A few months ago, I found myself oddly transfixed by an advertisement on the train for a mattress company called Allswell. At first, I couldn’t tell what made the ads stand out from the dozens plastered across the trains and platforms at any given time. After several train rides spent staring up at the unnaturally bright smiles of models happily perched on mattresses, I realized: it wasn’t the ads themselves that stood out to me, but rather, their typography.

The Allswell logo uses Caslon Graphique, a striking, elegant font that lends an air of luxury and sophistication to a relatively young brand. Caslon Graphique belongs to a category of fonts known as Didones. Didones are serif fonts, meaning that, unlike the font that you’re currently reading, the strokes of letters have little feet at the ends. A Didone is characterized by long, narrow serifs, as well as a strong contrast between thick and thin strokes (see the difference in the curve and the crossbar of the ‘e’ in Allswell). Together, these elements give a Didone font a certain, unmistakably refined quality that is often absent from sans serifs or even more traditional serifs such as Times New Roman.

Didones first came into fashion around the turn of the nineteenth century, when printers and type designers began experimenting with alterations to the more traditional serif fonts that had defined newsprint and advertisements throughout the 1700s. Firmin Didot of France and Giambattista Bodoni of Italy were the founding fathers of the style, which was then called “Modern.” “Didone,” coined long after their deaths, is a portmanteau of “Didot” and “Bodoni,” which are also the names of two long-enduring Didones still used today.

Over the past year or so, Didones have covertly crept to the foreground of visual branding design for new companies and startups. There’s Winc, the millennial-targeted wine club; Dame, the sex toy company; Everspring, Target’s ecofriendly line of cleaning products; Welly, which makes first aid products; the list goes on, all with sleek, Didone logos are at the center of their brands. It’s a trend, but it’s also much more than that: the sudden insurgence of Didones represents a rejection of the typography and aesthetics that have come to define the 2010s, and an attempt to carve out a new aesthetic space, just in time for the beginning of a new decade.

In order to comprehend the significance of the budding Didone empire, one must understand what has happened to typography in the past ten years or so. At the beginning of the 2010s, geometric sans serifs — those without serifs or contrast in stroke width, and whose letters are built around simple shapes like circles and squares — experienced a dramatic uptick in popularity within web and digital design. As the geometric sans serifs rose to prominence, elements such as drop shadows, gradients, background textures, and bevels began to fall away, leaving behind the flat, minimalist digital aesthetic you might see on Facebook, Airbnb, or Postmates. Many designers cited a desire for increased legibility on low-resolution screens as reason for the shift; the desire for increased page-load speeds likely also played a role.

By 2015, when Google and Facebook pivoted to geometric sans serif logos within a few months of each other, geometric sans serif typography and minimalist aesthetics had reached a saturation point, both online and off. Among Peak Minimalism’s alleged merits were its implication of transparency: the spareness of brands stripped of clutter and ornament felt trustworthy, as if excesses in style were a middleman between consumer and company that had been stripped away. In the later half of the 2010s, however, oversaturation led geometric sans serifs to grow somewhat stale. The same attributes that once signalled approachability and friendliness began to read as sterile and impersonal as they grew more and more ubiquitous, particularly among large corporations and tech companies.

Didones represent a complete about-face from the design ethos of Peak Minimalism. On a technical level, Didones and geometric sans serifs are more or less total opposites: serif versus sans serif, intense stroke contrast versus none at all, tall ascenders (letters like “h” and “t”) versus short ones. But there’s also a more extensive rejection of the 2010s aesthetic at play. Against the no-frills, cheerfully pared-down look of Google et al, the use of Didones in the context of marketing feels downright luxurious, whether that sense of luxury is applied to a mattress or a vibrator or even a first aid kit. It’s worth noting that in addition to the clear generational dynamics at play — the majority of these brands appear to be marketing towards young people primarily — the new Didones seem to appear most often alongside brands that market towards women, be it Dame, Modcloth (a women’s clothing retailer), Flesh (a shade-inclusive makeup brand), or Kirsten Gillibrand’s brief presidential bid.

Earlier this year, Eliza Brooks suggested in an article for Vox that the return of serifs more broadly represents a retreat into the past, specifically, to the groovy aesthetic of the 1970s. This influence is more obvious in typography such as that of Buffy, a comforter startup which uses Cooper Black for its logo and branding, or Chobani, which opted for a chunky new text in 2015. Perhaps the change isn’t so much a retreat to the aesthetic of a particular historical period, but rather, the inevitable swing of a pendulum of which one side has consistently been some form of minimalism, be it the Swiss modernism of the 1950s or the flat design of the 2010s.

The internet has changed the conditions of graphic design in ways that are less subject to passing whims than typography. The need for cohesion across print and digital platforms — for your company’s ads in the subway to look like its ads on Instagram — has led to a minimalist zeitgeist that isn’t going away any time soon. Within the broader minimalist framework, however, ornate flourishes such as that of the Didones sate their viewers’ need for a reprieve from the visual austerity of the past decade, and the political austerity for which it has served as the default style. Sitting on the train, I found myself captivated by an advertisement for mattresses I can’t afford, of all things, simply because its typography injected a moment of beauty into a day spent being bombarded by advertisements that, with rare exceptions, look more or less the same.

That Didones represent a break from design homogeneity right now doesn’t mean that we might not face a new, Didone-centered homogeneity in ten years or so. It’s too early to tell what the visual language of the 2020s will look like more broadly, whether it will resemble the 2010s but with different typography, or if the Didones will helm an entirely new style. In any event, it seems that our relationship to typography and design is at the precipice of a transformation, and I, for one, am excited to see what it brings.

Rachel Hawley is a freelance writer and graphic designer based in Chicago.


Climate change is a global crisis, one that demands the participation of every citizen to strike it down. In an effort to jumpstart this united front, teen activist Greta Thunberg initiated a worldwide Climate Strike, which asks individuals to leave their desks and join local walkouts beginning today. These regional strikes are expected to take place in over 150 countries, from Ghana to Ecuador to Pakistan.

In addition to the hundreds of companies that are striking in solidarity today, many design agencies, architecture firms, and other creatives have chosen to strike—and support the effort through their work. Today, artists across several creative industries are not only going on strike, but also creating work that calls attention to the ongoing climate emergency. These architects, designers, artists, and content creators all contribute to the shaping of culture and have pledged to use the impact of their collective voices in media to shift the narrative surrounding our global ecological crisis.

CREATE AND STRIKE is one mobilization effort from the advertising and branding world, aimed at supporting the global strike Thunberg is spearheading. The open letter publicizing it currently has 140 signatories, including industry heavyweights like Bill Scott of Droga5, Sairah Ashman of Wolff Olins, and Sara Tate of TBWA.

These CEOs and founders of creative companies are pledging support for their employees forgoing work on Friday to join the strike and are encouraging them to develop content that amplifies the need for environmental activism.

As a contribution to the @createandstrike initiative we’ve created a sticker to help spread the word on your social network.

To use the graphic in this tweet open Instagram, search ‘Create and Strike’ in your stories and apply to your posts. #CREATEANDSTRIKE #ClimateStrike

— The Flash Pack (@itstheflashpack) September 20, 2019

Creative agencies like Revolt, Thinkhouse, and Saatchi and Saatchi will participate in the strike, and the signees are expected to unify and use their creative powers to develop projects that will draw even greater attention to the dire climate situation.

These design projects, which can take the form of a sign or a blimp, will debut at strikes in various places around the world today. As an incentive, the UK Student Climate Network and a panel of creatives will recognize the most innovative and impactful ideas developed in support of climate justice and the end of fossil fuels. The winners will be announced sometime in October.

Jonathan Wise, cofounder of the Comms Lab and member of the Purpose Disruptors, said: “There is a tremendous, emerging energy within the creative industries to want to help address our climate and ecological emergency. The Global Climate Strike represents a clear opportunity to use our special powers to amplify young people’s message. We hope the energy and work generated in support of the strike helps deepen the industry’s engagement and commitment to climate change so we [get] what is needed in the coming months and years.”

Coming along to the #climatestrike on Friday? We’ve got your out-of-office sorted. Working as part of @createandstrike, we’ve created a variety of OOOs for our fellow strikers to use on the day. Head to:

— Digitas UK (@Digitas_UK) September 19, 2019

It isn’t the only designer-led resource for climate strikers. The Climate Strike Arts Kit is a collection of posters, prints, murals, and images that are free for anyone to download from a shared Google Doc.

[Images (left to right): Oree Originol, Jhon Cortes, Paperhand artists/Global Climate Strike Arts Kit]

Meanwhile Glug, the U.K.-based arts event organizer, is asking designers to submit their designs to a database that it hopes will become “the world’s largest open-access database of protest posters.” The full database is accessible here. “We encourage the use of meme-like content, slapstick imagery, comedy, banter, stupid phrasing, and downright light-hearted mockery if needed,” the group writes.

People in other creative industries are organizing in their respective fields as well. Artists like Olafur Eliasson are striking for the climate too, with members of the artist’s studio stepping out in Berlin.  The advocacy group Architects Advocate launched its own effort to support the global climate strike and requests the attendance of Chicago-based architects at Federal Plaza today to show support. But hundreds of architecture firms all over the country have signed on to participate in their respective cities, including Brooks Scarpa, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and others.

“In July this year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel credited Greta for driving her government to act faster on climate change,” writes cofounder Tom Jacobs on the website. “The same can and must happen here.”


When the iPhone arrived in 2007, it was generations beyond any consumer technology on the market. Compared to the bulky, plasticky Blackberry, this aluminum and glass touchscreen smartphone was sheer alien technology. It took about five years for competitors to release decent iPhone alternatives, and Apple would go on to become the world’s most valuable company in the iPhone’s wake.

But what if Apple had somehow released the iPhone in the 1984, instead of, say, the original Macintosh? Or in the 1990s, instead of Jony Ive’s Bondi Blue iMac?

Thanks to the designer who goes by the name Future Punk, now we know. Future Punk, who is known for their portfolio of ’80s-inspired design, created a short commercial selling retro iPhones from each era. The ad, spotted by Boing Boing, is made out of what appears to be a combination of found footage and 3D rendering.

The Macintosh iPhone features Apple’s unmistakable Snow White design language, a tiny CRT screen, and a dial pad made from keyboard keys. The ’90s version features the semi-translucent, candy-colored shells of the old iMacs, with a set of matching keys that look something like an old Nokia.

Of course, this work is beyond speculative fiction. These iPhones simply never could have existed. Processing hardware wasn’t nearly sophisticated enough, or miniaturized enough, back then to make these designs possible. That said, by mapping old design languages onto the ubiquitous, spartan iPhone we all know, the video makes for an excellent reminder that Apple used to be a far more expressive company in its industrial design. And perhaps it will be one day again.