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The hottest typography design trends for 2012

Type designers are, for the most part, some of the hardest working people in design. They show a true passion for their art form and are sticklers for detail – just think how many characters and revisions go into ten weights and you get the idea of the patience and skill required to build a typeface.

Over the last few months, we've seen type go back to basics, with legibility and elegance being two words that perhaps define the current state of type design. But there are other noteworthy trends too, from handmade object fonts to experiments with new features of OpenType. Some designers have embraced new technologies to bring new meaning to type design or illustrative letterforms, while others have embraced classic faces of the past and revived or reworked them.

Read on as we pick 20 type trends that should inspire you to think differently about your own type design or use of typography within your graphic design or illustration work...

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01. Ligature discretion

Typography: 2012 trends 1

Discretionary ligatures like Siruca enable you to create pictograms with type

OpenType has a feature called discretionary ligatures, making it possible to do some really interesting things when certain letters are typed in a certain order. Take Fabrizio Schiavi's Siruca for instance; a font which, when you type the word 'car', a car pictogram appears.

02. Simplicity and legibility redefined

Typography: 2012 trends 2

Trio Grotesk by Florian Schick is simple, elegant and modern

If you've seen the excellent iA Writer app for both Mac and iPad, you'll no doubt have noticed its set-back, minimalist yet hugely legible monospaced typeface, Nitti. It's a font from the foundry Bold Monday, a Dutch outfit that designs both commercial and custom fonts.

Bold Monday's faces are leading the trend of simple, elegant yet modern typefaces; from Panno Sign, which was designed for the romanisation of street names in South Korea, to its newest release Trio Grotesk - Florian Schick’s personal interpretation of Kaart Antieke, an early 20th century sans serif used by Piet Zwart in his essay about modern typography, “Van oude tot nieuwe typografie”.

Another example is Dalton Maag's excellent custom font for Nokia.

03. Slick stencils

Typography: 2012 trends 3

Type Together created this slick, bespoke stencil font for Levi's

Stencils are back with a vengeance, and a fantastic example of a slick, contemporary stencil is Levi's, a font designed by Type Together for the jeans brand, commissioned by Wieden and Kennedy. Based on Paratype's version of Bodoni, you could arguably group it into trend 05, but we feel stencils deserve their own entry.

04. Didone is back

Typography: 2012 trends 4

Rick Banks' F37 Bella is at the forefront of a revival in Didone typefaces

If there's one font that sums up the revival of Didone typefaces, it's Rick Banks' F37 Bella. A useful and stylish font, Banks has just released a Heavy version for those wanting to use it a bit smaller (at smaller point sizes the original's serifs could disappear).

These hyper-thin hairline serifs and strong contrasts between thick and thin lines, make it a modern classic in the Didot classification. It's a stunningly elegant font for headlines; online and especially in print. A bargain at £35 per weight.

Other nice examples include Neutura's Estrella.

05. Classics revived

Typography: 2012 trends 5

Garcon Grotesque is one of many classic fonts to be revived by modern designers

Type designers love reinterpreting classic fonts in new ways. There have been many examples over the past year, but one that stands out is the release of Garcon Grotesque.

A contemporary interpretation of Copperplate Gothic, Garcon Grotesque is a sophisticated typeface designed in a multitude of weights with extended Latin character set, small capitals and a working lowercase.

You can buy it at Myfonts, starting at $50. An example of a face being revived by a modern foundry is Commercial Type's revival of Max Miedinger's Neue Haas Grotesk (the font that became Helvetica).

Next: Object fonts, lighter slab serifs, and more!