Typography in 2023: Trends and Opportunities in Graphic Design and Typography
Published on: January 2, 2024
We live in an information-saturated world, but often, we fail to consider how the presentation of this data shapes how we interact with and understand it. Many elements can influence our relationship with text-based information, including layout, color schemes and accompanying imagery. However, typography does not always receive the recognition it deserves, and yet that is beginning to change as bolder and more dynamic fonts enter the picture and new typographical solutions promise to boost both branding and accessibility.
Done right, typography has the power to make our experiences with digital and print media more impactful — hence the need to carefully select and optimize typefaces and fonts to ensure readers’ experience is visually appealing while also functional and easy to read. We delve into this process below, revealing not only what typography looks like in 2023 but also what to expect in the future.
The Fundamentals of Typography
Typography is a crucial component of graphic design. It determines how the written word is arranged, with the intention of making text helpful and aesthetically appealing. It has existed in some capacity for centuries, with the invention of the printing press driving the development of a wide array of typefaces, including both practical and decorative styles.
Typography continues to evolve in today’s digital world, presenting new solutions along with new opportunities. Currently, fundamental typography design principles include:
- Typeface – Typography and typeface are not one and the same. The former determines how the type is arranged to promote better communication, whereas typeface emphasizes the designs that make styles feel distinct.
- Consistency – Through consistent fonts and typefaces, content can achieve a more polished, readable appearance. When consistency is lacking, typography may feel messy or haphazard. True consistency is reached by sticking with a select few fonts or stylistic designations.
- Hierarchy – While consistency is a key component of typography, there should be some differences in the text to reveal which elements are most important. This is known as a typographical hierarchy. Visual hierarchies can be created using the largest and boldest text for headings or subheadings before moving to smaller-sized text for the bulk of the content.
- Contrast – Consistency should not come at the expense of contrast. The latter determines which custom typeface design elements stand out. There are many ways to build contrast beyond the simple use of hierarchies; for example, differing colors, typefaces and sizes can make an impression.
- Whitespace – The space surrounding the typeface can be just as influential as how the actual text is arranged. Empty areas such as margins are typically referred to as whitespace. These can give text breathing room while avoiding visual clutter.
- Color – Though text is frequently featured in black, other colors can be integrated into the effort to emphasize branding. Accessibility must also be considered. Text in light colors, for instance, can be difficult to navigate for those with visual impairments.
Current Trends in Typography for 2023
While the basic elements of typography have remained consistent, this practice follows a trend cycle that shares much in common with the realms of fashion and interior design. The following are several of the most exciting typography trends gaining traction in 2023 and expected to continue making their mark in 2024:
- Return to serif – A continuation of a trend that began emerging in 2023, serif fonts have proved their staying power. Although sans serifs have long been favored for their clean look and smooth integration into minimalist styles, serifs bring a touch of personality. Sans serif was also preferred for some time due to digital concerns surrounding readability in design and web font optimization, but larger screens and responsive design have largely resolved this.
- Maximalism – As maximalist styles come to the forefront in the fashion world, bold and bright styles are also making their mark in graphic design. This is a response to the minimalism that dominated during the early 2000s and 2010s, and while minimalist approaches remain aesthetically pleasing, many are eager to experiment with dynamic fonts and strategically layering numerous elements.
- Hand-drawn fonts – Bringing a more personable feel to both print and digital media, hand-drawn fonts provide opportunities for differentiation. While only used by several select brands in previous years, they are becoming more prominent in part because they convey such warmth, even in the digital landscape.
- Retrofuturism – Today’s graphic designers are willing to play with a diversity of styles and concepts, often blending vintage and futuristic features to great effect. This eagerness to mix and match forms the basis of the retro-futurist movement, where classic fonts and typefaces (particularly those involving serifs) join forces with neon colors and bold geometrics.
Typography in Digital Media
Digital design centers on the typography, imagery and other elements specifically created for display on various screens — such as desktop or laptop computers and, of course, smartphones. Television also plays into this category. These screens typically offer ideal opportunities for adaptation; since digital typography is not static, it can be tweaked as needed over time.
Responsive design is a must for digital typography as users consume a greater volume of content via mobile devices. Readability should also be a priority, as it is often more difficult for users (especially those with cognitive or visual impairments) to view text on screens. Factors like screen brightness may also come into play, limiting the extent to which certain colors can be incorporated.
Typography in Print Media
Even amid the modern digital landscape, print remains relevant. Nowadays, print media provides powerful opportunities to make a statement, generally through eye-catching styles displayed beautifully on paper. This results in a uniquely tactile experience, in which designers can play up textural elements to make designs more impactful.
Print tends to offer a bit more flexibility with fonts, as serif styles and custom colors are easier to feature yet preserve optimal readability. Still, a higher resolution may be necessary, as print media is often examined up close, even compared to digital content. The other main challenge? Because print materials cannot easily be altered after the fact, strong attention to detail is a must.
The Role of Typography in Branding
Typography plays a critical role in branding, working with other elements such as logos or color schemes to tell the story of a given brand.
These days, organizations must walk a fine line between selecting dynamic fonts that convey personality while still abiding by core brand qualities and maintaining readability. Fonts must appeal to target consumers, who have differing aesthetic preferences based on their age and their background.
For many organizations, branding decisions begin with the enduring debate between serif and sans serif. Though serif conveys elegance and the power of tradition, the minimalist look of sans serif makes it an appealing option for contemporary brands, namely in tech-forward fields. Meanwhile, elements such as white space and hierarchy can draw attention to key branding elements. Consistency in branding must encompass not only fonts and typefaces but also core qualities like brand messaging and values.
Accessibility and Typography
Many of the latest typography trends go beyond aesthetics to reveal how various typefaces can make content more or less accessible to a wide audience. As we’ve touched on, this is of particular concern for digital and mobile content, which can be challenging for many readers to navigate if typographical elements are too intricate.
Experts at Google Fonts explain, “There is no single answer about which fonts are most accessible for everyone, but there are some things that can make a typeface more accessible to some people.” For example, letter-based white spaces known as counters can make it easier or more difficult to distinguish between, say, ‘c’ and ‘e.’ A strong hierarchy can boost readability, regardless of font selection.
Future of Typography
Typography has changed a great deal in the past few years, but this evolution is just starting to pick up the pace. Moving forward, a number of advanced technological solutions will be built into every aspect of typography: how typefaces are developed, how they are selected and how they play into branding and accessibility.
Organizations (and especially graphic designers) need to be cognizant of these changes and not merely resistant. Like it or not, cutting-edge tech’s role will be significant in all areas of graphic design, including typography.
- Artificial intelligence – Generative AI solutions such as Deep Floyd are already capable of practically perfect typefaces, regardless of the materials. Previous generative AI efforts have not been nearly as impressive from a typography perspective — but now, AI-generated typography is not only legible but can also be downright pleasing to the eye. This does not mean the human element of typography is irrelevant, though. Rather, talented designers and AI tools will increasingly work together to create dynamic typography and achieve greater efficiency.
- Variable fonts – A traditional concept of fonts revolves around each font incorporating its own distinct style. With variable fonts, however, each file can handle many design variations. This means an entire font family or typeface can be stored within a single file. From a technical perspective, this is beneficial because it boosts efficiency. Graphic designers appreciate variable fonts because they are more flexible and therefore make it easier to introduce creativity.
Prepare for a Bright Future in Graphic Design and Typography
Are you intrigued by the power and potential of typography? At Park University, we are pleased to offer many graphic design degree programs that could help you expand your understanding of typographical concepts and build a broad graphic design skill set.
Our Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design is an excellent option, although we also have a variety of marketing and digital marketing programs that prepare you to make the most of today’s most exciting career opportunities. Reach out today to learn more about our graphic design and marketing degree offerings.