Type Trends: Skeuomorphic Type

As a brief caveat to last week’s typographic trends post on physical type, there are times when one hopes to lend some of the relatability of physical objects via media incapable of their transmission (for example webpages or mobile apps). In these cases, some designers cheat using skeuomorphic elements such as illustrated switches, dials, finished wood backgrounds, etc. which at best give a sense of familiarity to virtual tools, and at worst confuse its user with needless or obstructive allusion.

Skeuomorphism, briefly put, is the vestigial imitation of objects or materials. The commonly referenced example is the stitched-leather bound calendar app familiar to mac owners, its ‘previously used pages’ leaving behind ‘torn’ edges. Real world examples include headlight decals on racecars and—one invisible to me until recently—the yellow band on cigarettes, a printed cork filter.

With skeumorphism comes the onslaught skeuomorphic type treatments, leaving your type looking fictionally debossed, embossed, chrome-plated, glazed, etched, routed, or any combination of the above.

Underware’s Liza and Adrian Frutiger’s Univers pressed into chipboard.

Angus R. Shamal’s ARS Maquette machine stamped into brushed aluminum.

And lastly, this proof that some faces work better than others. Here, Just van Rossum’s FF Dynamoe works great as designed, but an already overtly skeumorphic embossed tape labeler face reaches its limits when fake-debossed into leather.

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