In our 2020 trends report earlier this year, we drew some attention to delicate serifs as a big typography trend. The balance of softness and strength, classicism and modernity, gives these fonts a wide range of applications. If ‘classy’ is your thing, delicate serifs should definitely be a component of your identity
Let’s take a closer look at one specific type of, well… type, in this style. ‘Didones’ are a particular expression of the delicate serif that we’re seeing being used to great effect. To understand them better requires a very brief history lesson.
Didones are basically a posthumous collab between two of the great 18th century type designers: Firmin Didot and Giambattista Bodoni. The name (coined much later in 1954) represents the combination of their two classic typefaces, a hybrid that came to define a new style.
Bodoni and Didot were considered very modern at the time, a departure from Renaissance era ‘old style’ fonts, and so Didones were very #ontrend 250 years ago. It’s fitting then (and kinda bizarre) that they’re en vogue again. Some fashion cycles take a little longer than others, but the wheel always turns eventually.
Back to the present. How would you recognise a Didone in the wild?
For starters, Didones are serif fonts, which means they have those little stroke thingies at the ends and bases of the letters. In the case of Didones, there’s a marked difference between the thick, bold strokes, and skinny little serifs. More often than not, the serif is actually the thin, tapered end of a chunky stroke. Because of this stark difference in weight, Didones are referred to as ‘high contrast’ fonts.
This contrast makes a statement, and attracts the eye. Didones are dramatic, but also wonderfully legible. Many of them (like Beardy, for example) nod to the warm nostalgia of the 70’s, subliminally sparking feelings of joy, hope, and simplicity. According to Storme Conradie, Over’s Design Curator: “Didones invite a sense of luxury and dramatic mystery.”
So why now? Why the resurgence in these centuries-old typefaces? Like with most trends, it begins with a reaction to the norm. In this case, ‘the norm’ has become geometric sans serifs, which have completely dominated digital design for the last ten years. Now we’re seeing a retreat to the complete opposite, as designers turn to more ornate and unique typefaces in the face of the mundane and regulated. In this sense, Didones are a much needed break away from design homogeneity of the past decade.
Perhaps it’s the balance between delicacy and strength, but we’re noticing the use of new Didones most prominently in youthful, elegant female-oriented brands. Industries like skincare, beauty, fashion, or any eco-minded brands, probably have the best natural fit, but they are extremely versatile.