How E-Commerce is Reviving Artistic Typography in Advertising

Kitch typography in a ad

Kitch typography in a ad

An unlikely category, but I think it’s the shop-window phenomenon that’s responsible.

FlipKart, SnapDeal, Myntra, they’re all selling the same stuff. And saying the same stuff (XX% off, Great Deals). The only way they can differentiate themselves is by typography and colour.

Multiple brands on a YouTube ad for

Multiple brands on a YouTube ad for

The Retro-Typography Revival

There’s no one brand colour or custom typeface (they’re all selling multiple brands), so colour and type can finally strive, unrestrained, to achieve a Commercial Artist’s original purpose, which is to have a party and make stuff look delicious, digging like a child in the drawers of graphic design’s musty cupboard of influences.

Modern renditions of decorative motifs like ribbons

Modern renditions of decorative motifs like ribbons and stylized borders

And given that Art Deco, Commercial Art’s most flamboyant period, was driven by a similar gusto, (they had just shed the stifling ‘simplicity’ baggage of the Bauhaus) and went on to stick it to the Germans with decorative motifs, extreme thick-thin contrasts, and Cassandre’s stylized illustrations, it’s no wonder that Myntra’s ads often draw inspiration from this period in form and spirit.

Big Discounts = Big Beautiful Typography = Happy Designers

The clients want it! There’s finally a point of collusion between the suits and designers, in that the numbers need to be big and beautiful. Finally designers can play those old no.7 tricks they love, contrasting BIG numerals and with a teeny-weeny percentage glyphs and ‘now upto’  and ‘off’.

Old style numerals. Notice the teeny-weeny 'o' with the line under it.

Old style numerals. Notice the teeny-weeny ‘o’ with the line under it.



Retro revival is a wave taking place in graphic design presently, and it’s driven by various things, a rejection of Apple’s skeuomorphism, HTML 5’s capabilities in rendering type, its responsive capability (necessitating stylised graphics to compensate for the flat colours) and great screen resolutions, among other things.

But to have the revival enter the advertising world, saddled with corporate typefaces? That’s a breath of fresh air.

Enter designers. Finally!


Tributes to Dylan in Kinetic Type – College Design Projects

I was, and still am, pretty obsessed with Bob Dylan.

The footage for ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ from D.A Pennebaker’s film ‘Don’t Look Back’ could arguably be described as one of the the first ‘motion type’ videos, couldn’t it? With that in mind, back in college, when we were doing a motion typography course, I thought I’d use his incredibly lyrical song for my project. Here’s what I had made:

Here’s the original clip of Dylan dropping ‘word cards’ along with Pennebaker’s commentary in the background. Apparently the alley still has construction work going on. 🙂

Here’s another one I did to the words from ‘Tambourine Man’ using completely analog means. I dropped hand written ‘word cards’ just like Dylan, only I dropped them from under a light table (a back lit table we used to use to trace stuff). I kept the unedited sound because it sounded nice and dark and spooky, and seemed to add value to the video. It was a happy accident, in keeping with my theory of how randomness helps me in design.

I was inspired to do this post by Blockader’s post ‘Now for something completely different’ in which he digs out a college comic project he did in the 1980s. Thanks Blockader.

It’s also interesting, when you dig into college work, to see what typefaces you used back then. Typeface preferences change so drastically. I’d probably never use Palace Script ever again, though it’s renegade ‘god save the queen’ sort of attitude’ mirrored my own approach to life back then. The cynicism I felt for the outdated flourishes in the script (using them as a parody almost) mirrored my own disparaging opinion of institutions.

Also It makes me miss the creative licence of the world of academia, and the truly ‘open’ approach to design, far from the conundrum of commercial art I mentioned in this post.