Typography has come a long way in the last few decades. While the evolution of web typography means more options for the designer, it also means more of a risk of being left behind.
In this article we'll look at the modern trend for dramatic typography. To learn more about typography techniques and 9 other trends, check out the free ebook Web Design Trends 2015 & 2016 (contains 166 examples and 100 free design resources).
Typography is being used for more than just legibility and readability (although that is still the primary purpose). Whether simple or elaborate, big or small, the words on today's sites are increasingly used to add a sense of drama.
Dramatic typography stands out. In large blocks on content, typography should be plain and unassuming, in order to lull the reader into the meaning. But when you isolate individual words or sentences, you can get more creative, since the text become visual design elements as well.
Before we continue, let's make clear that dramatic typography and simple typography are not mutually exclusive. In fact, simplified typography is one of the most popular forms of dramatic typography at moment.
In short, dramatic typography can best be described as typography that's visually striking — for whatever reason.
Back to basics
To understand the trend for dramatic typography, first we need to refresh our understanding of the basics.
Type categories are divided by mood, structure, and the impact of the lettering. The greatest divide is between serif or sans serif, with sans serif being the current favorite following the popularization of simplicity. Serifs are those extra embellishes on the edge of certain letter lines, and sans means "without".
A type family is simply all variations of the chosen font. The different forms include regular, bold, italics, condensed, black, and sometimes others.
In the context of typography, the stroke refers to the width of each line. Sharing a uniform stroke within the same family seems to be the trend recently, as uniform strokes are more legible across different settings and contrast.
Typography is about how it's used just as much as how it looks. This should explain why we're recently seeing simple and seemingly boring typefaces capture our attention.
The driving force behind dramatic typography is the increased availability of typefaces for mass use. More fonts are available for less money — or no money through Google Fonts.
All of Adobe's Creative Cloud plans, for example, include their Typekit service. Today, web designers can be beggars and choosers with the wealth of options available at low cost. The size of the pool, too, attracts more and more new type-designers looking to get their feet wet.
This availability also allows for theme-based design. WordPress users can access the same amount of options as home-grown websites.
As for font rendering, the advancements of modern browsers and interfaces are making that a thing of the past.
While using a box or web-safe typeface from a kit is a fine option, don't be afraid to get creative. For reference point, here's some of the most popular typefaces we've seen recently:
Sans serif typefaces:
- Proxima Nova
- Open Sans
- Helvetica Neue
- Freight Text
- FF Meta Serif
Personally, we stuck with Proxima Nova when we redesigned the UXPin website earlier this year. It's a simple, clean typeface that's highly legible and can still make a statement with the right layout treatment.
We created a moderately-large headline balanced by smaller text against a contrasted background. Because the large headline is set against pure white background, the headline appears bigger than it really is (without crowding out the body text).
Will the trend last?
Dramatic typography is less of a trend, and more of a technique that reinvents itself every few years.
What we see nowadays is simply the current iteration of how the majority of designers are using typography.
In general, good typography will always fulfill these goals:
- Communicates message of the text
- Works in conjunction with other design tactics
- Suits technological requirements (i.e., browser compatibility and responsive design)
- Creates a memorable impression
Today's typography trends accomplish these goals, but how will they adapt to suit the next era of design?
The safest prediction is that the most popular trends (such as large, white type) will start to subside, as designers will want to avoid doing what everyone else is doing. As technology allows more implementation of 3D effects and animations, these might also play a larger role in how typefaces are presented.
Like the other elements of design, typography and how it's used is chained to the demands and allowances of technology.
For more advice on minimalism as a web design technique — as well as 9 other current web design trends — check out the free ebook Web Design Book of Trends 2015-2016. You’ll find 166 hand-picked examples from companies like Adidas, Intercom, Apple, Google, Versace, and others. To help speed up the design process, there’s also a curated list of 100 free, online resources.
Words: Jerry Cao
Jerry Cao is a content strategist at UXPin — the wireframing and prototyping app — where he develops in-app and online content for the wireframing and prototyping platform.
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