I was pleasantly surprised by the number of typefaces submitted,” juror Lara McCormick says. “It’s exciting to see fresh new faces designing typefaces! A few type families felt whimsical in a way
I hadn’t encountered before.”
“To see such a wide collection of work, many times with intelligent and thoughtful typographic decisions being made, reassured me that the craft is not dying,” says juror Neil Summerour.
“It was a really interesting—if not always flattering—snapshot of the industry in 2016, but overall, it’s good to see that the craft is alive, diverse and well,” juror Craig Ward says.
I asked the jurors which visual trends became apparent during judging.
“Brush lettering is a big trend, especially in combination with photography,” McCormick says. “A lot of the liquor packaging looked similar in a Jack Daniel’s, speakeasy-era, Great Gatsby sort of way.”
“For me, it had to be the elaborate Sanborn Map Co.–style of typography and, of course, the hand-lettered brush script,” says Ward. “The latter wasn’t really a surprise, as it’s so rife on Instagram and social media, but the Sanborn-style type was a swerve, as I was expecting a lean toward geometry, flat graphics and patterns.”
“It was interesting to see the strong influence that social media—especially Instagram accounts and trends—has on the typographic decisions of creatives,” Summerour says. “It called attention to those who moved past that, defined a style for themselves and their work, and stuck to it.”
“I was pleased by the healthy number of entries that took a traditional, no-frills approach to typography,” says McCormick. “When working with type, deliberate gestures, both large and small, speak volumes.”
When I asked the jurors to name their greatest disappointments with the entries, they echoed complaints heard in previous years.
“The lack of printed entries was disappointing,” McCormick says. “When something is embossed or letterpressed, you want to touch it and hold it in your hands. For large items, like posters, it’s also important to provide a sense of scale. A poster that covers an entire wall has an entirely different impact than when it is tabloid size.”
“It is easier to send an electronic file, but the work loses so much when viewed as a collection of pixels instead of having a visceral connection to the creative who produced it,” Summerour says.
When asked what he would like to see more of in future competitions, Summerour was emphatic. “More kinetic type,” he says. “So much of how we interact with type now is specifically created for a screen of some form. Decisions that are made for the screen are inherently different from those made for the printed page—and that matters.”
I asked about other technical developments that may change the way we use typography in the future.
“Web fonts just keep getting better,” says McCormick. “And the things that can be done with CSS are giving designers more options and control when it comes to digital typography.”
“Virtual, 360-degree wayfinding systems and 3-D space have always been extremely difficult for designers in the past, and although new technologies will always pose challenges, they’re also great opportunities to move things forward,” Ward says.
Lastly, I asked about the challenges the next generation of type designers currently faces.
“Staying relevant and producing worthwhile work in a saturated industry are going to be the biggest challenges,” Ward says.
“Type design is such a huge undertaking,” says McCormick. “It’s a craft that takes years to master, and it’s important that this next generation recognizes the focus it takes to create a usable face. The creation of letterforms takes care and consideration and a true love of form and shape. Then there’s the other side, making it functional—which involves math and precision. Not every designer can do both.”
“Type design is not for the wild side that flippantly draws letters with abandon, nor is it for the austere programmer. It is a fusion of both of those eccentrics,” Summerour says. “It requires constant, unrelenting commitment, self-examination and introspection, and a desire to make things that few will ever notice.”
A minimum of two out of three votes was required for inclusion in this year’s typography annual. Judges were not permitted to vote on projects in which they were directly involved. I would like to extend our appreciation to our jurors for their conscientious efforts and to Kamal Mansour, manager of non-Latin products at Monotype, who graciously assisted our jurors by providing insights on the legibility and appropriateness of non-Latin typeface entries. — Patrick Coyne ca