Building on the popularity of color fonts and variable fonts, 2019 is shaping up to be the year designers push the creative boundaries even further with typography and lettering.

In line with the trend for maximalism, designers are starting to create typography which is three-dimensional, hyper-realistic and immersive.

Created with a blend of vector and 3D modelling software, these inspirational examples of 3D lettering design would make perfect companions to advertising or poster work.

We’ve identified four sub-trends within the 3D typography style—iconographic, calligraphic, paper collage and steampunk—which we think will be making waves in type design in the months ahead.

1. Iconographic

This style of 3D typography takes a literal approach to lettering design. The idea behind this sub-trend is to convey the meaning or theme of the text through the visual depiction of the word.

So whether it’s a line of toothpaste to suggest ‘fluoride’, for example, or cow-hide lettering to suggest ‘milk’, this iconographic approach is compelling and memorable, which makes it a popular approach in advertising design.

Romanian designer Matei Alisa gives a simple and striking example of the iconographic approach with her ‘charge’ illustration. Created using open-source 3D software Blender, Alisa crafted a white electric cord in the shape of the letters in cursive form.

Illustration by Matei Alisa

3D lettering artist Noah Camp applies his incredible skills in 3D type design to advertising and editorial projects. His iconographic designs for home cleaning products manufacturer Method helped the company to communicate how they were fighting dirt in a sustainable, toxic-free way to followers on social media.

Noah drew the letter designs by hand, before rendering them in detail using Maxon Cinema 4D.

Lettering design by Noah Camp

Noah Camp’s lettering designs for his ‘26 Days of Food’ project is also well worth a look (warning: these images could make you hungry!). He created these designs with the help of Cinema 4D, Arnold Renderer and digital sculpting tool ZBrush.

Lettering designs by Noah Camp

Want to make a start with creating iconographic lettering designs? Look to these ready-created letter designs on the 123RF library to start creating your own iconographic words or logos.

Vector alphabet letters by contributor Oleg Erin
Vector plastic lettering by contributor Jakkapan Sapmuangphan

2. Calligraphic

Calligraphy and script lettering has long been a popular choice for illustrators and stationery designers. The style injects instant elegance, whimsy and romance into invitations, posters and greetings cards. We recently published a feature on Dutch lettering artist Julia Henze, who skillfully creates calligraphic lettering in flat vector format.

However, some designers are looking to calligraphy as a foundation for constructing very ornate, 3D lettering designs which make the ligatures of scrollwork look as if it’s about to burst out of the page or screen.

British lettering artist Dan Forster has an elegant and refined approach to crafting 3D lettering. Inspired by the ornate artwork of Medieval manuscripts, Forster focuses on designing single letters or words by hand, before digitising the artwork using Procreate for iPad Pro.  

Lettering design for In Touch Magazine by Dan Forster
‘Lisboa’ lettering design by Dan Forster

Adding a shadow and gradients to 2D text can help your calligraphy to ‘pop’. Be inspired by this simple yet striking example of a 3D calligraphic style by Oksana Kumer.

Calligraphy lettering by contributor Oksana Kumer

3. Paper Collage

Looking for a more handcrafted effect for your lettering designs? A paper collage effect gives a softer, more organic look to 3D typography. It works beautifully for children’s advertising or environmental-themed editorials—anything which would benefit from a naive, youthful edge.

In this example, New York-based designer Risa Takeuchi used the paper collage style to evoke the mood of Tokyo. First rendered as a flat vector illustration, the designer then deconstructed the design and created a layered paper collage. The final effect is calming and serene, with a cleverly imagined sense of depth to the design.

Paper cut-out typography by Risa Takeuchi

Get started on the right foot with your own collage-style type with this collection of vector paper-cut letters by contributor rondale.

Vector cut-out letter by contributor rondale

4. Steampunk

Steampunk blends Victorian style with futuristic mechanical elements, creating a fusion of vintage and industrial styling which has a cult following. Designers are starting to revisit Steampunk for its anarchic, detail-driven style. For lettering artists like Katt Phatt, Steampunk lends just the right amount of gothic detail and drama for their type designs.

For his ‘Demiurge’ project, South African Phatt looked to Steampunk and Baroque design to inform his incredibly ornate digital artwork, which imagines several concepts for Migrate Magazine.

Lettering design by Katt Phatt

For his ‘Create N Amaze’ project, Phatt created a digital ‘metallic’ tablet, before advancing the design with skillfully applied rust effects.

Discover more of Katt Phatt’s lettering work, for brands such as Adobe and Coca-Cola, on his website here.

This collection of steampunk-inspired letters and numbers by vvvisual could make a great foundation for a more detailed 3D design.

Design Trend: 4 Popular Styles of 3D Typography in 2019 - 123RF blog
Mechanical letter illustration by contributor vvvisual
Design Trend: 4 Popular Styles of 3D Typography in 2019 - 123RF blog
Mechanical number illustration by vvvisual

The 3D Typography Trend in Action

Building on 2018’s fascination with color fonts and Word Art, the 3D Typography trend is set to develop even further this year.

In this trend report, we’ve identified four sub-trends within 2019’s take on 3D typography and lettering. Whether you opt to give your designs a steampunk-inspired look or a hyper-realistic style, the aim is to be as creative and imaginative as possible.

So what are you waiting for? Check out the huge range of 3D letters, glyph sets and alphabets in the 123RF library to make a quick start on the 3D type trend.