Art Deco Typography: A Full Guide To Creating And Using Art Deco Fonts

Brian Bojan Dordevic
About The Author

Brian Decoded

President at Alpha Efficiency

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Did you discover the Art Deco typography and its timeless allure? Yet, integrating it into your designs or crafting your own Art Deco fonts feels daunting.

Striking the perfect balance between Art Deco glamour and maintaining readability might seem like a big problem.

However, mastering Art Deco typography is easier than it might initially seem. In this guide, I’ll unveil the secrets behind the style’s appeal, share insights from my Los Angeles web design agency on selecting the perfect Art Deco fonts for different projects, and walk you through creating your own Art Deco typefaces, step by step.

By the end, you’ll master iconic Art Deco type styles and be able to confidently use them in clients’ projects – from branding packages to website designs. You’ll understand which characteristics make the modern audience fall in love with Art Deco fonts, which tools you’ll need, and how to achieve the glamorous look of the 1920s era without sacrificing modern usability.

Table of Contents:
Art Deco Typography

Art Deco Typography Characteristics: What Makes This Style So Attractive In 2024?

The Art Deco style, known for its rich history and timeless allure, is experiencing a vibrant resurgence. It’s one of the main 2024 font trends.

This revival isn’t just about nostalgia; it’s a testament to the style’s adaptability and its seamless integration into contemporary designs.

So, which Art Deco typography characteristics make this style attractive? Let’s find out:

Sleek Geometry and Precision

The foundation of Art Deco typography lies in its geometric shapes. Think sharp angles, clean lines, and symmetrical patterns. These elements combine to create a sense of order and elegance, making every design look carefully planned and executed. The importance of typography in web design is reflected through its capability to evoke emotions and subconsciously communicate your brand values.

Boldness and Glamour:

Art Deco fonts evoke the luxury and opulence of the 1920s and 1930s, yet they fit perfectly within modern branding projects, web designs, and poster creations. This boldness makes them ideal for headline designs, logos, and any space where you need to make a strong statement.

Versatility:

Despite its distinct characteristics, Art Deco typography is remarkably versatile. Whether you’re working on a vintage-inspired project or ultra-modern designs, there’s an Art Deco font that can elevate your design. This adaptability is key to its widespread appeal in 2024.

Focus on Detail:

Art Deco fonts often feature intricate details that add depth and interest to the typography. This can range from subtle flourishes in the lettering to more elaborate decorative elements. These details don’t just add beauty; they also showcase the designer’s skill and attention to craftsmanship.

Embracing Modernity:

While Art Deco is a style born in the early 20th century, its emphasis on modernity and forward-thinking design principles resonates strongly today. It represents a blend of past and future, appealing to those looking to make a sophisticated and impactful design statement.

The Evolution Of Art Deco Typography – From the 1920s to 2020s

Evolution of Art Deco Typography

Art Deco typography, a distinctive and influential style, has journeyed through time, evolving while retaining its core characteristics. This evolution reflects changes in technology, culture, and design priorities.

  • 1920s-1930s: The Birth of Art Deco
    • Originated in France, rapidly spreading worldwide.
    • Geometric shapes, sharp angles, and bold lines characterize the 1920s font style.
    • Fonts like ‘Metropolis’ and ‘Broadway’ embodied the era’s optimistic spirit.
  • 1940s-1950s: A Subdued Phase
    • World War II led to a more restrained use of Art Deco.
    • Despite this, Art Deco’s influence persisted in advertising and movie posters.
  • 1960s-1970s: Revival and Reinvention
    • The retro revival saw a resurgence of interest in Art Deco aesthetics.
    • Designers started experimenting with Art Deco elements in psychedelic and pop art contexts.
  • 1980s-1990s: Digital Adaptation
    • The advent of digital design tools allowed for new interpretations of Art Deco.
    • Fonts could now be easily customized, leading to creative variations.
  • 2000s-2010s: Nostalgia and Innovation
    • A wave of nostalgia brought Art Deco back into the spotlight.
    • Designers blended Art Deco with modern design principles, creating a balance between past and present.
  • 2020s: Art Deco in the Digital Age
    • The rise of digital and web design has seen Art Deco adapted for UX/UI design, incorporating its principles into modern web aesthetics and branding.
    • It offers a counterpoint to the minimalist graphic design trend that has dominated design conversations in recent years.
    • Its rise in popularity is closely tied to another trend – maximalist graphic design.

What keeps Art Deco typography so attractive in 2024 is its unique blend of the past and the present. Art Deco’s bold lines and decorative elements offer a touch of humanity and artistry – a reminder of design’s power to transcend time and trends.

Readability vs Aesthetics: How To Choose Perfect Art Deco Fonts For Each Design Project

The unique flair of Art Deco typography can transform any project from mundane to magnificent. Yet, the ornate characteristics that define Art Deco fonts can also challenge the clarity and legibility of your text, especially in digital contexts like web design.

So, when you’re juggling the sharp geometry of Art Deco with the practical needs of your design project, where do you draw the line?

First, consider the core purpose of your project:

For Logo Design:

Art Deco logo can convey sophistication and glamour, making it an excellent choice for brands aiming for a vintage luxury appeal. However, you must ensure the logo remains legible across sizes.

Choose Art Deco fonts with cleaner lines to maintain readability, especially if you use your logo on business cards or social media icons.

For Print Materials:

When selecting Art Deco fonts for print materials such as brochures, posters, or book covers, consider the amount of text and its purpose.

For headings and titles, you can afford more decorative styles.

For body text, lean towards Art Deco fonts with simpler, more readable forms.

Use size and color contrast to enhance readability without sacrificing the aesthetic appeal of your Art Deco choices. It’s worth noting that fonts with a higher x-height tend to be more legible at smaller sizes, making them suitable for body text. Larger font sizes and bold colors can make even the more ornate fonts accessible.

For Web Design:

Web design branding demands a higher standard for readability due to diverse screen sizes and user contexts. Opt for Art Deco fonts that are more restrained for body text, saving the more elaborate styles for headings or call-to-action buttons.

Consider the technical aspects of using Art Deco fonts online. Some decorative fonts are heavier and can increase page loading times, potentially affecting user experience and SEO. Test your fonts across different browsers and devices to ensure consistency.

For Branding Projects:

In branding, where the font must work across various media, choose an Art Deco font family that offers a range of weights and styles. This allows you to maintain brand consistency while adjusting for readability and aesthetics across different applications.

Ensure the chosen Art Deco font performs well in digital formats, from mobile apps to digital ads, where legibility on small screens is vital.

5 Steps To Crafting Your Own Art Deco Typography Design

While the allure of pre-existing Art Deco fonts is undeniable, I always recommend creating custom fonts for web design and branding projects.

Custom fonts allow for full control over readability and functionality across different mediums, ensuring that your message is seen and felt in the way you intend.

These are five essential steps for creating your own Art Deco fonts:

Step 1: Research And Get Inspired By Iconic Art Deco Fonts

The first step in crafting your unique Art Deco font is to immerse yourself in the rich history and iconic designs that define this glamorous era.

Here are some exemplary Art Deco fonts and design works that have left an indelible mark:

  1. The Typeface “Metropolis”: Inspired by the 1927 Fritz Lang film of the same name, the Metropolis typeface embodies the futuristic and geometric aesthetic that Art Deco is renowned for. Its clean lines and modernist shapes make it a perfect study of Art Deco design principles.
  2. “Broadway” Font: Designed in 1927 by Morris Fuller Benton, Broadway is the epitome of the Art Deco movement’s style, with its extravagant lines and sharp angles. This font captures the essence of the roaring twenties and is ideal for those looking to infuse a sense of drama and flair into their work.
  3. A.M. Cassandre Posters: The graphic works of A.M. Cassandre, such as his famous posters for Dubonnet, are masterclasses in Art Deco graphic design. His use of bold typography, streamlined shapes, and a limited color palette can inspire not just font design but also how to effectively incorporate Art Deco fonts into broader compositions.
  4. “Peignot” Typeface: Another typeface designed by A.M. Cassandre in 1937, Peignot breaks away from traditional typeface design by blending uppercase and lowercase forms. This typeface’s playful yet elegant demeanor showcases the versatility and close relationship between classic Art Deco fonts and experimental typography.

But don’t stop at admiration. Analyze the structure of these fonts. Note the characteristics that make them distinctive – perhaps it’s the way uppercase letters command attention with their height and stature or how lowercase letters maintain readability while exuding style.

Understanding these details will serve as your blueprint when you begin to sketch and conceptualize your own Art Deco-inspired typography.

Step 2: Sketching And Conceptualization

After soaking in the rich heritage of Art Deco fonts, it’s time to put pencil to paper with sketching and conceptualization. This stage is where your personal touch begins to take shape, transforming inspiration into tangible designs.

By sketching, you can explore various ideas and save a lot of time.

Begin with loose, freehand sketches, allowing your creativity to flow without the constraints of software limitations.

Experiment with variations in letter width, height, and the interplay between straight and curved lines to find a unique balance that speaks to your vision.

This hands-on approach lays a solid foundation for your typeface, enabling you to explore a wide range of ideas and refine them into a cohesive concept ready for digitization.

Step 3: Use Font Design Software To Refine Your Sketches

This stage is where your initial ideas start to truly take form, morphing from rough concepts into polished, professional fonts.

The process begins by scanning or photographing your hand-drawn sketches and importing them into a font creation tool. Whether you choose Adobe Illustrator for its vector capabilities, Glyphs for its font-specific functionalities, or FontLab for its comprehensive suite of typographic tools, each software offers a unique set of features tailored to bring your Art Deco designs to life.

This phase is also critical for ensuring your typeface’s functionality across different mediums. Consider the spacing between letters (kerning), the height of each character (x-height), and how they interact to form words (ligatures). Your goal is to create a font that’s not only visually stunning but also legible and versatile.

This step requires patience, attention to detail, and a willingness to iterate until your font perfectly embodies the elegance and sophistication of Art Deco typography.

Step 4: Test and Adjust Letter Spacing And Line Height To Maximize Readability

Line Height and Letter Spacing examples

During this step, it’s crucial to focus on finessing the practical aspects of Art Deco typography – letter spacing and line height. Doing this properly will ensure your Art Deco fonts remain readable from headlines to body text.

Start by laying out your uppercase and lowercase letters in sample paragraphs and headlines. Observe how they interact in different contexts – does the spacing between characters maintain the integrity of your Art Deco style while ensuring clarity? Adjust the kerning (space between individual letter pairs) to eliminate awkward gaps that can disrupt reading flow, paying special attention to the unique shapes and lines characteristic of Art Deco typefaces.

Similarly, line height (or leading) demands careful consideration. Too little space can make text blocks dense and difficult to navigate, while too much can disconnect the lines, making your content feel disjointed. The goal is to strike a balance that honors the geometric elegance and symmetry of Art Deco design, enhancing the overall aesthetic appeal without sacrificing functionality.

If you’re not sure whether you’ve properly adjusted spacing and line height, you can use UX research tools to test your Art Deco typeface with your target audience.

Step 5: Add Decorative Elements To Finalize Your Art Deco Font

In the final step, it’s the perfect time to enrich your typography with decorative elements that accentuate the distinct Art Deco lettering styles, seamlessly blending the opulence of retro font design with the sleekness of modern Art Deco aesthetics.

Consider incorporating features like elongated letterforms, stylized ligatures, or geometric patterns within or around the letters.

As you finalize your design, remember the importance of subtlety and restraint. The goal is to enhance, not overwhelm. Each decorative addition should feel organic to the Art Deco style.

Final Thoughts

Embracing the elegance and glamour of Art Deco typography allows you to add a timeless touch to your projects, bridging the past and the present in your work.

However, the key to remaining relevant and impactful as a designer lies in your ability to evolve continually. Staying informed about the latest graphic design trends in 2024 is crucial for any professional looking to make their mark and keep their work at the forefront of the industry.

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