-heavy casual sans serif, and Scarlet Script, a bodacious, connected script with curly details that shares its DNA. Jürgen Huber took Scarlet Bold and two weights of Scarlet Script — Medium and Black — and added a wood grain to the letters. The texture lends a lovely realistic block-printed look.

For more fonts with a handmade feel, give these a try:


Typeface design has seen a resurgence of ornamental, three-dimensional, and psychedelic font types. OpenType and variable font technology have made it much easier to layer, color, and reshape type, and tailor it to personal preference, making intricate and colorful typographic compositions increasingly accessible.

Type choices

Rig Solid Zero is the pre-composed cousin to Rig Shaded, Jamie Clarke’s award-winning font suite that offers many layering possibilities. The energetic three-dimensional fonts add dynamism to art and design. The clean, “unbreakable” geometric capitals come with solid and gradient shades, with each character created to ensure maximum clarity and harmony. The Bold Solo unshaded style works as a standalone face or layered behind the shaded styles to create multi-colored typography.

Device FontsRian Hughes is the Andy Warhol of typeface design. He has a singular knack for creating inventive and surprising typefaces that conjure up familiar moods and trends, reference pop culture or history, and connect with the reader. Bubblegum Pop is a funky balloon type with three variants – Highlight, Shadow, and Vanilla – all reminiscent of retro logos, candy wrappers, and comic books.

Flegrei Regular is part of The Tipoteca Series, three typefaces resurrected by Ulrike Rausch, who found them in the rich wood type collection of the popular letterpress museum and archive Tipoteca Italiana in Cornuda, Italy. Constructed with ruler and compass, Flegrei is the geometric expressionist of fonts. Letterforms are reduced to triangles, squares, and circles, with hairlines and bold crossbars that help to differentiate characters.

Looking for additional fonts with a funky or ethereal mood? Consider these:

Art Deco Updates

Just like fashion, some typographic trends are cyclical. Now that we’ve entered the 2020s, we’re seeing design elements inspired by styles that originated all the way back in the roaring 1920s. Architectural capitals last seen a century ago on hand-painted advertising posters are back; so are ornamental alphabets reminiscent of vintage packaging, along with quirky serif faces. While some designers faithfully reproduce classic “lost” designs, others make the signature Art Deco type styles their own, reinventing them for contemporary use.

Jean-Baptiste Levée’s revival is the first to bring A.M. Cassandre’s typeface Acier BAT into digital form. The dual-color display face with a geometric sans serif structure comes in a solid and a dual-tone variant. The caps-only alphabet incorporates influences from functionalist decorative arts, design, and architecture, along with urban lettering. It was mainly aimed at publishing and newspaper use, but will feel equally at ease on posters, book covers, and packaging.

Image Source: Adobe Stock/TBC

supertype’s ingenious Cy rivals the inventiveness of Paul Renner’s groundbreaking original drawings for Futura. Jürgen Huber outfitted the geometric sans serif with a multitude of creative square and circular alternates. OpenType features sprinkle the unexpected forms throughout text set in Cy, but also allow you to control their presence with automated features or manual settings.

Credit: Adobe Stock/Polar Vectors.

The dramatic contrast between thick and thin strokes in TypeTogether’s Fino Sans immediately evokes the glamor of high fashion, perfume, luxury goods, glossy magazines, and gala events. Ermin Međedović drew dignified, tall capitals with show-stopping circular variants for the standard, narrow oval letters. Additional alternate forms and a grand suite of ligatures allow the user to mine the display face’s full theatrical potential. Thanks to its two optical sizes, you can use the serif-less Didone to set short texts as well as epic titles and headlines.

Additional stately font choices for Art Deco fans:

Modern Gothic

Gothic typefaces — also called blackletter or broken script — have enjoyed a recent renaissance. While they still project reliability, honor, and strength, their negative historical connotations have been replaced by a sense of rebellious stylishness. This shift is especially clear in music marketing, where blackletter fonts jumped over from gangster rap in the ’90s to mainstream R&B in the 2000s. Many foundries now have new gothic fonts in their catalogs that reinvent the typical look for the modern age.

Type choices

Leather is Canada Type’s digitization and major expansion of Imre Reiner’s forgotten — but excellent — 1933 design Gotika. Very much ahead of its time, the design exhibits magnificently modern features usually not found in blackletter fonts: grid-based geometric strokes and curves; fine, Bodoni-like serifs; and simple, geometric inner bars that create surprising circuitry-like patterns.

Canada Type’s Alexander Quill connects traditional metal type to the digital realm: It was originally drawn in the early 1980s to be cast as 14-point foundry type for setting and printing limited edition books at Jim Rimmer’s private Pie Tree Press. It’s simple, somewhat octagonal letterforms display a traditional calligraphic tension and deliver a smooth reading experience.

Credit: Adobe Stock /Wavebreak Media.

Fakir is not a revival, but an all-new 21st-century blackletter. Instead of studying historical broken scripts, Underware chose to create something powerful, straightforward, and readable from scratch. The font family is unique in that it also has a variant designed for long texts in small sizes, and even comes with an Italic and a Small Caps font. The spicy Display styles have more pronounced edgy shapes that grab attention. Stay ahead of the curve and embrace this year’s design trends with these additions to your typographic toolbox. And remember, you can activate anytime with your Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.

More great, gothic options:

Topics: Typography, Design, Creativity, Insights & Inspiration, Creative Cloud,

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