Nostalgic Escapism Reigns Supreme in 2023’s Typography Trends

Nostalgic Escapism Reigns Supreme in 2023’s Typography Trends

Many of us began 2022 with a sense of excitement at the prospect of a fresh start, collectively looking to shake off the gloom of the pandemic. And we watched eagerly as designers and brands alike tapped into this optimism and hopefulness in last year’s design trends. But as we know, the following twelve months didn’t exactly play out as any of us expected it to.

Design styles and trends have long mirrored and evolved with societal shifts (think: the Roaring ‘20s, Swinging ‘60s and the kitschy bling aesthetic of the early ‘00s) and the 2023 font trends identified by the 99designs by Vista creative community are no different.

Some reflect our collective yearning for comfort and happy youthful memories, while others channel a darker futuristic view, and then there are those that simply look to capture the ‘glory days’ of times gone by. There is a strong theme of nostalgic escapism that ties these trends together as society seeks comfort in familiarity from decades gone by. However, rather than being defined by one particular decade or moment in time, nostalgia manifests through these font trends in a wild variety of forms.

Vintage Narrow Serifs

2022 was the year of youthful, bubbly, Y2K-esque fonts as we sought out playfulness and excitement. But in 2023, fonts are becoming more timeless and classic: They’re still bold, but in a more elegant way.

Font by Jesh design on 99designs by Vista <a style=“color: blue; font-style: italic; text-decoration:underline;” href=https://99designs.com/profiles/jelenakuljic23 target=“_blank”>(credit)</a>
Font by Jesh design on 99designs by Vista (credit)

This may have something to do with our increasingly digital existence. Our lives now revolve less and less around physical, printed materials and this trend is an excellent way of bringing that much loved 1980’s and 1990’s fashion magazine aesthetic to the screen in an authentic way.

While these tall, narrow serifs are more mature and strong, their height and thinness gives them a delicate, gentle appeal. And unexpected flourishes, such as decorative ears, curvy descenders and random italicized letters add a modern personality and flair.

Art Deco Revival

Another timeless font trend for 2023 is the revival of Art Deco lettering – which is certainly apt now that we find ourselves living in our own version of the Roaring ‘20s.

Traditional Art Deco fonts are categorized by elongated sans-serifs that couple long, straight lines with flowing, elegant curves. But in 2023, these fonts have received a modern makeover with designers giving them a contemporary edge through new, digital techniques

By Dori on 99designs by Vista <a style=“color: blue; font-style: italic; text-decoration:underline;” href=https://99designs.com/profiles/dori target=“_blank”>(credit)</a>
By Dori on 99designs by Vista (credit)

Whether that’s giving a minimalist look to traditionally intricate type, or applying Risograph-esque techniques to achieve a more grainy, printed feel, the result is a new wave of fonts that are classic rather than dated, romantic and delicate, yet still make a bold statement.

Bright Red

Red lettering and imagery is often associated with importance and, in many Western cultures, warning. Therefore, it’s generally used sparingly in design. But in 2023, bold red fonts are having their monochromatic moment

by renaissancexiv on 99designs by Vista <a style=“color: blue; font-style: italic; text-decoration:underline;” href=https://99designs.com/profiles/renaissancexiv target=“_blank”>(credit)</a>
by renaissancexiv on 99designs by Vista (credit)

Although red is a powerful color, these fonts don’t overwhelm the viewer. Instead, the use of minimalist line-art can support the boldness, giving a more jovial appearance to lettering, full of quirkiness and fun.

Often paired with light-hearted retro illustrations, reminiscent of vintage newspaper cartoons and comics, this trend is definitely bringing playfulness and humor back into minimalistic fonts that have long had a stronghold on the design world.

Mall Goth Fonts

For those who didn’t spend their teenage years hanging out at the mall, shopping at Hot Topic and listening to Nu Metal music, you may not be familiar with the phrase “Mall Goth.” This aesthetic rose to fame in the late ‘90s alongside the commercialization of goth culture and was recently revived thanks to a viral resurgence on TikTok by today’s youth culture. While it started as a fashion movement, it has transcended into the graphic design world, evident in this font trend for 2023.

Mall Goth fonts have a dark, macabre, almost grotesque look to them, with sharp, angular forms and all black colorways. Often accompanied by iconography like chains, barbed wire and skulls, they’re not too dissimilar to the punk revival we’re seeing in graphic design trends right now, or the grunge resurgence from the year before.

While a throwback to the 90s, like many of our trends for 2023, these fonts also reflect a more modern, digital-forward world, with more deliberate compositions and polished edges.

By nSkill on 99designs by Vista <a style=“color: blue; font-style: italic; text-decoration:underline;” href=https://99designs.com/profiles/nSkill target=“_blank”>(credit)</a>
By nSkill on 99designs by Vista (credit)

Liquid Chrome

Not long after Mall Goths, came Y2K grunge. The 2000’s ushered in the technological age (after a small panic that computers were going to end the world as we know it), giving way to exciting experimentation with digital techniques and graphics.

In 2023, font designers are bringing elements of the Y2K grunge era back, leveraging new technologies to bring a dark sci-fi theme, representing the darker side of the internet

By Retrofume on 99designs by Vista <a style=“color: blue; font-style: italic; text-decoration:underline;” href=https://99designs.com/profiles/retrofume target=“_blank”>(credit)</a>
By Retrofume on 99designs by Vista (credit)

There’s a moody edge to these fonts. Melting and amorphous 3D shapes and crowded text, complete with metallic and chrome colors perfectly blend realism and abstraction producing designs that somehow manage to be simultaneously chaotic yet skillfully impressive.

Variable Fonts

Who said fonts have to be static? As brands increasingly seek to become more digitally forward, 2023 is prompting a rise in exciting and engaging variable fonts. Variable fonts are nothing new, but with the rise of immersive technologies like VR and AR, brands and designers are turning to more dynamic techniques to keep audiences engaged.

Built from a base font, these letterforms shapeshift to create dynamic and impactful designs free from the restrictions of a predetermined software file. Whether that’s stretching or squashing certain letters, changing color and weight, or morphing into illustrations and patterns – the focus is on subtle animations rather than dramatic alterations to the text, allowing brands to stay recognizable while still having some fun with their brand typeface. The result is entertaining and engaging designs that hero the text and brand messaging above all else.

Distorted Fonts

Demanding attention from the viewer, in part thanks to their almost complete illegibility, distorted fonts are set to take 2023 by storm.

Part of the polarizing ‘anti-design’ trend, which has enjoyed a revival in the last few years, distorted fonts reject the conventional notion that fonts need to be as readable and clear as possible.

Instead, the clever use of warped letterforms and type obscured by patterns or overlaid imagery create visual metaphors and cues that encourage audiences to engage in deeper ways with the designs. There’s a moody, unsettling feeling to many of these designs, and the intrigue they create is a great way for brands to make a strong experimental statement among more mainstream minimalist design styles. 

Iconographic Mashups

While distorted fonts are discarding traditional legibility rules, iconographic mashups are proving that the letters themselves are up for debate as well. Although the discipline of lettering design has shown there are an infinite number of ways letters can be styled, 2023’s designers are taking it a step further.

These fonts skew traditional design principles of uniformity to create a type that is as unpredictable as our current lives. Replacing the letters themselves with icons, abstract shapes and doodles, iconographic mashup fonts are weird, wonderful and eccentric – in the best way possible.

By Llywellyn on 99designs by Vista <a style=“color: blue; font-style: italic; text-decoration:underline;” href=https://99designs.com/profiles/llywellyn target=“_blank”>(credit)</a>
By Llywellyn on 99designs by Vista (credit)

Another love child of the early 00’s, and like many design aesthetics of the time, it’s often looked down upon. But designers are embracing the irony of it all to channel a youthful and rebellious energy that feels appropriate as we head into 2023.

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