Typography is everywhere. It’s found on street signs, in the subway, on posters, in magazines, and of course, the Internet. It may sound a little invasive, but most typefaces you see around you have been carefully designed with an aim to express a specific feeling, brand identity, or to help readability. Typography design is a craft that’s been around since the 15th century, and continues to evolve thanks to new technology, as well as the innovative ideas of contemporary artists. Today, text is no longer only a way to communicate in written form; it’s also seen as a means of artistic expression.
The evolution of typography is closely linked to the available technology of the time, as well as cultural and societal influences. And like the pioneers of the past, today’s type designers and artists continue to push the boundaries of typography, to change the way we see, and even experience the words that we read. Now, often utilizing a vast range of digital tools, they are able to produce some of the most thought-provoking and innovative typography art to date.
Check out our selection of 10 typography artists—past and present—we think you should know.
Joan Brossa (1919–1998)
Spanish poet, playwright, and graphic designer Joan Brossa was an early adopter of visual poetry. Written only in Catalan, his innovative use of typefaces transformed letters into recognizable objects in surreal compositions.
One artist to follow in the footsteps of Brossa is Deniz Akerman. A graphic designer and painter, Akerman’s technique involves merging visuals—such as pop culture icons, dog breeds, and cities—with associated text. In one piece, titled Typography Art of David Bowie the Starman, the famous lyrics “we can be heroes just for one day” is confined within the shape of the illustration. Akerman's artwork can be purchased as art prints and other merchandise on Society 6.
Sabeena Karnik’s “paper typography” is made using the paper quilling technique. This involves rolling and shaping strips of colorful paper that are then glued together to create decorative 3D designs. Her work has been commissioned from various brands, including Google India, where she created a design to celebrate India’s Independence Day.
Jean-Charles Debroize for Kerozen
One of the most surprising uses of type in art we found was the work of Jean-Charles Debroize, who is part of graphic design studio Kerozen. This human-inspired typography features human characteristics that have been “bent” into curves to form different letters of the alphabet. This is a extraordinary example for how contemporary artists are using today’s digital resources to create innovative typography.
Turkish artist Tolga Girgin creates amazing 3D calligraphy art that appears to jump off the page. Drawn by hand, each artwork expresses mind-boggling typography skills that cross dimensions.