The year 2021 was mostly memorable for all the wrong reasons. And it feels like I published last year’s favorite fonts list about ten years ago! However, 2021 wasn’t a bad year for type design. In my determination to keep this list capped at ten, I’ve undoubtedly left out many releases that merit inclusion. Last year I appended a list of fifty Honorable Mentions. This year, time permitting, I’ll post those later, either as a separate list or as an addendum to this post. Watch this space! So, without further preamble, and in no particular order, I present to you my ten favorite typefaces of 2021.
From super-talented designer Fanny Hamelin comes the Selva superfamily gem, published by Colophon. A Scotch Roman at heart, Selva introduces some hard angles and thoroughly charming details into the mix. My favorite glyphs: numeral 1, in Selva; lowercase w in Selva Script. Biggest surprise: that this works so well as a script too! The script family is magnificent. Would love to see the entire superfamily used in editorial design.
The culmination of several years’ work, Ninna, by Margot Lévêque, is a sumptuous admixture of traditional roman letterforms with a lot of butter! This is not a semi-skimmed typeface! Drawn with flair and passion, Ninna includes quite a few nested ligatures; e.g. R+O, R+U, V+O; some delicious ornamented and swash forms, and a wild alternative curlicue reclining ampersand (see specimen below). On a technical note: bonus points for assigning the various OpenType Stylistic Sets with useful names! Saves lots of time when designing with the font.
Another hit from type designer extraordinaire, Toshi Omagari. It’s also one of two brand new typefaces to debut with his all-new Omega Type Foundry. Platia is a wide-stance ‘Western’ slab serif typeface, eschewing the familiar reverse contrast for a low contrast design with some soft touches. Platia comes in nine weights and supports Greek and Cyrillic, in addition to Latin. And the name? Platia means ‘wide’ in Greek. Standout glyphs: love the curled legs in letters like R and K, and am a big fan of that numeral 2.
David Jonathan Ross’s all-caps alphabet Klooster Thin is an ingenious take on his Klooster, published way back in 2017, a single-weight fat uncial face. Klooster Thin teases out the skeletons of those beefy Klooster letterforms, and, with a little DJR magic, we have the entirely new and brilliant Klooster Thin. It never ceases to surprise me how by ‘simply’ altering the weight of letterforms, such a transformation is possible. Klooster Thin feels like an entirely different typeface. If you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘uncial’, its a majuscule (all-caps) script that flourished from about the fourth to the eighth centuries. My favorite details: I just love the ‘clappy hands’ when the tails of R and Y meet (e.g., see ‘CENTURY‘ in the specimen below.
It’s difficult to imagine a favorites list without at least one typeface from OH no Type Co.‘s James Edmondson. Irregardless (also scoring points for the cheeky name) is a class act. A mostly condensed sans that feels quite like a script, especially in the lighter weights. Love the super-wide alternative forms of rounded caps (C, D, G, O) and the container shapes, ranging from kaboom! type explosions to thought bubbles — very cool. Also recommended is James’ writeup on his design process for Irregardless. Many great insights and sound advice for designers old and new alike. The full family comes with a variable font with two axes (slant and weight, I believe).
A kind of RuPaul meets Bodoni in this self-assured, sassy and supremely sumptuous new family from Superior Type. Designed by Vojtěch Říha, Lenora supports Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic; and comes in six weights, from a svelte Light to an unabashed Black. Favorite features: I really like how contrast is handled in the lightest weight — rather than going full-on monolinear. Standout letters: the low-slung lowercase a the flamboyant R, and that looped numeral 2. Italics are on the way.
For me, an instant favorite. The moment it was released it hit my list. Love the concept of the italic inline drawn within the roman. Allumi Inline, an all-caps typeface, can also be used as a kind of layer font to good effect with variations on the ‘background’ and inline colors. Also comes in a wide or extended version, and in two optical sizes (24 A and 72 A) that perform best in smaller / bigger sizes — mostly, these two optical sizes affect the weight of the inline element. Allumi Inline is a wonderfully energetic typeface, beautifully drawn.
An exquisite angular script, that for me, presses all the right buttons. Not sure how best to describe this kind of rationalized script, so for now I’m going with ‘expressionist brush script’. Love the joins, the abrupt terminals and that confident marching rhythm. Kaligari is a single-weight font that I’d love to see expanded both to the lighter and heavier ends of the weight spectrum.
Inspired by Blackfriars, an early twentieth-century typeface put out by the famed London type foundry, Stephenson Blake, Tuppence is a time-traveling reversed contrast gem designed by the brilliant Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich. Includes more than a hundred ornaments and border components, some very cool catchwords, and scores of super-useful alternative letterforms; and, of course, swash capitals. Favorite letter: swash H; other standout glyphs: the swashed forms of F, A, and K, those neat catchwords, and the crown ornament.
My favorite aspect of Louche is the ‘italicization’ of the counters. What am I talking about? Well, in 99% of italics, the letterforms are inclined or sloped; but in Louche, the letters themselves remain upright, while the counters — the spaces inside the letters — become sloped or italicized. Ultimately, this affects the stress of the letters; that is, the distribution of weight in the letterforms. And it’s this distortion and rotation of the counters which gives Louche its rather oddball or off-kilter appearance. I’m a huge fan! Favorite glyphs: g, &, and S.
And here’s a very small selection of some of my favorite glyphs from my favorite fonts of 2021. Do you have a favorite?
And those are my favorite fonts of 2021. If you’re wonderig why this list is Latin-centric, then I point you to what I wrote on the topic for last year’s list: The Latin Elephant in the Room. I’d love to hear about some of your favorite releases in 2021. Let me know on Twitter. Add the hashtag #2021favfonts, so that I can find them. Thanks for tuning in.