Welcome to our tenth annual celebration of what is fresh and interesting in type design. Who decides what meets that standard? No single writer. No editorial board. No consensus by committee. No superstar-studded jury (though there are some luminaries in this bunch). Those formats all have value. But what makes this list different — and maybe a little weird but, to me, always insightful — is that each contributor makes their own pick.
They bring their own views and voices to their selections. They speak from a range of experience in nearly every facet of typography: from letter drawing to font programming, from print publication to UX design, from education to art direction. Of the thousands of typefaces released in 2015, sixty-three are highlighted here, each chosen because it gave one typophile a particular bit of excitement or joy.
If there is a common thread among the selections, it is — as often seems to be the case — variety. This year, though, we benefit from an exceptional diversity of gender (in both contributors and type designers) and scripts (writing systems beyond Latin).
I’m especially pleased with (and humbled by) the non-Latin reviews. Typographica primarily reaches a Western audience, but globalization affects everyone who makes or uses fonts. We all can gain from learning about what makes a good Arabic, Cyrillic, Devanagari, or Hebrew typeface. This year, we’ve enlisted some experts to guide us on that multiscript path, both throughout the main selections and in a special addendum to the Other Notable Releases.
The Year in Type
Aside from the ever-expanding crop of fine new typefaces, other exciting typographic developments unfolded in 2015. Alphabettes, a collaborative blog and showcase for women in type, came onto the scene. The writing on the site is approachable, smart, and often hilarious. The ’bettes even picked their own Favourite Typefaces of a certain year. (I can’t wait for 1916.) The group is incredibly active, pushing out new content every week, yet maintains a high standard. Although it has only been around for a few months, Alphabettes has already established itself as a force in the typographic community.
Another new platform launched last year, this one commercial: Fontstand. Designers Andrej Krátky, Peter Biľak, and Ondrej Jób teamed up to respond to several needs of the market. The core selling point is a try-before-you-buy and rental system that makes testing and short-term font use effortless and inexpensive. That wasn’t an entirely novel idea — font subscriptions and cloud activation for desktop app use were already available via services from Monotype and Adobe — but what sets Fontstand apart from most retailers is what it doesn’t offer. It’s all about quality control. Fontstand’s initial group of twenty or so foundries reads like a who’s who of premium, independent labels. The collection has grown since then — but slowly and deliberately.
2015 didn’t deliver the sea changes in webfont technology that we saw in the previous few years, but that’s probably a sign that the concept has reached a certain maturity. Nearly every major foundry now offers fonts in a web format or service, and by the end of the year WOFF was well on its way to becoming the de facto standard webfont format.
Our annual arrives a bit late this year. The main reason for the delay is that we just rebuilt the place. Most of these pages should look familiar, but the seven-year-old code behind the site was substantially rewritten to improve the experience on mobile devices and facilitate future updates. Each of the 2015 selections, along with more than 350 reviews from previous years, and all the Commentary archives, are phone friendly at last. So now you can read about type while sitting on the toilet, as God intended.
Finally, a note about Typographica’s editorial policy and values. This site does not make anyone a living. It is largely a labor of love for the three people you see in the colophon. We are supported by our nameplate sponsor and the Deck. We also receive nominal affiliate fees from font retailers such as Fontspring and MyFonts. When a selected typeface is available from these shops, we link to them. I believe distributors provide useful services for both makers and users; when they treat type designers fairly, they can play a constructive role in the industry.
That said, I recognize that editorial publishers are not the only creators struggling to remain independent. I strongly endorse indie foundries and recommend licensing fonts directly from their makers whenever possible. In these annual reviews, our policy has always been to link directly to foundries from the bold typeface reference in the main text. Starting this year, we also include foundry sources in the sidebar. Those who sell their type directly from their own site will now be first on the “Get the Fonts” list. (Read more about our policy.)
— Stephen Coles, Editor
Caren Litherland’s deft editing helps make this feature possible. Huge thanks to Chris Hamamoto for his significant work on the redesign. Our new headline and text face is Contemporary Sans, kindly donated by Ludwig Übele, who indulged (and continues to endure) my many customization requests. It joins Eksell Display for the “Type of 2015” graphic. Florian Hardwig and Tânia Raposo also pitched in, helping with the list of nominees, creating specimens, and linking to our sister site, Fonts In Use. Most of all, thanks to the contributors for lending their expertise and patience.