25 of Our Favorite New Typefaces of 2020
Practical. Impractical. Experimental. Expressive.
We saw a lot of type that we loved in 2020—and throughout the year, as always, we catalogued it, notably in our Type Tuesday column.
As we head into 2021, we’ve rounded up 25 of our favorite faces—a highly subjective list, as all such lists are, given structure by alphabetical order. (Speaking of subjectivity: As for PRINT’s own awesome typeface, Role—we’d have featured it, had it not been released in 2019.)
Herewith: 25 of our favorites new typefaces from 2020. (And hey: If you forgot to buy a little something for the designer in your life this holiday season, it’s worth mentioning that fonts are a fantastic gift, and require no shipping …)
Argentinian foundry Sudtipos routinely turns out top-notch type—and their latest release, Apothicaire, is indeed just the medicine we need for the winter blues.
While the name may be French for “apothecary,” Alejandro Paul and his team found inspiration in an antique German design dating back to the late 19th century.
Spanning three widths and five weights, the resulting typeface maintains unexpected quirks and delights and is capable of a wide range of expressions.
Moreover, as Sudtipos details, “An elegant small caps set, a variety of ball terminals and delicate swashes, as well as the possibility to choose from many alternates are also included in the OpenType features.”
To bring a fitting set of specimens to life, Sudtipos turned to Lucila Perini Studio, whose work you can see below.
The coronavirus pandemic is clearly at the forefront of all of our minds—but there are countless other healthcare puzzles going on at any given time around the world. One is the low-vision paradox: Despite a decrease in blindness worldwide, people are now living long enough to lose their vision.
So what does that mean for printed materials—and how can designers create fonts that are easily read by the growing population of low-vision consumers?
Enter Atkinson Hyperlegible.
Applied Design Works in New York City partnered up with the Braille Institute to develop this easy-to-read typeface named after the institute’s founder, Robert J. Atkinson.
“People may be surprised that the vast majority of the students who come to Braille Institute have some degree of vision,” Sandy Shin, the institute’s vice president for marketing and communications, told All About Vision. “They're not 100% blind.” Meaning a majority of Braille Institute clients also don’t rely on the dot-based language.
For years now, it seemed the only solution for low-vision clients and printed materials was magnification. But with its careful design, Atkinson Hyperlegible is making a major impact.
According to the Braille Institute’s website, “For low-vision readers, certain letters and numbers can be hard to distinguish from one another. … Atkinson Hyperlegible differentiates common misinterpreted letters and numbers using various design techniques.” By way of recognizable footprints and exaggerated forms, this new typeface is already making a difference and bringing home accolades, including Fast Company’s Innovation by Design Award.
The face—a traditional grotesque sans serif at its core—is free to download and comes with four fonts in two weights, accents supporting 27 languages, and 1,340 glyphs. Visit the Braille Institute’s website to learn more, and download Atkinson Hyperlegible here.
Viktor Mizera’s BC Retroduktor is a typeface rooted in a time and place—in more ways than one.
First, it celebrates Akihiko Seki’s Akilines, originally released in the early 1970s. Though there have been different reissues over the years, Briefcase Type Foundry’s BC Retroduktor involves more than 100 masters, producing 24 static fonts and four variable fonts.
And then there’s the heavy influence of the multisensory disco scene of the day. After the introduction of smoke machines, lasers and 3D lighting brought clubs to a whole new level—and the rigs eventually became automated. As the foundry notes, “these movements—awkward, not exactly graceful, but still quite precise—are the ones Retroduktor copies in its morphology.”
The disco scene at the time had become a safe space where the gay community could find a sense of self-confidence. It was also a platform for a new sexual liberation. Gloria Gaynor’s megahit ‘I Will Survive’ was both an expression of female power and an anthem of the gay scene in 1978. It was music that worked in the clubs, but to a certain extent it also worked in broad daylight. Both metaphorically and literally. Because the lights didn’t slice and blink into one’s eyes, it did not dazzle, but drew visitors through the room. It helped them. Figuratively speaking, it showed the way through the darkness—through all the inner confusion—and it could be followed.
The foundry notes that the typeface is an ideal fit for motion and advertising—and the specimens below indeed back that up.
As Fontwerk puts it: “‘The Curious Case of Erik Spiekermann,’ ‘For lowercase, uppercase, for every case’ … There are puns aplenty for a typeface with this particular name. But we’ll spare you any more and concentrate on the facts.”
Those facts: Spiekermann, working in collaboration with Anja Meiners and Ralph du Carrois, has developed a Neo-Grotesque in three optical sizes. The core family is ideal for logos and display text; the Text family is perfectly crafted for, well, text; and the Micro family offers readability of all things diminutive. The latter two feature a higher x-height, alongside more open shapes; for max readability, Micro also offers traits that make characters more easily distinguishable, and enhanced contrast at the joints of stems and bows.
The facts aside: Spiekermann, Meiners and du Carrois have sat through their fair share of briefings in which clients request their very own Helvetica or Univers. Case is, perhaps, a beautifully nuanced reply.
As Fontwerk writes, “They left out everything that they felt was unnecessary in the world’s most popular typeface genre, but they made sure to keep all the best bits. Building on the concentrate of the best bits, they added new ideas and conceptual solutions for a modern static grotesque. The result is the missing element in an otherwise strained and bloated genre: a typeface whose clear basic personality looks familiar and creates trust, but at the same time is novel and individual and is therefore perfect for strong brand-building. An ideal font for complex branding projects born out of years of working on such complex branding projects.”
Hoefler&Co is known for consistently producing outstanding typefaces—but one of our favorite parts of any release from the foundry is the way Hoefler tells a type tale.
It’s a seemingly Herculean job to take months (if not years) of work and distill them into a paragraph or two that not only describes the typeface and its possible applications, but speaks to its inspiration, backstory and perhaps even the psychology behind it. When executed well, it can create a symbiosis that deepens the entire experience.
Take Hoefler&Co’s new release, Cesium.
“Cesium is a chemical element, one of only five metals that’s liquid at room temperature,” Jonathan Hoefler writes. “Resembling quicksilver, cesium is typically stored in a glass ampule, where the tension between a sturdy outer vessel and its volatile contents is scintillating. The Cesium typeface hopes to capture this quality, its bright and insistent inline restrained by a strong and sinuous container.”
The face is an inline descendent of Hoefler&Co’s Vitesse—but as Hoefler describes, infusing the inline involved renovating each and every character, from ‘A’ to ‘Z’ to the period and the space, resulting in a design that can be equally at home in athletic applications as it can in a magazine spread or anywhere from “hardware stores to Hollywood.”
The foundry calls special attention to the impact that spacing has on Cesium’s personality: The tighter the leading and tracking, the more the sport and tech flavor. The greater the letterspacing, the more literary associations develop. (To that end, Hoefler&Co offers its perpetually useful “How to Use” page.)
The end result is a versatile, expressive display face that—giving Hoefler the last word—was difficult to adapt and execute, but “its puzzles were immensely satisfying to solve.”
“Cesium is one of only three H&Co typefaces whose name comes from the periodic table, a distinction it shares with Mercury and Tungsten. At a time when I considered a more sci-fi name for the typeface, I learned that these three elements have an unusual connection: They’re used together in the propulsion system of NASA’s Deep Space 1, the first interplanetary spacecraft powered by an ion drive. I found the association compelling, and adopted the name at once, with the hope that designers might employ the typeface in the same spirit of discovery, optimism and invention.”
This typeface was designed by Sudtipos’ Julieta Ulanovsky, in collaboration with Sol Matas.
As Ulanovsky says, “Confitería is the Spanish word for a shop where sweets and chocolates are made and sold, which sometimes has a tea room. … There is one iconic confitería in Buenos Aires that I love more than the rest because, some 60 years ago, it put up its marvelous sign and never took it down. It’s big. Very big. And the lettering in its name is written in a timelessly beautiful vertical script—the most attractive I have ever seen.”
The 18 styles of Confitería pay tribute to that sign with a retro aesthetic and smooth strokes that would indeed find a fitting home in a restaurant or sweet shop.
Dalton Maag’s new typeface is, above all, about legibility—regardless of whether the proverbial lights are on or off.
The increased prevalence of “dark modes” on the web and devices has caused a typographic problem: Owing to optical illusion, white text on a black background looks bulkier than its inverse. The result is often a hierarchy problem … and the solution is the typeface Dark Mode, billed as the first of its kind.
Matt Burvill’s typeface offers two variants for each of its eight weights—aptly dubbed “DarkmodeOn” and “DarkmodeOff.”
“The optical adjustment is surprisingly large, but is imperceptible to readers, aiming to help the designer properly present their intention while improving legibility and user experience,” Dalton Maag writes. “The proportions and widths remain the same between the two modes, preventing text reflow and removing the need for layout adjustments between modes.”
The family includes a variable font file as well, operating at a reduced size to expedite loading times, while giving users the ability to alter the dark mode axis for custom applications.
All told, it’s an extremely forward-thinking design—and like smart lighting in our homes, might just be the wave of the future.
Last year, James Edmondson of OH no Type Company asked his Twitter followers: What’s the best—and worst—thing about OH no?
One answer to the latter haunted him for months:
“It would be great to be able to use an Ohno font more than once.”
With Edmondson’s signature humor, the winding path that led to his new face, Degular, is explored in depth here—but the key takeaway is that he indeed walked away with a workhouse that can be used more than once. (Some might even say more, given Degular’s 42 styles.)
The development was not without its surprises.
“When I began finishing up the work on these fonts, and showing them to my friends, their reaction was not at all what I had anticipated. They were saying things like, ‘Wild,’ and, ‘I can totally see your hand in this.’ In an effort to make something super bland and devoid of emotion, I had completely failed.”
As far as failures go, this is one we’re all about.
Alejandro Paul’s Dilemma from Sudtipos draws inspiration from Peignot Fonderie’s Polyphème, Cyclopéen and Extra Condensé designs from the dawn of the 20th century.
“From these initial points of reference, Sudtipos went further and reimagined these projects for an actual use by blending them into a unique and complex type system. Dilemma is defined as ‘a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two or more alternatives’ … and that is exactly how we designed this font. We created a workhorse system where each style functioned well alone but would be more powerful when working as a team, pairing the sans styles with the serifs.”
The resulting typeface comes in 42 styles, with three widths and seven weights in both sans and serif.
Dubbed “a personal take on modular typefaces,” DSType’s Enorme draws inspiration from Russian Constructivism in the most modern of ways.
As the foundry writes, “At first glance it will look like a plain monospaced typeface, however that couldn't be further from the truth. With over 3,000 glyphs, all easily accessible through a simple set of opentype features, this typeface quickly reveals itself as more of a typographic playground.”
Typographic playground, indeed—with shape-shifting rounded and square forms that can be stretched to the bounds of legibility and back on both axes, Pedro Leal and Dino dos Santos’ Enorme is a delightful way to do some design frolicking.
Wes Anderson films. Field Notes journals. The U.S. plaque on the moon.
Futura is iconic.
But that doesn’t mean it’s always served up at its best.
A few years ago, Monotype Creative Type Director Steve Matteson gave a talk about the origins of Futura, and he wanted to create an accompanying keepsake to leave his audience with. So he locked up some metal type and letterpressed one.
When he did, the typeface came alive in all new ways: Gone was the coldness he had long felt was imbued in the design, and instead he found an all-new rhythm, balance and readability.
Matteson wanted to bring that feeling back to modern Futura—and today, with the launch of Futura Now, he, Terrance Weinzierl and Juan Villanueva have.
The problem with previous digital offerings of Paul Renner’s 1927 design is that they essentially were copies of copies of copies—and from medium to medium, things became lost. With the new release, Monotype sought to restore the original character of the face, while expanding in organic directions.
All told, Futura Now encompasses 102 styles, 89 languages, 600 characters, new weights, decorative variants, and even a variable font.
“It brings some much-needed humanity back to the world of geometric sans serifs,” Matteson details. “Despite its reputation as the ultimate modern typeface, Futura Now is surprisingly warm. It’s just as at home set next to a leafy tree as it is next to a stainless-steel table, because it skillfully navigates the border between super-clean geometry and humanist warmth.”
The W Type Foundry is on a self-professed mission to bring uncials back.
To resurrect the scripts—which were popular from the fourth to eighth centuries AD—the Chilean studio is brewing up some typographic alchemy.
As they write, “What comes to your mind if I say Architype, Geometric, Gaelic and Uncial? An impossible combination of features? An unrealistic setup of tastes as weird as your music list? Or some part of a joke told by your favorite comedian? Just chill and stick to the idea that [it’s] possible.”
On paper, the resulting typeface, Gallos, doesn’t seem like it should work. But then you get drawn in by Diego Aravena Silo and Salvador Rodríguez’s distinct ‘a,’ and you realize it does.
The typeface takes the form of two subfamilies: Gallos Uncial and Gallos Architype. Pops of quirk and personality find their way to the fore of the fonts, thanks to an ‘M,’ ’N,’ “W,’ ‘a,’ ‘m,’ ’n,’ ‘r,’ and ‘w’ unique to each.
“The Uncial script aspect [displays] the leaned ‘a’ with a closed bowl, and the classical geometric style [depicts] more conventional uppercase and lowercase letters ‘m’ and ‘n.’ The Architype [subfamily] is inspired by Paul Renner’s Architype model, thus the leaned ‘a’ has an open counter, the ‘r’ is composed by a stem and a dot, and the rest of the mentioned letters were built using square rational features. Both models are connected by classical Uncial features such as the curved stroke ‘e’ and curved shaft ‘t,’ and with Gaelic vibes which can be seen in uppercase and lowercase letters ‘K’ and ‘X.’”
Will it bring uncials back?
Still, we’re happy to see the results of the designers’ typographic time travels.