2020 in review: A year in typography

Profile picture of Dana Meir




Illustrations by {name}

Now more than ever, bold typography helps give voice to causes that designers stand behind.

5 min read

Best typography of 2020: Madefor typeface by Dalton Maag and Wix

Stay informed on all things design.

Thanks for submitting!

Shaping Design is created on Editor X, the advanced web design platform for professionals. Create your next project on Editor X. 

Get our latest stories delivered straight to your inbox →

The unprecedented events of the past year have awoken the inner activist in many of us. Throughout history, typography and activism have gone hand-in-hand to spread important messages. True to form, typography has been a central element this year in empowering and uplifting communities, as well as raising awareness of important topics.

We’ve gathered some of the best typography that has emerged during the last 12 months, created by designers across the world. From the relentless lockdowns, to the political and social unrest, it’s this global sense of solidarity and responsibility that will allow us to enter the new year with strength.

Best typography of 2020

Alex Valentina

A master in unconventional, experimental lettering, Milan-based graphic designer and music producer Alex Valentina puts aside classic typography notions when approaching new projects. Adopting a distinctive chrome aesthetic, he’s collaborated with the likes of Crack Magazine, Apple and Sony.

In his piece for Refinery29’s Pride is a Riot, Alex uses his quirky, irregular style to celebrate queerness in all its glory.

“This work is a reminder that awareness and information lead change, protesting is part of freedom and the need to celebrate is human nature even during these uncertain times."

Best typography of 2020 by Alex Valentina for Refinery29

Ryn Davis

The work of LA designer and illustrator Ryn Davis doesn’t always cover political or social issues. Recent events made it impossible for her to focus on her usual subject matters revolving around the comical, mundane moments of everyday life.

With political tensions rising, Ryn felt the urge to focus her energy into something productive and potentially useful to others. Her recent typographic ‘vote’ series began as a way to quell her anxieties about the US elections, giving her the chance to lend her voice to important conversations through her art.

“I hope people can continue to find moments of joy within my work, but as long as the world feels like it's on fire, my art will reflect that too.”

Best typography of 2020 by Ryn Davis

Ben Johnston

South African born creative director Ben Johnston specializes in art direction and custom typography. Having won numerous awards for his outstanding type designs, he has also worked with the likes of M&Ms, Lululemon and more.

Known for his huge typographic murals, Ben’s works can be seen across city walls, spreading a message of positivity. During the pandemic, he created this piece in his current hometown of Toronto, reading ‘Today is a good day,’ in hopes to bring a smile to people’s faces and support local businesses.

“It’s a reminder to passersby that even though the world seems crazy right now, everything is going to be okay and to just take it one day at a time.”

Best typography of 2020 by Ben Johnston

Kris Andrew Small

Billboard lettering, energetic lines and neon shades make up Sydney-based artist and designer Kris Andrew Small’s work. Having collaborated with brands such as Pull & Bear and Nike, Kris also uses his art as a way to deal and respond to the challenges we face.

Originally a personal piece, his poster design calling for togetherness and community was picked by Dutch multidisciplinary creative studio, SL&DB, to be used in their 'Stay Sane Stay Safe' initiative. It ended up being displayed in hospitals around The Netherlands, in various pop-up shows and was eventually exhibited at the V&A in Scotland.

“I made this poster around the start of the pandemic, when countries were shutting borders, death tolls seemed to be spiralling and it felt as if the world was breaking apart. My aim was to put out some positivity and try to make people unite and focus on beating this together.”

Best typography of 2020 by Kris Andrew Small, part of the Stay Sane Stay Safe initiative