In the future, what typeface will have represented 2015?
June 25, 2010 9:45 AM   Subscribe

Designers, type designers, font geeks - I need your help please. In the past, each "era" has had a typeface that came to represent the "spirit" of that era. Can you recommend me typefaces that you feel are poised to capture this new era we are entering...this time where computing breaks free of the desktop and we interact in new ways with "the cloud" in everything we do wherever we are?

Think of the 20's and you think of Art Deco, and you immediately picture that typeface style. Each era has its iconic design (and typeface) style...the streamlined, futuristic optimism of the 50's, the Woodstock-y hippie graphics of 60's culture, the Nagel-ish Duran Duran 80's...

In every era, somebody captures the gathering mood of the time. "Mobile computing", "augmented reality", the "semantic web"...all these shorthand phrases have become part of the mainstream idea of what "Next" is. What typeface(s) do you expect (or feel should) stand poised to become most associated with this idea of "Next"?

(Of course, I realize that typeface doesn't stand alone; that color, composition, and all the rest carry the load as well in graphically characterizing anything, much less an era. But in this case, I'm hoping for typeface recommendations.)

posted by nickjadlowe to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Sort of aside your main question, I've been seeing Bank Gothic used a LOT. Especially in movies.
posted by Fleebnork at 10:00 AM on June 25, 2010

Gotham, aka the Obama campaign/administration font, seems to be popping up everywhere.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:03 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would also guess Gotham. Interview with the designer here.
posted by oulipian at 10:08 AM on June 25, 2010

I'm not really sure there's any one answer, since you're asking for two things. First you ask for a typeface that would exemplify our era. But, then you specifically focus on the technology side of things. Any era has different faces, depending on your focus. For instance, the thirties could be depicted using art deco typefaces. But, it could just as easily be depicted using somber, heavy, black, sans-serif "No Jobs" fonts to get across the feel of the Great Depression.

Similarly, different fonts can be used for our own era. Gotham has already been mentioned. It would be very hard to argue against the iPhone being a symbol of this era, so, think about the default font used on the iPhone system display. The font that millions of people see every time they use their iphone. It's Helvetica.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:19 AM on June 25, 2010

Neo Sans and Klavika are similar and very popular right now. Klavika is the Facebook font, Neo Sans is the Intel font, among many other uses. They have a more modern feel and aren't just repurposed classics like Helvetica.
posted by smackfu at 10:27 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm guessing it'll be readable at small sizes and not particularly beautiful. Efficiency over deep communication.
posted by amtho at 11:28 AM on June 25, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you for the suggestions so far. Keep 'em coming!

Amtho makes an interesting point and addresses that "spirit of the age" notion I was trying to get at. Perhaps as our devices/mediums change, so will our typographic priorities. What typefaces embody this potential sea change in our devices and how we use them?

RE Gotham and Helvetica...while their integrity and utility make them beautiful and timeless (and personal favorites), I wonder if these same qualities keep them from speaking to the more emotional/technological spirit of the near future.

Thorzdad...Yep, I know I have a few ideas all wrapped up in there, and our age, like all others, will likely be defined by revolutions on many fronts, but I am asking more particularly about the emerging technological spirit. You are right, I should have been more clear about that.

Smackfu...Yes, Facebook is a good example of the type of thing that the masses come to identify with a point in time, and in this case, the point when social media changed the way people interact with the internet and each other as a result.

What typefaces are poised to be well-suited to the new Facebook (or whatever the next new thing is)?
posted by nickjadlowe at 12:07 PM on June 25, 2010

I would argue that the recent hand drawn type bandwagon is fairly evocative of this era - while we are interacting with technology pretty much all the time, there's also the return of DIY, hacking things together on their own, and generally making the 'experience' (both with technology and without) of this era a much more personal one.

Here's a book that has a good representation of the breadth of this style: Hand Job: A Catalog of Type

(Personally, I think that this style can be overused and that people tend to use this as a crutch when it might not be appropriate to the task at hand, but the fact remains that it CAN be effective and is very recognizable.)
posted by girlalex at 12:19 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Alternatively, there might be a reaction to the small/efficient trend in fine art / print / advertising, so the memorable face of the upcoming age might be full of subtle beautiful detail.
posted by amtho at 12:31 PM on June 25, 2010

I've been seeing a lot of Museo around the web and in other technical settings. Dell just commissioned a custom cut, as well...
posted by SemiSophos at 12:33 PM on June 25, 2010

I realize this totally unhelpful, but I'm throwing it out as a thought experiment ... What if one of the typographic signposts of the future is the end of a definite epochal face? As you say, we're doing more and more cloud/device/etc. reading, and seeing more and more systems, like Greasemonkey scripts, Instapaper, Safari Reader, RSS feeds, etc, that treat the text of this reading as content which they pour into your preferred form. So: what if it doesn't matter if the designer went to all sorts of @font-face trouble to set everything in Mrs Eaves, because people will just see it in their preferred format? As it is already, if you do a little fiddling, you can experience huge swathes of Web content in Helvetica (or whatever), regardless of the designer's intention.

What I'm wondering is: what if the "typeface of the future" is, well, nothing, or nothing much? In which case perhaps the distinctive look will be styles we remember from advertising and print. Like girlalex said, there will almost certainly be a lot more hand-ish type stuff -- and I have a pet theory that we'll see a revival of blackletter and stuff in the dazzlingly vulgar late-19th century gothic mode, as a swing of the pendulum against all this squeaky-clean Swissness and part of the larger stylistic revival of turn of the century aesthetics. Dirty, inky, letterpress pixels for people with mustaches and bikes who make their own pickles. Then it will filter out to the larger community.

Anyway, two half-thought-through notions. Hope this helps.
posted by finnb at 12:41 PM on June 25, 2010

To my non-typophile eyes, Archer seems very 'now'. And I will always associate handmade-looking fonts like sketch rockwell with this time.
posted by logic vs love at 2:06 PM on June 25, 2010

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