Blog: What is the future of type?


Blog: What is the future of type?
By Sarah Hyndman

‘What is the future of type?’ This is a question that was posed a few weeks ago which prompted a diverse range of responses. The discussion played out via email, Twitter, Design Week and the Creative Review blog and subsequently formed the basis for an event at the St Bride Library.

The main themes that arose included the evolution of type and whether words may ultimately become obsolete as technology and globalisation progress? Physical print is still in demand; independent type foundries are appearing, there has been a resurgence in letterpress, and an Adana press is back in production in Japan. Whether this is a new trend or a final swansong remains to be seen.

“My thoughts on the future are simple. There will always be type and as long as designers like difference, there will always be unusual typefaces for eccentric applications.” Steven Heller

The new availability of web fonts has given web designers creative opportunities previously only available to print designers. Concerns have been raised that this could lead to both poorly designed type and ‘bad design’, but if we look to history we see that major developments have come from these times of experimentation. We are currently in a period of convergence, when the flexibility of web typography has caught up with print and there is a no longer a differentiation between the two. But is this limiting web type to imitating print, and will the next stage in type evolution be when it is redesigned for the on screen environment? Meanwhile as 3D printing becomes more accessible it brings opportunities for type ranging from creating new letterpress letters to 3D type.

The speed of technological change is phenomenal. The web became mobile six years ago, tablets were launched in 2010 and it is already predicted that most reading will be done on a tablet within two years. If this is the case then we have a responsibility to avoid returning to a situation where only those who can afford it have access to the written word.

Type layout is becoming liquid and responsive type technology is developing. Responsive type offers exciting possibilities, from giving author/user the opportunity to personalise their experience, to the experiments being done in which functions like the built in camera prompt on screen type to respond to the physical environment.

“The future of the web is the future of typography.” @NickSherman

With a new phase of developments and experiments happening to on screen type, it will be interesting to see how these ideas influence print design as there is an inevitability that new ideas and styles will be taken up by designers working in different mediums and ideas now flow in many different directions.

When asked what the future of print is, most agree that physical print doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon but it looks as if the next big innovations will be happening on screen. Web design can now break free and exploit the wide range of web fonts available. The possibilities of responsive type to create a unique experience that harnesses the physical environment are endless and exciting. As the pace of technological change increases at an exponential rate some of our more fantastic ideas may become reality in the near future.

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“The future of type is the same as football: everyone does it, and even more people have an opinion about it. Only a few make a living out of it, and only some of these are very good.” Petr van Blokland

We are going to explore the points raised in more detail. Coming next: Responsive type, from current experiments to fantastical ideas…