The return of the serif

After taking an extended sabbatical from the world of branding, serif typefaces are suddenly back in favour. We speak to type designer Lynne Yun and F37 founder Rick Banks about what that means

Cast your mind back to 2018. Mailchimp has just rebranded, and design Twitter is feeling a bit hot under the collar. The sans serif had reigned supreme over the tech industry for years, but the email marketing platform broke with tradition and announced Cooper Light as its new brand typeface – a serif design that’s part of a family dating back to the 1920s. Just the year before, yoghurt brand Chobani had a similar effect when it also unveiled a serif brand typeface, entitled Chobani Serif.

These were, arguably, the first rumblings of a fully fledged revival, suggesting that after years languishing at the side of the proverbial dancefloor, serifs were finally back in fashion. The idea gained even more credence earlier this year, when Burberry unveiled a newly serified wordmark. “Like everything creative it’s cyclical, isn’t it?” says F37 founder and designer Rick Banks. “I think bootcut jeans are coming back in. In the 50s you had Helvetica and Univers, and obviously there was a reaction against that, and in the 80s and very early 90s serifs were dominant again – especially with early corporate branding.”

There’s this idea that people are trying to harness the idea of human-centred things by saying, ‘We are small, we are micro-size, we are authentic’ by having serifs