There is a prevailing sentiment that font trends in 2023 are looking to the past. Nostalgia keeps the past in mind and dominates the dominant typographic trends identified by our creative community. However, how this manifests varies widely by trend—from channeling reassurance and comfort to pushing boundaries in response to pervasive social anxiety.
It’s not just sentimentality that fuels this nostalgia. In the wake of the pandemic, people are spending more time online than ever before. The attention economy is booming, and as such, the competition to capture—and maintain—consumer focus is fierce. Our social feeds are filled with videos designed to loop endlessly, and the idea of channeling bygone eras through type design creates a visual cue for people to take refuge and pause amidst the noise.
Many of us, unwittingly or not, are seeking refuge from the past year, in which the Russo-Ukrainian war and a rapidly approaching recession dominated the headlines. While the immediate past may be a bit strained, designers are taking inspiration from moments of optimism further back in history: art deco and serifs, reflecting the sophisticated elegance of classic fashion magazines, both make an appearance and contrast with louder, more youthful cultural trends .
Ultimately, 2023 Typography Trends are heavily nostalgic, but all have subtle modern twists that tell us that while these fonts are looking back, they’re only doing so to ensure we keep moving forward (if you’re looking for more options for yours) . Check out our pick of the best free fonts).
01. Art Deco revival
Whether or not the 21st century interpretation of the Roaring Twenties can be compared to that of the 20th century is still up for debate, but what is clear is the fact that creatives look back a hundred years on one of the most visually iconic decades in human history. We are seeing an ongoing revival of design trends from the 1920s, with Art Deco taking the lead.
Traditionally large and sans serif, these fonts imbue with a certain elegance. Aerodynamic curves and oversized loops give the lettering a sense of sophistication that, at the time, reflected the opulence, newfound optimism and pervasive sense of modernity you might expect to see at one of Gatsby’s parties.
But fonts in 2023 are not direct replicas of their 20th-century predecessors; They have clear, contemporary elements. In some cases, flawed lettering and digital distortions bring Art Deco squarely into the 21st century, while elsewhere modern minimalism gives these fonts a very contemporary sense of class and restraint.
02. Vintage narrow serifs
2022 might have seen more vibrant, rounded fonts, but 2023 looks a little more sophisticated. We see this especially in styles that hark back to the typefaces that first appeared in high fashion magazines of the 1980s: serif, big and elegant. The timelessness of this trend lends itself to publications that have gone digital first and can reestablish a sense of intimacy with audiences across multiple mediums.
Brands getting in on the action of this trend include: Burberry which has moved away from the bland sans serif wordmarks and returned to its serif-loving roots in a move that sparked joy in the hearts of designers worldwide. These fonts are delicate and aesthetically pleasing, often with little flourishes – a swirling bow on a “g” or an outstretched foot on a capital “R”. Expect decorative ears and terminals, cursive letters – and always, always a sense of class and serenity.
03. Iconographic Mashups
Combine a rebellious irreverence with a penchant for the eclectic, and you have the iconographic mashup trend we see so often in 2023. By incorporating symbols and illustrative details directly into letterforms themselves, designers create some truly weird and wonderful typefaces that are both playful and attention-grabbing.
There’s a clear connection to the noughties here, with clear nods to neighboring visual trends like liquid chrome, and the overall distortion has an unmistakably millennial feel. Combining different shapes gives these fonts a DIY look, harnessing a youthful energy that feels exciting and boisterous without taking itself too seriously. There is also a feeling that the abstract, fragmentary non-conformity of this style represents the current world of 2023 in a special way: diverse, unpredictable and never the same twice.
04. Mall Gothic
Think Hot Topic, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park: the nu metal era at its peak. “Mall Goth” is a throwback to a post-gothic subculture that first emerged in the late ’90s and continued into the early ’00s. After a viral resurgence on TikTok, where users embraced the irony of a commercialized subculture, designers are taking inspiration from this style when it comes to typography. Smoky shapes, sharp edges, and often all-black compositions create typefaces that are expressive and youthful.
closely related to the punk revival (opens in new tab) Widespread in the design world, this style has a subtle edge that borrows from the slightly tongue-in-cheek barbed wire, chains and skull motifs that represent this trend. But while this particularly knowing kind of Gen Z attitude is a lighter-hearted reflection of the anti-establishment sentiment rising to the surface of society, it certainly doesn’t let the establishment off the hook for a second either.
05. Bright Red
Traditionally, typefaces are either black or white, but in 2023 we’re seeing an increasing trend towards red as the first color of choice. Often with a retro undertone (but still feels modern), these bright red fonts are typically accompanied by minimalist doodles or cartoons, recreating a classic look that doesn’t feel dated.
The carefree energy of this trend conveys vitality, youthfulness and a sense of playful optimism: a welcome relief for brands and consumers seeking solace in the past while staying firmly rooted in the present. Combine this with fun, hand-drawn mascots and you have a winning combo of your own.
We can see a whole range of cultural moments and touchpoints reappearing in 2023’s typeface trends: a collection of different styles reflecting a rich visual history, from the decorative optimism of the 1920s to the post-punk attitudes of the late 1990s .
All of these trends share a common thread of nostalgia updated for contemporary tastes and modern sensibilities. As such, 2023 appears to be a year of taking stock of the past, and creatives and brands are working to figure out how to use this to make the future brighter.
For more information on font trends, see the full list from 99designs by Vista Trends 2023 (opens in new tab).