The Most Popular Font For Every Decade of the Past 100 Years
Determining the most popular font for each decade over the last 100 years involves a mix of historical context, design trends, technological advancements, and cultural shifts. While specific sales data or usage metrics for fonts across all contexts (print, digital, etc.) for each decade might not be readily available, we can identify fonts that were notably influential or characteristic of each period. Here's our take on the most popular font for each decade over the last 100 years. They’re all still pretty darn fantastic.
1920s: Futura Font
Designed by Paul Renner in 1927, Futura is a geometric sans-serif font that captured the Bauhaus design philosophy of the time. Its clean lines and modernist aesthetic made it highly popular in the following decades.
Nike loves it, Wes Anderson loves it, and oh, fun fact: It’s the font they used for the plaque Neil Armstrong planted on the moon. So it might outlast all other fonts if something goes wrong here on Earth.
Another Fun Fact: the Supreme logo is Futura Bold Italic.
1930s: Times New Roman
Although more widely adopted in the 1940s after being commissioned by The Times in 1931, its design by Stanley Morison became a staple for newspaper printing and eventually one of the most used fonts globally. Woman's Home Companion was the first magazine to adopt it, and then shortly after the Chicago Sun-Times began to use it as well.
This was a font designed specifically for newspaper printing, but not book printing.
Although Helvetica was not designed until 1957 by Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffmann, its roots are in the 1940s' Swiss Design Movement. It would become synonymous with the mid-20th century's push towards modernism in graphic design.
Government entities love Helvetica to this day (the US government, Canadian government, and European Union all still use it).
1950s: Helvetica (Again)
Officially released in 1957, Helvetica quickly became the quintessential typeface of the late 20th century, embodying the principles of the Swiss Design Movement with its clarity, simplicity, and neutrality.
Major brands still use Helvetica, think Jeep, Panasonic, Lufthansa, JC Penny…we could go on, but we’ll leave it at that.
Designed by Adrian Frutiger in 1957, Univers gained popularity in the 1960s. It's known for its clear, objective style and a wide range of weights, making it a favorite in corporate and government designs. The font was used extensively by Audi, appearing in sales literature, corporate communications, owners documentation and even on the vehicles themselves. You’ve seen it used by UNICEF, eBay, and in all of George W. Bush’s campaign logos.
1970s: Avant Garde Gothic
Inspired by the Avant Garde magazine logo, this geometric sans-serif font designed by Herb Lubalin and Tom Carnase in the late 1960s became emblematic of the 1970s' graphic design. Today, we recognize it in the PBS logo and on Netflix’s Master of None series.
1980s: The Return of Times New Roman
Gaining further popularity through its inclusion in early personal computers, Times New Roman became a default font choice for a wide range of documents and publications. The newspaper made it famous, and the PC brought it right back to the forefront. Pretty cool.
Designed as a more accessible alternative to Helvetica, Arial became ubiquitous in the 1990s, especially after being included in Windows operating systems. The Huffington Post uses Arial on its front page but uses the Georgia font for full articles.
Designed by Matthew Carter for Microsoft in the mid-1990s, Verdana was created for easy readability on computer screens and became widely used on the early web. Since 1996 it has been included in all versions of Windows, Office and Internet Explorer.
Designed by Google as the system font for Android, Roboto has become widely used on digital platforms for its modern, approachable look. Roboto is the default system font on Android, and since 2013, other Google services such as Google Play, YouTube, Google Maps, and Google Images.
2020s: Open Sans
Although designed earlier, Open Sans has been widely adopted in the 2020s for its readability and simplicity on digital platforms, particularly in web and app design. It’s dubbed itself as the only font you’ll ever need.
This list combines historical significance, widespread usage, and influence in design. However, the popularity of fonts can vary greatly depending on specific industries, regions, and applications (such as print vs. digital). The digital age has also democratized font usage, with thousands of fonts now readily available, making it harder to pinpoint a single "most popular" font in recent years.
If you need help selecting the right font for your business, or are in the market for a new website, logo, or entire rebrand, book a meeting with us today.