“I was surprised at how good some of the student entries were,” says juror Nick Sherman. “In many cases, they surpassed the average quality we were seeing in the professional work. I was also surprised by both the volume and overall quality of the identity designs. Of all the categories, those entries probably had the highest quality-to-quantity ratio.”
“There was a lot of variety in the [identity] work, and it felt confident and informed in a way that was refreshing,” juror Bethany Heck says.
I asked the judges what visual trends became apparent during the judging.
“Many entries seemed to be reusing old ideas and styles, like faux Victorian, hipster/retro, naïve/handmade and objects as letters,” juror Mark Simonson says. “This was a bit disappointing, but not too surprising since clients are probably not looking to take risks. On the other hand, when an idea is well executed, it can transcend cliché.”
“I was surprised by the number of late-’90s-inspired pieces,” says Heck. “The Carsonesque aesthetic was more prominent than current trends, like the punk brutalism that’s dominated many design circles for a few years. What’s newer isn’t necessarily better, but there’s no excuse to not be consuming a broad range of global design at this point in history. There’s so much to be inspired by, and I hate to think people are shutting themselves off from the possibility of learning from newer generations of designers.”
“One of the most satisfying things to see from all the entries was actually a move away from some of the most common trends of past years,” Sherman says. “The wave of people using geometric sans serifs in safe-but-boring compositions seems to have finally passed its peak. And though the ‘hip traditional’ aesthetic was definitely present, it didn’t seem to dominate the landscape as much as it has in recent years.”
I asked the jurors what technical developments will change the way we use typography in the future.
“I think typography trends will be increasingly influenced by digital mediums,” says Simonson. “A good example is the recent introduction of OpenType variable fonts. The format was primarily driven by technical needs of the web, but it opens the door to a lot of interesting design opportunities for type designers.”
“The biggest shift I see in the landscape of typography, and design in general, is a move away from composing fixed/static layouts and more toward defining rules and limitations to create a variety of compositions,” Sherman says. “The work of typography will increasingly be about codifying design logic instead of repeatedly implementing that logic one piece at a time.”
Lastly, I asked the jury about the challenges facing the next generation of type designers.
“When the traditional job of lettering artist became obsolete with the advent of cheap typesetting, we lost a lot of the richness and flexibility of lettering in design,” says Simonson. “But the accessibility of type design is bringing richness and flexibility back to an even greater extent. I think the challenge for young type designers is discovering these new opportunities.”
“Perhaps the biggest challenge for typeface designers in coming years will be the increasing number of other typeface designers,” Sherman says. “New education programs for type design are popping up all around the world, and tools for type design are increasingly accessible. As such, the number of people working in the field is growing rapidly without a corresponding increase in demand for work. This makes it harder to stand out in the crowd as a young type designer, and harder to make a living as competitive pricing intensifies.”
“I think the democratization of design and typeface creation software has led to a broader and more diversified set of voices creating typefaces, and that will compound as it is used by a broader set of designers with more unique experiences to convey in their work,” says Heck. “Many of the gates that previously existed to keep out people from certain backgrounds are falling away, and I feel more and more designers are being inspired by designers like David Rudnick and Eric Hu to take control of their own typographic vision. I’m excited to see what comes from this new generation of type designers and typographers.”
While a minimum of two out of three votes was required for inclusion in this year’s Typography Annual, just under half of the selected projects received a unanimous vote. Judges were also 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, linguistic typographer at Monotype, who graciously assisted our jurors by providing insights on the legibility and appropriateness of non-Latin typeface entries. —Patrick Coyne ca
Bethany Heck is the head of design at Medium and the proprietor of the Font Review Journal, where she strives to discourse around typeface design and usage. She is also the creator of the Eephus League baseball scorebooks. She endeavors to create powerful visual experiences with strong typographic elements, and her work spans traditional printing techniques, responsive web design and digital application work. She’s worked with the likes of EA Sports, ESPN, IBM, Microsoft and Vox Media. Her work has appeared in New York magazine, The New Yorker, Print, Smashing Magazine, Wired, and several other international publications and art exhibitions.
Nick Sherman is a typographer, web designer, typeface designer, typographic consultant and teacher. He is a cofounder and designer of Fonts In Use, an online archive of typography, and v-fonts.com, a resource for finding and trying variable fonts. A graduate of the Type@Cooper typeface design program, Sherman also works on Cooper Union’s Typographics design festival. He is a member of the Adobe Typography Customer Advisory Board, as well as the artistic board for the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum, and has served on the board of directors for the Type Directors Club. Previously, Sherman worked at Font Bureau, Webtype and MyFonts.
Mark Simonson is an independent type designer working out of his home in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Since the mid-’70s, he worked variously as a graphic designer, magazine art director, illustrator and lettering artist. He released his first fonts in the mid-’90s, eventually switching to type design full-time in 2005. He has made fonts for clients such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Microsoft, Sega and Target, but he mostly creates fonts for the general market. He is probably best known for the typeface Proxima Nova. When he’s not making fonts, he likes watching movies, playing or listening to music, reading, writing, learning new things, drawing cartoons, and building scale models.