Want to give your design a quick facelift? Using new and interesting typography trends might be the answer. Designers are opting for less elaborate typefaces and pairing them with bold color, cutouts, gradients, and even customizations to create lettering that stands out.
Changing typefaces or recreating an image or header in a trending style can give a design a fresh look without a full-scale overhaul. Not sure where to start? This list features typography trends with examples to use as inspiration for how to use them.
Here’s a look at the top typography trends for 2021.
Experimental typefaces are all the rage with expressive and interesting styles that add plenty of personality to design projects. Experimental typefaces come in a lot of different forms – they may include funky shapes or strokes, color, or animation.
The best part about these type styles is that they can inject a unique, and very specific, vibe into a project.
You can find experimental typefaces from a number of different foundries or from independent type designers. If you want to take a peek at some new experimental options, head over to Typelab.
Short, Fat Fonts (Low X-Heights)
Another type style that is trending in a major way is typefaces that have a short stature and wide stance. Many of these typefaces feature all caps character sets, but when they feature lowercase letters, can be identified by a low x-height.
This type style tends to work best when there’s not a lot competing with it on the canvas. It’s also best-suited for shorter words or phrases, due to readability.
These short, fat fonts also work best for designs that have a super-modern feel. They are almost futuristic in scope and design in many instances.
The Sharpie marker style is quite popular among website designers when it comes to display typefaces. And there are plenty of handwriting typefaces to choose from so that you get just the right look and feel.
Much of the current handwriting typeface trend is focused on printed letters with upper and lowercase characters with thicker strokes and a bit of roughness to them.
Typefaces might also include little extra embellishments that make certain characters feel even more special. When it comes to handwriting styles with more cursive or script type designs, you are likely to find long tails and elaborate swashes.
Outline fonts are a big deal.
You’ll find this trend mostly in the hero area of webpages for the main copy. While uses vary somewhat there are a few elements that you’ll find almost every time:
- Sans serif typeface
- All caps text for outline letters
- Paired with filled lettering
- Oversized text elements
Outline font options can be a lot of fun to use. You just have to be cautious when it comes to readability. Letters can get lost in background images and videos quickly. So take care with color, contrast, and placement.
And don’t overdo it. An outline font works best for a point of emphasis, not to create your entire message.
Left-aligned text is readable, elegant, and can create an off-center balance that has a classic feel.
The trick to using left-aligned typography is to pay attention to line breaks and the size of the text. Think about the entire text element as a single element. More lines of text and more words will feel bigger than a couple of words. Adjust size and line-spacing accordingly.
For an even more consistent feel, consider aligning other elements to the left as well. Create a grid “margin” for elements to rest, such as the example above from The Urban Village Project. Note the brand name, two levels of text, and a call to action button are all left-aligned on the same invisible plane.
The influence of TikTok has moved to typography as well, with glitchy effects trending in type design. And while glitchy effects can be fun, they are quite tricky to use well.
Most glitchy text is designed more as an art element than a readable one. And for good reason, glitches in typography can cause readability issues.
That being said, this trend is a lot of fun and you can deploy it in a variety of ways. Click through the example above and you can see multiple uses of glitchy text just in the hero header.
Rounded Sans Serifs
This is a trend that pretty much anyone can use and it’s so simple you might not even see it until you start looking. Projects are packed with rounded, simple sans serif typefaces.
What’s great about this trend is that it works with everything. Rounded sans serifs are among the most readable typefaces. Most designers using this trend are also using fonts with medium to thick uniform strokes with adequate letterspacing as well.
Everything about this typography trend is centered on optimum readability. Plus, you can pair it with other typography trends for an even more modern look. The example above uses both rounded sans serifs and left-aligned text.
Designers just can’t seem to get enough of gradients. (I’ll admit to being one of them!)
Subtle gradients as an accent in typography are the next evolution of this trend.
What’s nice about the trend is that gradients are so subtle that you might not even see them at first. There’s just a slight variance in the color that helps pull the eye across lettering.
Gradients are best used with thicker typefaces and to accent specific words or phrases.
Be careful not to overdo it too much. A good text gradient maintains consistent contrast across the word so that it’s not jarring to read and so that it stands apart from the background.
“Undersized” Hero Type
It’s not that text is trending back toward being small overall, but headlines and text in the hero images of websites don’t have that same oversized feel that overwhelmed some designs. So-called “undersized” typography in the hero area of websites is a bit refreshing.
These type sizes – which are still big enough to denote as headlines, but small enough to include a few lines of text – tend to fall more in the range of 50 to 80 points. (The example above is 60 points for the headline and a mere 23 for the secondary headline.)
The key to making smaller typography work is to ensure that you have selected a highly readable font and give it plenty of space. It’s easy to fall into a trap of putting too much text on the screen when it is small. Don’t let it happen to you.
Why is typography trending smaller? These sizes are easier to scale while creating more universal experiences across devices. Giant, oversized typography can make a mess on mobile, which orients differently than desktop screens. The result is type that doesn’t always look great or having to make design choices that impact the consistency across devices.
Just dropping the size a bit can solve this problem, maintains readability, and still looks great when done well.
Serifs are back. Once deemed “hard to read online,” typography with tiny extra strokes on characters is popping up everywhere.
And by the way, that readability issue with serifs online is a total myth.
If you want to use serifs for web projects, look for lettering styles that have regular to thicker strokes and pay attention to line spacing when it comes to ascenders, descenders and serifs or ligatures so that every word is easy to understand.
From simple square serifs, such as in the example above, to more elaborate flourishes, this typography style has so much character and charm. It can add a nice boost to simple design outlines and those that use space well.
One of the biggest overall trends in design is animation. And there’s no reason this can’t apply to typography as well.
More designs are using lettering that moves, shifts, or is impacted by a hover state (such as the example above). All of these techniques can lead to a more interactive, richer user experience.
When animating text, it’s important to consider how and where users will be reading the information (some animated elements such as video don’t work well on all mobile devices yet). Make accommodations so that even if the animation doesn’t work properly, there’s still a worthwhile user experience where messaging is clear.
In that regard, the best text animations often start with lettering that is clear and easy to see. Animation comes into play after a delay or as part of user interaction. This can delight and surprise users (maybe even resulting in more time on-site).
Consider speed carefully with typography animations – if the text moves too fast, users will miss the message completely; it the text moves too slow, users might click away before reading all of the content. It must be just right. (User testing can help you find an ideal speed.)
Stacked Text Blocks
While typography is trending toward being somewhat smaller in size, it still carries just as much weight. Designers are stacking multiple lines of text, particularly in hero headers, for a weighted message with more words.
The trend is important to note because it shows a shift in trying to communicate a little more fully with users and less of an expectation that one word will be enough to entice someone to engage with a design. More information presented in a visually engaging way can be a better solution that leads to more user engagement.
The key considerations when it comes to stacking multiple lines of text is to find a typeface that is readable when used with more letters (or even when used in all caps, which is a popular option), has adequate linespacing so that lines are easy to distinguish and that breaks in the copy are logical. When stacking text, there should be a distinct flow from line to line that’s both obvious in how to read the words and that users should move to the next line of copy before any other part of the design.
Because of challenges with line breaks and ease of reading, text stacks are often on one side of the screen so that the designer has more control. This structure can also create harmony between a text element and another visual on the screen for an asymmetrical balance that’s appealing to look at.
Color Fonts and Type
Color fonts are a class of type of their own and have popped up all over the place. They’re more popular than many originally expected and have fun applications in design projects.
You can read all about color fonts here in our beginner’s guide. The concept of color fonts has opened up more projects to color in typography overall as well.
While there was a lot of black and white text in more minimalist styles, colors are roaring back. Many designers are using bright color typography with minimal styles, such as the Tilted Chair, above. Color can add extra visual interest and emphasis on the words in color.
Bright options, such as the red in the example, help draw the eye and serve as a great springboard for messaging, building brand identity and drawing users into the design.
This is one of those trends that’s a little surprising to see: highlighter-style emphasis on lettering to create emphasis.
From simple highlights to separate lettering from the background to underlines to animated highlights, there are plenty of ways to use this type design trend. And while it might sound a little odd when you describe it, the actual visuals are pretty stunning.
This technique is best for words that you really want users to see. It also works better for shorter blocks of text so that the highlight doesn’t get overwhelming and take over the design.
Cutouts and Overlays
Layered effects are a great way to make a design look a lot less flat. Doing it with typography can be a nice option.
Cutouts and overlays refer to text elements that have no color fill. A cutout allows whatever is in the background layer to show through the type design, such as the animated sports imagery in the example above. An overlay is often transparent lettering over a background so that you can see the background through letters while still reading them.
Both of these techniques have a lot of visual interest and can be fun to create. They work best with large lettering, not many words, and a display typeface.
Overlays work great with photos, texture or even video backgrounds. Just make sure to avoid a lot of other design effects when using this technique. (You don’t want to overwhelm the user.)
Layering with Other Elements
In most projects, text elements and other elements are kept fairly separated. But that idea has changed quite a bit and designers aren’t shying away from allowing text and other elements to overlap. The end result can be pretty cool and actually help users focus on the words on the screen a little more.
While the most common uses of the typography trend in practice are text elements that overlap boxed images or color, MJND kicks it up a notch. This design merges the person in the image with typography so that it is cut out around him (like the person is walking into the words).
This is a technique that comes from print design where it is more popular – and quite honestly easier to execute – and can create a stunning display. The trick is having the right image and maintaining the readability of every single letter. (Be careful not to create unintended words because of missing character strokes or parts.)
Text with Gradients
The most underappreciated design technique of all-time might be the gradient. It seriously gets a bad reputation because of poor usage. But when done well, gradients are absolutely stunning. That’s the case with the example above, Design Spin.
Just the right part of the headline features a simple blue to green color change. It’s easy to read and understand and put emphasis in exactly the right place. The gradient feels modern and fresh and adds just a little more visual intrigue than a single color alone. It’s a perfect fit for the minimal design of the page and, with the gradient in the scroll button, there’s a direction cue from the main typography to the next step the user should take.
It’s not often that “overdone” is used favorably when talking about any design technique. But when it comes to the overdone typography trend, it can work.
This type trend has a retro feel and is characterized by text and text effects that are so over the top that you must read the words. There are outlines and shadows and bevels and fades and crazy colors. No effect is off the table.
And the more effects you pile on, the more users might look. This style works best with a simple design scheme, such as Schnitzel Love, above.
One of the commandments of typography is to leave lettering alone. You shouldn’t alter or mess with typefaces; pick one that works for your project.
But designers are challenging that idea with positive results, by making simple adjustments to typefaces to give them a more custom look and feel. Others are actually going all-in and having custom typefaces made for projects.
While this can be a lot of fun, it is often a pricey option and can take a lot of time. It’s most common with bigger brands or for projects with a typographer on the team.
Personally, typography trends are one of my favorite things to dive into. Lettering is such an essential part of all design.
My favorite typography trends are those that push the boundaries of what’s common but still maintain readability. What do you like in terms of typography? Let’s talk about it on Twitter. (Just mention @carriecousins and @designshack!)