Monotype Type Trends Series: Mix-Up

Graphis is excited to partner with Monotype to bring you a monthly series on type trends.

“There is a rich, thriving world of type out there that rewards the curious seeker with inventive, memorable, even mind-expanding designs.” – Phil Garnham, Monotype Creative Type Director. 

One of our most popular pieces, Monotype’s annual Type Trends report, recently dropped. This report is not our work. It’s work by brands and agencies that we admire and whose work really stood out over the last twelve, and some odd, months. This is not an advertisement for Monotype; it’s a story of typographic creativity and some of its root causes; a celebration of the unique typographic voices of our times. 

In this related Type Trends series, you’ll find the result of a year’s worth of looking, collecting, and curating by the Monotype Studio. Each year we reflect on which trends have continued, which ones have morphed, and which ones withered on the vine. We’ll continue to explore other trends in future blog posts and highlight the exciting work by designers, foundries and agencies that helped shape the trends.

In the spirit of “mixing things up,” we’re going a little out of order and starting with the trend that graced the cover of our report, “Mix-Up.” Individuals, groups, and the culture at large are embracing diversity—fluidity—ambiguity—inclusion. Mix-Up is typographic diversity, pairing multiple typeface styles in one identity to turn diversity into unity.

Like the Loopy logo (more on those in a future blog) Mix-Up is an easy concept that’s not particularly easy to pull off. But even when it’s not done particularly well, the idea is sublime: embracing differences.

L to R: Yale School of Architecture 2015. Agency/designer: Pentagram.Circuit Seoul. Agency/designer: Phillip Kim. Amberg, Sartorius, et/et. Agency/designer: Sam Steiner. Breakout. Agency/designer: Slanted, Cihan Tamti i.

The idea is old and new—or old in a new context. In 2015, Pentagram designed the poster shown for the Yale School of Architecture. And more recently, Phillip Kim designed the poster for the exhibition Circuit Seoul in Korea. Sam Steiner designed the poster, “Amberg, Sartorius, et/et.” for an exhibition in Switzerland. Finally, breakout-design-star Cihan Tamti i created the book cover for German publisher Slanted, for a collection of his posters designed in reaction to the pandemic.

Gotong Royong (Communal Work). Agency/designer: Huruf type collective.

In Gotong-Royong Huruf, by the Huruf type collective, it is done particularly well. Through a type design marathon bringing together the Malaysian type community, the collective created a Mix-Up typeface inspired by a place and an ethos of mutual care, or “gotong-royong”. Twenty-six designers contributed two letters each to combat isolation, foster digital solidarity, and document the current Malaysian zeitgeist.

Let Me Experiment. Agency/designer: Boris Bonev.

Studio Cohe in Vietnam describes Ngoam’s identity as “using ransom letters as motif” to give an impression of “experimental cuisine” at a place “where diversity becomes unity, where cultural ambiance breathes life into each taste.” The agency Triboro uses a Mix-Up treatment to express a variety of proponents of innovative design in a book published by Fast Company. Dutch designer Boris Bonev’s Mix-up poster is a simple command: Let me experiment.

We are as one. Agency/designer: Airbourne Studio.
Henkel. Agency/designer: Interbrand.
Towards Utopia. Agency/designer: Dazzle Studio.

Agency Airbourne Studio in the UK created a Mix-Up custom typeface called AsOne to express the idea of “unity in diversity” for their identity. Henkel Beauty Care in Germany is dedicated to diversity and inclusion throughout their company and brand. Interbrand used Mix-Up to express that in their typography. Towards Utopia is a trans-feminist, anti-racist organization focused on art, education, and resources. Dazzle Studio gave them a beautiful riff on Mix-up to express that ethos.

Superunion, Evri.

Recently, Hermes, the UK’s largest parcel delivery company, rebranded as EVRi with a Mix-Up style logo that has 194,481 permutations. The Monotype Studio partnered with leading branding agency, SuperUnion, and set out to create another ‘world’s first,’ a generative logotype system that was unlike any other seen before. By employing variable font technology, the Monotype Studio design team, led by Creative Type Director, Phil Garnham, envisioned the design of an adaptive logo system, one that enabled Evri’s logotype to change its letterforms entirely, and yet remain sticky; a logo that eliminates consistency at every customer interaction whilst still being completely recognizable. No small task!

This ambitious goal of creating a living logotype was made possible by variable font technology. A variable font is a dynamic font family, it can behave like multiple fonts, and with a little extra creative thinking, they can become responsive too. Variable allows us to interact with and apply external data points to font data, to manipulate the font style to whatever form suits the design, the context, or even a customer’s preference. Our vision for Evri was to create a variable logo system that adapts from one to many viable alternative designs.

Imagine a typeface with every typeface in it: literally every typeface ever created in one font file. This idea is one of the first things we discussed when setting out to create the ‘Evri Monotype’ font, but it wasn’t possible as the planning and practicality of the concept were obscene. But what about a font that implies universality, diversity, and inclusivity – the very essence of that idea? Meet Evri Monotype. 

Evri Monotype is Evri’s most significant brand asset. It’s a unicase, “Mix-Up” style typeface that contains 615 unique letters, numbers, and symbols. The font’s broad range of expression is preprogrammed to automatically change and react to its preceding letters via intelligent pseudo-randomization OpenType code that manages stylistic sets across the font. The font can automate the look and feel of words being typed without any user intervention, a simplified solution for non-type-savvy internal font users. The headline expands on the concept of Evri’s variable logotype, but here upper mixes with lowercase across all glyphs, the font’s spacing is looser yet remains compact in delivering punchy headlines, and the brand’s cheeky and chirpy tone of voice in short-form copy. This is a typeface that embodies the variety of each and every parcel, person, and place Evri delivers to.  

Looking ahead, each type trend is a curated picture, a mini-exhibition, or a room in an exhibition. Each piece also has its own story. While our collections and juxtapositions draw attention to formal aspects of creative work, the challenge for you is to puzzle through the equation of form and content—and to learn from that inquiry. It’s when we ask, “What’s going on here?” that things get truly interesting. 

In the meantime, visit our Trends hub to download the full report or watch the in-depth webinar.

Author: Graphis