Top Web Font Trends in 2012
According to trend data collected from both WebINK and Extensis web font experts, key trends for the past year included:
Plug-ins and bookmarklets and WYSIWYG tools—OH MY! 2012 was the year of preview tools and plug-ins, unleashing more creative freedom than ever as developers and designers easily gave fonts a test run.
- New preview tools such as our own FontDropper got big buzz on Twitter by allowing designers and developers to drag and drop fonts onto their web pages to see how they look.
- New plug-ins offered new workflow efficiencies by allowing web fonts to be accessed directly from the most popular design applications, both in desktop applications such as Photoshop, and in online environments such as WordPress, Drupal, and more.
Two other trends caught our attention:
- More free fonts. Historically, the majority of free fonts have been well below what we think of as professional quality. With the increased interest in web fonts, there has been an explosion of free fonts as web fonts. Although the majority of the new generation still fail to clear a reasonable quality bar, there is a noticeable minority that does—most commissioned by corporations, plus a few out of those encouraged by Google’s cash “bounty” on open source web fonts. We expect there will continue to be many new “libre” web fonts, but separating the wheat from the chaff will remain challenging for non-typographers.
- New methods of funding font development: This year type designers and foundries took to new online resources to get font development projects off the ground. Sites like Kickstarter made it easier for typography fans to directly fund the development of both new, original designs and revivals of historic typefaces. Google encouraged their open source font developers to top up Google funding with Kickstarter as well. I gave presentations about this trend at TypeCon (Milwaukee) and ATypI (Hong Kong), and used Kickstarter to fund my new revival typeface, Cristoforo.
2013 Forecast: Web Fonts Become Mainstream
We predict 2013 will be the year web fonts go from cutting-edge to established, and by the end of 2013, web fonts will be a mainstream technology. Currently, about 15% of the top thousand or so web sites are using real, served web fonts (whether self-hosted or served by a third-party, as with our WebINK web font service). Our take is that by the end of 2013 that number will be around 30–40%.
Further, we predict that building on top of the universality of basic web font support in browsers, two new trends will emerge in 2013 as web designers and developers become comfortable relying on web fonts for truly “mission critical” usage. Both are replacements for static graphics, offering increased convenience and scalability.
These trends are:
- Symbol/dingbat/interface fonts. Web fonts will be used to create interface elements and symbols that show up correctly in all browsers and smoothly scale to arbitrary sizes. We’ve seen the beginnings of this in 2012, and I think it will be a hot, much-discussed topic next year.
- Logo fonts. Web fonts can also be used to create logos as designers see they can get scalable, smooth logos that can render well at arbitrary resolutions. I haven’t seen much of this yet, but I expect to see it start to pick up by the second half of next year. In fact, I am working on “fontifying” our own logos right now, and expect to roll them out some time early next year.