Current Web Typography Trends

The evolution of typography in web design has been hampered by technological limitations. The lack of browser support for CSS in the pre-2000 era, and later, unavailability of a wider range of fonts limited typographical adventures to a handful of font choices. Every web designer willing to experiment and push the boundaries in typography has had to contend with the lack of support for any fonts save the dreaded quintet of Times New Roman, Georgia, Arial, Verdana, and Tahoma.

Fortunately, over the past year, developments such as the retirement of IE6, almost universal support for the @font-face CSS rule, and wide-scale adoption of various web font service bureaus have facilitated the flourishing of an unprecedented burst of creative energy in web typography. After almost two decades of typographical slumber, designers are finally embracing the full range of font choices on offer. Predictably, the future holds great promise for budding typographers.

While the eventual growth of web typography is difficult to prognosticate, certain web typography trends have emerged over the past year:

1. Large Fonts

Propelled by the popularity of larger monitors and a distinctive move away from the erstwhile practice of limiting font-sizes to the standard 12px, larger fonts are now ubiquitous across the web. The greater screen real estate offered by 19”-21” monitors, and the crisp, high-definition screen resolution on tablets such as the new iPad (which reduces blurriness) have made larger fonts the default choice in most design projects.

Life in Greenville

Larger fonts are not only easier to read, but also work exceptionally well as stand-alone design elements, especially with appropriate fonts.

Circle Meetups

2. Low Contrast Text

‘Dark text on light background’ has been the default choice for every web designer over the past two decades. The argument in favor of this high-contrast combination is significant: improved legibility and readability. Yet, 2012 has seen a decided move away from this tried and- tested combination into lower-contrast text combinations, even at the cost of legibility.

Rogge & Pott

One argument in favor of such a move is that reduced legibility actually compels greater cognition and concentration – the eyes are forced to work harder to read the text, which, subsequently, increases the chances of the text actually being read than being glossed over. Further, lower contrast text facilitates design choices that wouldn’t otherwise be available in standard black-on-white text.

Whether you agree with the above hypothesis or not, you will find an increasing number of sites experimenting with low contrast text, at least partially, if not site-wide.

3. Mixed Weight Fonts

The average designer assumes ‘font-weight: bold;’ to be the upper limit of a font’s thickness, forgetting that the font-weight can be entered numerically up to a value of 1000, of which, ‘bold’ equates to a value of just 600 with most fonts.

Smashing Magazine

Over the past year, designers have been experimenting with mixing font weights in the same design, often to quite dramatic effects. Different letters and words are often assigned different ‘font-weight’ values, ranging from 100 to 1000 (in increments of 100 – 100,200,300, and so on). This effect works particularly well in sans-serif fonts, such as Futura, Neue Helvetica, etc.

Team Paws

4. ‘Wedding’ Fonts

Wedding fonts – aka, fonts with excessive curls, extra glyphs and flourish – are the flavor of the year, typically used on more female-oriented websites. With the growth of design centric sites such as Pinterest and Fab with a decidedly female-centric bent, fonts with flourish will become more ubiquitous, perhaps even bringing the much loathed ‘handwriting fonts’ back into vogue.

5. Increased White Space

The minimalistic design ethos that embraces whitespace has penetrated the deepest reaches of the internet. Suffice to say, the same design ethos has overflowed into font-spacing as well. For years, the ‘letter-spacing’ was a largely ignored CSS attribute. But in 2012, and beyond, as ‘more whitespace, less noise’ becomes the norm, so will the use of the ‘letter-spacing’ attribute to increase the space between characters to dramatic effect.

Mos & Bows


  • Sandy

    I would argue that the increasing popularity of larger text is more indicative of a shift to smaller devices; buttons were made bigger so that fingers could navigate easier, so it would make sense that normal hyperlinks—and as an extension, text in general—would follow suit.

  • Whan it goes to websites and typography I’m fan of simplicity. Anyway thank you for this article.

  • Nice article.Really great article to show how web design is being progress in futures.Thank you very much.

  • Daniel

    Thank you for posting this article, is very useful. I love the font used in the blue image (the one with CHICAGO MARATHON), can you tell me what font is used there? Or can you suggest me some sources where I could find free fonts?

  • Viv

    2012 has seen a decided move away from this tried and- tested
    combination into lower-contrast text combinations, even at the cost
    of legibility.”

    all for creative web design and the use of other fonts, but not at
    the cost of usability and accessibility. Doesn’t good web design also
    include best practices? If you are going to force me to work harder
    to read the text, I’m off to another website.

  • Paul

    great article.

    i can’t refrain from saying that moustaches have become over-kill, at least in my view. whenever I see a moustache-themed site, i instantly close it. must be already hundreds, if not thousands out there.

  • Interesting article but I’m not convinced that text in low contrast is a good idea. If I have to force myself to read an article and to see particular words it rather discourages me to read the whole of it and at the same time to spend more time on a given site. I rather switch to another page with similar content.