Typographers and type designers have been leading, tracking and kerning their way through history since ancient times, all the way through the dawning of movable type in 11th-century China and Johannes Gutenberg's invention of the mechanical printing press in 1440. The appearance and style of text was always more that just a craft, it was an artform. With the luxury of modern design tools as well as multimedia approaches to typesetting coming to light, contemporary artists have been creating unique projects that transcend traditional practices and procedures. Here a few of our favorite designers currently redefining and reimagining the fonts of the future:
In the past, we’ve called him the godfather of Korean typography for transforming the relatively simple Hangul alphabet into an artform of its own called the Ahn Sang-Soo typeface. He continues to create incredible graphics for websites, apps, magazines and books through his own firm, Ahn Graphics Ltd.
Rus Khasanov has been known to make typefaces using laptop screens, tasers, and soy sauce, but the Russian art director, illustrator, and designer also creates projects like the digital music video "Crystallize," using salicylic acid and sugar under a microscope. Somehow, his design forms still seem to take the shape of glyphs, even if the project is not strictly about typography.
After co-founding the typographically-led design studio 8vo and editing the Octavo International Journal of Typography, Hamish Muir has joined forces with fellow designer Paul McNeil to establish MuirMcNeil. Muir’s body of work in typography is both current and groundbreaking, influencing modern designers for the past 30 years.
Based in New York, this multifaceted studio delivers work for corporate clients as well as arts, music, and educational institutions. The firm's project Fugue Identity is inspired by the software engineering process while also paying homage to classical musicians.
The strip-down and build-up of the modular lettering I made for the credits of Lynda.com's documentary on me. With music by Reg Powell
Having worked as a book typesetter and founding the Digitopolis graphic design studio, Canadian designer Marian Bantjes currently works on her own projects in design, art, and typography. Her ornamental, often dreamlike style has been featured in over 100 books, including her own beautiful I Wonder in 2010 (with a foreword by Stefan Sagmeister of the aforementioned Sagmeister & Walsh). Bantjes continues to bring new and unusual letterforms into the design vocabulary.
Renowned and prolific graphic artist Oded Ezer creates what he calls "typographic design fiction projects" as well as gorgeous Hebrew type. Apart from those using traditional design techniques, his projects include Biotypography (creatures made from manipulated Hebrew and Latin type), Typosperma (in which type is implanted into a sperm's DNA) and Typo-plastic Surgeries (which modify the body using type). He also recently created eight short typographic videos for a multi-dimensional exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Sky Arts Ignition: Memory Palace exhibition in 2013 and We Are Family (2015). It's been described as “an interactive, typographic installation that make use of unsettling images and fragments from found on-line political, brutal, pornographic and other videos to create a new kind of typographic visual language.”
Film of a piece titled 'The creatures were friendly' (2009) from the 'Slaughterhouse Five / There is no why' series. The piece was made using many suspended layers of hand-cut letterpress prints onto cartridge paper. Film made at Marsden Woo Gallery, London, July 2010.
Based in the UK, Alida Sayer is an artist who takes a labor-intensive approach to typography with mesmerizing letterforms that, in this case, were created using hanging sheets of hand-cut prints from pressurized raised images and viscous ink onto heavy paper.
Promo sequence for Stephen Gill’s exhibition at Shoot Gallery in Oslo
Kjell Ekhorn and Jon Forss created the design firm Non-Format in the UK in 2000 and have been delivering projects for the likes of Adobe, Nike, and Coca-Cola ever since. The custom headlines, typefaces, font families and type development from this cutting-edge studio are often unpredictable, occasionally hallucinatory and always interesting, even if occasionally illegible. But that’s sometimes to be expected when typography turns into art.
Know any cutting edge contemporary graphic designers and typographers that we're missing? Let us know in the comments.