Type Case

Top Ten Moments in Type from 2012

It’s the beginning of a New Year, but before jumping headlong into 2013 we thought we’d indulge in a bit of the “auld lang syne” and take a moment for reflection and…

…Top Ten Lists!

We love them, don’t you? And as we continue to grow the new Type Case blog, we thought the best way to kick off the New Year would be to publish our own. So, welcome to the first-ever Monotype “Top Ten Type Moments” celebrating the best and most bizarre type news of 2012. While not listed in any particular order, we’ve saved the weirdest for last.

1. Sans Serifs Shine

Top four fonts in 2012

If 2011 was the year of script fonts, then 2012 marked a resurgence in sans serif designs. Humanistic sans fonts, which have a more ‘human’ or ‘personal’ appeal, were especially popular in some of the prominent rebranding launches of 2012, including Microsoft, eBay and Houghton Mifflin. Even our own rebranding of Monotype featured a new, customized, humanist sans font, Kootenay. The popularity of sans serif fonts extended beyond corporate brands. Check out these top sellers from 2012 on MyFonts.com, Fonts.com and Linotype.com:

Proxima Nova by Mark Simonson

Classic Grotesque by Rod McDonald

Biome by Carl Crossgrove

Foco from Dalton Maag



2. Microsoft Launches Logo 2.0; eBay Bids for a New Look

In 2012, Microsoft simplified its logo by adopting the Segoe typeface and a simple graphic depicting the tiled look of Windows 8. Is it a hit? Some critics complained the new look wasn’t distinctive, while others found it to be “more friendly.” eBay was another brand that put a long-standing, recognizable logo out to pasture while retaining the Univers face. The reaction? There was enough grumbling that one firm, 99 designs, held a contest to come up with an alternative. Unsurprisingly, eBay stuck with its choice.

3. WOFF Wins the Web

.woff wins the web

The WOFF (Web Open Font Format) standard moved from a cool idea to an official W3C recommendation. Now supported by all major Web browsers, the beauty of WOFF is its ability to improve online design and content consumption by making Web fonts easier to use across different devices and browsers. 

With roughly 570 new websites being created every minute of every day, the W3C’s recognition of WOFF is an important milestone in helping the spread of high-quality fonts across the digital landscape.

4. Telematics: (Not) Driven to Distraction

Can certain typefaces lessen driver distraction when used in automotive telematics applications? Monotype worked with the MIT AgeLab on a study that examined this question and found that (among men) a humanist typeface such as Frutiger reduced off-road glance time by more than 10 percent compared to a square grotesque design, such as Eurostile. With global shipments of connected auto infotainment systems expected to grow from 5.7 million in 2012 to 50.9 million 2017, it appears that font selection has an important role to play in enabling effective driver interfaces.

5. The Linotype Machine Hits the Silver Screen

Thomas Edison called the Linotype machine the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Produced and directed by documentarian, graphic designer and letterpress fanatic, Doug Wilson, “Linotype: The Film” debuted in New York and played in cities across the U.S. and Europe, raising awareness for this significant piece of industrial history. The documentary chronicles how the machine transformed publishing while capturing some surprisingly emotional commentary from fans, collectors and former Linotype operators.

6. London Olympics Spawn Font of Controversy

The success of the London Summer Olympics eclipsed criticism of the official logo, which was initially scorned by designers, critics and the public for its oddly angular appearance. The furor reached a fever pitch last summer but actually began in 2007 with the unveiling of the logo and its custom “2012 Headline” typeface. Despite a 50,000-signature petition calling for the logo to be disqualified from Olympic competition, it went on to proudly represent what most agree was a triumphant Games. Bold brand statement or unlovable logo? You be the judge.

7. Type-Casting the President

Did voters go for Gotham or Mercury? You may not know, but the designers behind the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign logos put this to the test. President Obama’s winning campaign logo was based on the Gotham typeface (redesigned from 2008, this time adding – gasp – serifs!). Mitt Romney’s camp opted for the Mercury typeface. Did either design sway voters at the polls? What do you think?

8. Critics Can’t Stomach New University of California Logo

Looking to rebrand its school with a fresh and modern logo, the University of California faced perhaps the harshest backlash of any of the new-look brands of 2012. One observer thought the new logo –which was meant to complement, not replace, the existing seal – looked like “an upset stomach.” A change.org petition to scuttle the new logo collected more than 50,000 signatures, causing UC to recall it, at least for the time being.

9. Comic Sans Meets Cosmic Sands

Comic Sans – the font everyone loves to hate – was back in the news in 2012. This time, it was chosen by particle physicists at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) to communicate the important discovery of the mysterious Higgs boson.. The mismatch between tone and subject matter set off the font fashion police, whose complaints threatened to overshadow what by some accounts was the most important scientific finding of the past 40 years. Yes, fun-loving Comic Sans has a time and a place, but in this case it resulted in “Comic Sans” being tweeted more than “God Particle.”

10. Your Cat Looks Like Helvetica

While it’s hard to top the seductive Typographer Ryan Gosling phenomenon of 2011, our vote this year goes to Cats as Fonts as the champion Internet type meme of 2012, which matches cats to fonts. Ever wondered what Arial Black, Papyrus or Comic Sans looks like in feline form? Neither had we, but the results are impressive.

And… A Bonus Moment #11!

Our final, and strangest, font memory of 2012 comes from Tama Art University in Japan, where student Mayuko Kanazawa was challenged to design a font without the aid of a computer. Her solution? She designed a font using human leg hair. The results, unfortunately, were Nair-ly legible. Ew…..

Monotype's Vikki Quick

We hope you liked our inaugural look at 2012 and the wild world of type. Did we miss any signature moments? Anything that amused or confused you? Please share. And be sure to keep track of your favorite 2013 type moments, because before you know it, we'll be publishing our list for this year. After all, there are only 348 more shopping days until Christmas…

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