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Playful, collaborative, inclusive: D&AD Judges on the best work of the year

Judges from the Typography and Type Design juries discuss the changing face of letterforms, and look to a more global, experimental future

Creative Review Editor Eliza Williams led an insight session with Judges from the Typography and Type Design juries. Right to Left Ltd Creative Director Samar Maakaroun; LiebeFonts Type Designer Ulrika Rausch; and Type Designer Pooja Saxena, discussed what might be the most globally minded set of typographic Pencil-winners yet, and delved into type’s seemingly magical ability to create emotion and build a brand.

The new wave of multi-script type

Type Designer Pooja Saxena chose Ek Type’s multiscript Anek Font Family — named after the Hindi word for many — as a standout piece of work, praising its ambitious scope. Saxena said the family covered an unusually broad set of writing systems, with many of the scripts designed by people using them in their daily lives.

“The attempt to provide a well-crafted tool for so many undeserved scripts in one typeface was extremely commendable,” she said. 

“It showed type design doesn’t have to be a solitary exercise, because this project was put together by a large team of designers, each with their own expertise and strengths, and each with knowledge of different writing systems. It all came together to produce something that worked for a number of regions and people.”

Localisation helps design connect

Apple Design Team’s SF Symbols 3 — a typeface of over 600 iOS icons — was chosen by LiebeFonts Type Designer Ulrika Rausch as a brilliant example of the power of symbols, as well as the importance of localisation.

Although she said some judges were initially unsure about awarding a symbol font, closer inspection revealed how much effort it must have required. The typeface went beyond just crisp, sharp Bézier curves and showed the importance of understanding cultural nuance. 

“They thought about localisation in such a way you could really feel the passion and attention to detail,” said Rausch. “They localised it for so many different languages — and not just translated, but so much brain work happening and also conversations with real communities. It was super authentic and we had two Japanese jury members who were delighted to see the Japanese — it wasn’t a translation, but actually used, I think, a certain Japanese character for smiling and laughing.”

As Rausch points out, this level of detail is likely to set the bar for interface design standards, encouraging more tech brands to go the extra mile when it comes to localising type and symbols. 

Type is an emotive experience

Right to Left ltd Creative Director Samar Maakaroun described Greenspace’s Sinéad O’Dwyer project as a favourite winner from this year, for the way it used typography to provoke emotion, and reflect on the acceptance of different female body shapes.

The typeface features shifting forms and slightly off-kilter counters, which help to drive the identity of the brand. “It was executed so well, with this idea of variety and the care that’s gone into building the typeface — how the counters were manipulated in a way that in the outer shape and small animations you see how letters morph like our bodies,” said Maakaroun. “They expand, they contract, they stress, and it’s not controllable, and they manage to convey that feeling really well through the type.”

She described the project as an important example of the emotive power of type — emphasising that while conversations around legibility and functionality are important, it’s critical to remember how typography can shape people’s feelings towards a brand.

The future is global and experimental

Rausch said that experimentation was an emerging theme in this year’s D&AD Awards entrants, with people going beyond standard text and script typefaces to explore more of what’s possible in type design. Saxena agreed, and noted that designers are seeing typefaces as more than tools – they’re opportunities to play. 

Another theme was the increasingly international status of entries.  “We didn’t end up awarding any Latin typefaces,” said Saxena, “which took us by surprise. It was an indication of how much things are changing, and we felt that was a very positive thing.”

“Every single script is advancing and developing … and that makes for a more rich and colourful and playful experience for us judges to do this,” agreed Maakaroun. 

This is from our series of Insight Sessions. Watch the first video with the Direction Jury here. More insights from across the creative disciplines will be published throughout the coming weeks.

Production: 90Seconds 

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