Magazine typography trends and predictions

katju's picture

Lately I have been trying to recognize some passing trends in magazine typography in order to find the roads less travelled myself. Thinking about this got me curious about the possible future trends in the world of magazine typography. So I am starting this thread for both fun and inspiration, as I am thinking there might be some inspiring and/or informed views present here.

I think it is a fair, although maybe a bit bold guess that in the near future we will see less of these past and current trends:

* extremely thin slab serifs
* extremely thin sans serifs
* didones (if it is even possible to move away from this)
* friendly and rounded slab serifs
* painfully narrow and tall sans serifs

The last two will probably go on for some while though.

But what do you think we will see more of in the coming two to three years?

Nick Shinn's picture

If you go your own way, you shouldn't be concerned about others.
Besides, the future is impossible to predict.

oldnick's picture

possible future trends in the world of magazine typography

The way things are going for Print as a medium, I'd say bitmap fonts are on the horizon...

blank's picture

But what do you think we will see more of in the coming two to three years?

I don’t really know where things will go stylistically—it really depends on whether or not the magazine industry decides the current crop of popular styles is working or if they decide that they need a dramatic break. Either way I think that more art directors will commission bespoke type and use optical sizes to make their printed magazines look better and more important so that people feel like buying them.

Steven Acres's picture

I'd say bitmap fonts are on the horizon...

What makes you say that?

JamesM's picture

Steven, I think oldnick was referring to the increasing amount of reading done on electronic devices (computers, iPads, etc.), and the decline it will be causing in printed publications. I think it's a pretty safe bet that printed books, newspapers and magazines will gradually decline in popularity over the coming years.

From today's New York Times:
"By the end of this year, 10.3 million people are expected to own e-readers in the United States, buying about 100 million e-books, the market research company Forrester predicts. This is up from 3.7 million e-readers and 30 million e-books sold last year. The trend is wreaking havoc inside the publishing industry..."

katju's picture

"make their printed magazines look better and more important so that people feel like buying them."

This to me will be one major outcome of the e-reader trend. People will still look for the fully satisfying browsing experience of a printed magazine, smell of paper, shiny ink and all. But the magazine that people take to bed at night has to have something special. Custom made typefaces, better typography all and all, special paper choices and so on - exclusivity I guess, will probably be one the rising trends. How it turns into a profitable business model, I don't know. Monocle pioneered in this quite nicely, but I would be surprised if they are making any profit out of it.

kentlew's picture

Doesn’t Monocle use off-the-shelf Plantin?

As far as typographic trends go, this is just an example of the not-that-uncommon strategy of finding something old that everyone has dismissed and reclaiming it.

What goes around comes around.

marcox's picture

Magazine typography is as much about how typefaces are combined and used as it is about the individual faces chosen.

The trend I see gaining strength is a sort of "Victorian poster meets 1950's tool catalog" approach, characterized by the gleeful mix of sturdy faces regardless of provenance, with multiple sanses, serifs and slabs tossed into the mix. See recent issues of the U.S. editions of Wired (especially the Will Farrell/Future issue) or the front-of-the-book sections in GQ as examples. (The late Portfolio mag and the much-missed Blueprint were more refined antecedents.)

Kent makes a great point, too. Want to start a design trend? Find a dusty typeface that bores/repulses you and find a way to make it fresh. Arnold Bocklin will have its day...

blank's picture

…exclusivity I guess, will probably be one the rising trends.

Not so much exclusivity as craft made obvious. Only the rare magazines that offer top-tier writing like The New Yorker and The Economist can get away with letting style take a quiet backseat to content. Other art directors will really need to start celebrating their existence. I think that the redesign of O (the Oprah magazine) is an example of how really great design can make a proletarian magazine stand out in the crowd. It’s a sort of balancing act between showing off the design without being ham-handed or overly intellectual as postmodern design sometimes was.

BeauW's picture

Warm san-seriffs.
And I don't think the ultra-swash fad has peaked yet. (as in: http://www.tiro.com/Restraint/index.html )

Frode Bo Helland's picture

I love the style of the New Yorker! It’s definitely not in the backseat (but perhaps it has grown more anti-style as the years have passed) although the typography could use some attention.

Steven Acres's picture

Steven, I think oldnick was referring to the increasing amount of reading done on electronic devices (computers, iPads, etc.), and the decline it will be causing in printed publications. I think it's a pretty safe bet that printed books, newspapers and magazines will gradually decline in popularity over the coming years.

This part I understood, but with the increasing resolution of displays, I don't really see why "bitmap" fonts will become more prevalent.

David Sudweeks's picture

Katju—
I like that you've begun with "trying to recognize some passing trends in magazine typography."
I'm curious; what have you recognized?
Perhaps rather than trying to predict what will be trendy in the future, a meaningful contribution to the discussion could be made by identifying trends that have run their course in the past ten–twenty years or so. That may help us identify trends that are still trending; and, optimistically, to what these point.

Nick Shinn's picture

You can't re-run history to find out how accurate your trend predictability model is.
There's an awful lot of random.
Check out the college radio experiment on page 4 of this article:
http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/122/is-the-tipping-point-toast.html

Any trends which one recognizes are largely the product of recency -- i.e. dependent on the particular interests of those making the observations. There are certain value judgements about which magazines are important and, indeed, influential.

But I do like the idea of the "Victorian poster meets 1950's tool catalog" -- putting a name to a trend (curation, dude!) -- is the first step in making history. But could you please shorten that a bit, Marc?

JamesM's picture

I suppose you could look at the typography in cutting-edge publications as sometimes they show the direction things are going, but you never know which trends are going to become mainstream and which ones aren't.

oldnick's picture

with the increasing resolution of displays, I don't really see why "bitmap" fonts will become more prevalent

Looks like my subtle attempt at humor got lost in translation...

.00's picture

I think magazine trends have a lot to do with the age of the magazine ADs. I think were are into a 70s thing again. This 70s stuff came back in the 90s and it seems to be here again. Those of us who lived and worked through it find it a bit tired, but a lot of young ADs are draw to it for whatever reason.

Fashion mags will always use didones, women's mags will always use ultra thin sans, this you can be sure of.

russellm's picture

This thread made me think of the international colour council, or what ever it is called,, that meets every years to decide on the colour Palette for the coming year in fashion.

Interesting point about the role of those with a say int eh choice of fonts, James. It often comes down to the personal tastes of a few people and the demographic profiles they fit into.

David Sudweeks's picture

Thanks Nick [Shinn].
I'm reading about it now.

katju's picture

The article Nick Shinn linked to was very interesting. It is of course impossible to predict the future, and I hope it came trough from my post that I was merely looking for a little play around different ideas, and this should not to be taken too seriously. But I am definitely interested in your intuition, the quality I also very much believe in, as one has to. Even if it isn't such a good tool for predicting the future, like Duncan Watts goes to prove.

I agree with Nick that there are indeed certain value judgements about which magazines are important and, indeed, influential. That plays a role in a smaller market area like mine. I can easily recognize the international magazines and font foundries that seem to have quite a big influence here - at least for now. Somebody gets inspired first, the others follow - it can get extremely conformist. But of course, rather than new trends, they often seem to be the last waves of something that started a while ago, most often in the States.

Anyhow, the big and influential magazines do not change their design that often. I think one gets pretty lost trying to predict the future based on their choices. And of course on that level, it also gets much less experimental. I will go with what James said: Fashion mags will always use didones, women's mags will always use ultra thin sans, this you can be sure of.

I find small independently run magazines, that do not need to conform to any genre expectations or commercial pressure, to be the most inspiring or at least refreshing to look at.

As I mentioned that I am working on something now, I should probably point out that this project is not going to be very trendy at all, rather the opposite. So I am not here to pick your brain. I am just curious to hear your predictions, serious or not.

marcox's picture

@Nick Shinn: How about "Neo-Victorian Industrial"? Or perhaps "Bentonian Victoriana"?

@Katju: "Big and influential magazines do not change their design that often." This is changing as print publications attempt to reflect and compete with the constant reinvention of the Web (and/or their own digital incarnations). Complete design overhauls, which used to happen every 3-5 years, now take place every couple of years. Also, the two magazines I cited, GQ and Wired (which are certainly big and influential in U.S. editorial circles) are in a perpetual state of redesign -- typefaces drift in and out of favor, and feature stories look entirely different from similar articles in previous issues.

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