Current trends in Web Design: The influence of print/typography on the Web

October 21st, 2009 Posted in Web Design

or why it’s called a web”page”

Legibility has always been of utmost importance in the process of visual communication. Billboards, advertisements, flyers. The clearer the message, the better the impact it tends to have on the target audience; the greater the sales.

In the 1990’s, with the emergence and increasing popularity of the internet came attempts to adapt this attention-grabbing visual aesthetic to websites. The effect this had though was to clutter up the real estate of the screen with unnecessary elements that didn’t really add to the effectiveness of communicating the message, but instead distracted and confused the user.

Today, there is a changing trend where the rules of traditional print design are being applied to the web. We see websites that are more typographically driven, with the main design elements being lines, subtle shifts in color and maybe one or two large images. This is similar to print design, where the message is relayed through words and images, and thus legibility of those words and images is of utmost importance.

Some reasons for this shift include changes in user preference, evolution of CSS including the use of sprites and the availability of server-side and browser-side font rendering technologies that allow the use of more and varied fonts.

The emergence and growing popularity of blogs has added to this trend. We as the audience are more interested in what the website is saying as opposed to what it is displaying.

This trend can also be seen with online advertising, where banners and ads have gone from psychedelic aminated gifs of aliens dancing maniacally to more subtle blocks of text and color, similar to ads found in newspapers and magazines.

Some examples of websites that follow this trend of incorporating characteristics of print design in both layout and advertisements are below.

The Bold Italic


A list apart




For a beautiful web




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15 Responses to “Current trends in Web Design: The influence of print/typography on the Web”

  1. BebopDesigner Says:

    Brilliant explanation, brilliant examples! Thanks for posting.

  2. uberVU - social comments Says:

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Digg by internetisscary: What about Friendster?…

  3. Rebecca Says:

    But A List Apart has been rocking that layout for quite some time… Is it fair to say that they are a part of the current trend?

  4. Madhavi Says:

    Rebecca – you’re right. You could say they’re one of the first to start using this visual aesthetic, which has now evolved into somewhat of a trend

  5. rory Says:

    Nice article, is amazing the progress we have made over the last 10 years regarding website design. Where will we be in the next 10 years? Wired into the matrix probably with Neo standing over us saying “Woh”. I see video playing an even bigger part of our web experience.

  6. Emily Brackett Says:

    I think people are starting to get the hang of css enough to create what they’ve envisioned in their head. And I agree, just because you can use every color and have everything animate, it doesn’t make for a good end result.

  7. Tom - NewEvolution Says:

    Kind of aligns with the thinking that websites are turning into brochures. Sweet and simple text with interesting graphics and videos (depending on the site of course).

  8. Frog Says:

    A well written article. Bookmarked to read thoroughly again once I have the time.

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