Typography is at the core of the personality and style of a design project.
A type choice can blend into the background with subtlety that helps clearly communicate messaging or serve as a dominant visual force that pushes the design forward. Either way, typeface design is an important element in any project.
Experimental typefaces can help add a powerful edge or the right feeling to a design. They often serve as artistic and typographic elements concurrently. But experimental typefaces aren’t always bold and bizarre; this type style encompasses anything new and interesting that pushes type norms just a little outside of the usual comfort zone.
Here’s a guide to everything you need to know about experimental typefaces with a selection of some great examples to try in your projects.
What are experimental typefaces?
Experimental typefaces are generally of the display family, and have an unexpected look or interaction, such as animation, different x-heights, or a general disregard of the rules of letterform shape and spacing.
These text styles include quirky lines, colors, and letterforms. They have flair and plenty of personality.
But that’s not always the case.
“I think there might be a misunderstanding about this term of ‘experimental.’ We tend to use it to describe display typefaces that look either new or weird or disturbing,” says Jérémy Landes, Art Director & Type Designer at Studio Triple.
“The question of the design process behind the creation of these typefaces, and the question of the experimentation in the design process, is not really the point. Anyway, it seems to me that this term tries to convey the idea of a certain novelty, an avant-garde in the display genre,” he notes.
The definition of an experimental font may not be truly solidified, but you can think of it like this: An experimental font is anything that bucks the rules of traditional type design.
What might be most important when designing or using experimental typefaces is the push and pull between uniqueness and readability.
When working with this kind of type element, there’s a delicate balance between typography as art and typography to convey a message.
According to Jérémy Landes, while experimental typefaces stand out for their innovation, the main criteria to examine them is audiences’ reactions. “They feel new, but the question behind a successful experimental typeface is more one of the Zeitgeist. Will people relate to it? Will people be intrigued by this novelty, more than repelled? The question of why a creation, and a typeface, is successful at one point in time is for me the most intriguing one.”
Before conducting any type of design experiment, it is important to think about how it will resonate with your core audience and overall messaging.
“The question behind a successful experimental typeface is more one of the Zeitgeist. Will people relate to it? Will people be intrigued by this novelty, more than repelled?"
Types of experimental typefaces
Experimental typefaces can have a variety of purposes–purely aesthetic, commercial display, or to promote a specific goal, such as social or promotional engagement.
Visually, these typefaces come in a lot of forms:
Illustrated or artistic lettering
10 remarkable experimental typefaces
Monospace | Free, open source
Design: Velvetyne Fonts
Solide Mirage was originally designed as a custom typeface for French-British music band, Frànçois and the Atlas Mountains. The band and designer decided to release the font as free and open source, to be used by fans as well as anyone else who appreciates its experimental aesthetic.
This unicase display typeface combines upper and lowercase characters together, resulting in a somewhat haphazard look. It was inspired