Could Instagram's New Fonts Be An Antidote To Tone Deaf Posts?

Instagram is a rare app in one specific way: Just about every update results in significant hype beyond the tech community, something that other apps (even ones that also have millions of users) aren't always able to achieve.

The latest update, Instagram Stories' Type mode, which added four new font options — strong, modern, neon, and typewriter — was no different when it debuted last week. Users were quick to take to Twitter hailing the arrival, furiously questioning when they would get the update if they hadn't already, and noting how certain fonts, like the cursive script of "neon", added character to their Stories. "Instagram's new font features make my fangirling look real aesthetic," one woman tweeted. Others called attention to the Supreme-ish vibe of the "strong" style. (Though if you're going to make that comparison, it's important to recognize artist Barbara Kruger, too.)

Compared with flashy animations and graphic filters, it can be easy to forget that something as seemingly basic as typeface really does make a huge difference. Fonts have long affected the way messages are conveyed and perceived in realms beyond social media, from advertising to resume-writing. Some fonts look ridiculous when used in certain scenarios (you would never use Lucida Calligraphy to write a cover letter), while others, such as comic sans, are just universally mocked.

"Type is incredibly powerful in helping to convey a message in the right tone," professional type designer Jessica Hische, told Refinery29 over email. "You wouldn't use the same type style to post about a death in your family as you would to post about an epic night of drinking for a friend's thirtieth birthday. 'Tone deaf' posts and prompts on social media networks are a real issue, so anything that lets you share with the right voice is a step in the right direction."

Curious to know what Hische and other typography experts made of Instagram's font choices? Ahead, we asked four professionals to weigh in with their thoughts and what they'd like to see in future updates.

Jessica Hische, @jessicahische

First thoughts: "Having more than one font choice for these posts makes sense to me as Instagram is a visual platform — users are used to tweaking photographs to convey exactly what they want, so it would make sense that adjusting tone through font-choice would be appealing to people who use Instagram."

Stylistic choices: "There are always a thousand ways to critique any given font style. I was actually happily surprised at how generally good the neon script is — normally connecting scripts in these sorts of apps are pretty terrible, because most app developers are forced to choose between the handful of free fonts available for such use. Commissioning custom type is expensive and not every company can justify the cost."

Popular opinion: "I think Modern will be very popular. First, since it was already in use for location and hashtag stickers and so on, it feels like a more default choice. When you have something to say but don't necessarily care the voice that it's said in, you'll go with the first option that pops up or the one that feels least like a choice. While the neon is cool, one of the drawbacks of a script is that you can't talk in all caps — all caps in script just doesn't work. Without a way to emphasize words by capitalizing and bolding I think it will end up lower on the totem pole."

Font I'd like to see in the future: "I hope they offer more choices when it comes to type styles —bold and italic, type sizes — the ability to turn off the automatic resizing to start, and text alignment. I think the obvious next type face choice would be a beautiful serif — something that feels like a modern magazine font."
Nicole Kalil, @dearlilymae

First thoughts: "More options are always nice! The original option was so basic and really took away from good design.

"[But] I think they missed the mark with the new fonts. There are so many good apps to add wording to pictures and videos nowadays that the new Instagram options hardly compete. I use HypeType a lot."

Stylistic choices: "The biggest mistakes I see with the new fonts is that they aren’t classic nor modern enough. I love a classic font like Didot for clean lines and everyone is always looking for a script of a handwritten nature."

Popular opinion: "I think the Neon style will stand out the most since it’s sort of script and has a little flair to it with the neon effect."

Fonts I'd like to see in the future: "Anything of the handwritten nature or fonts that are super classic, but not basic. I like Didot, anything of typewriter nature, and anything that looks handwritten, whether script or serif."
Nick Misani, @nickmisani

First thoughts: "I was perfectly satisfied with the simple sans-serif we had before, but I’m pleased to have a few options now, even though I’m sure there are some I’ll only rarely, if ever, use.

"Though I don’t see these as 'classic' choices in the strictly typographic sense, which would require the inclusion of a traditional serif, I certainly see them as strategic ones. There’s definitely a lot of thought behind Instagram's decision and I can see how each font they selected hits several demographics of users."

Stylistic choices: "I haven’t noticed any glaring issues aside from the o-a ambiguity in the neon font, which will certainly cause a bit of gender confusion for Spanish and Italian users. I am, however, a bit bothered by the forced justification of some of the styles, which enlarges shorter lines to match the width of longer ones. I can see the appeal, but I wish it could be toggled on and off."

Popular opinion: "I think Modern will be fairly popular — it's fresh, clean, versatile, and matches the condensed font Instagram uses for hashtags and polls."

Font I'd like to see in the future: "I'd love to see them implement something similar to their designer stickers: A rotating series of limited-edition fonts by Instagram's type design community."
Brooke Robinson, @goodtype

First thoughts: "I believe different typefaces and font styles allow for more poignant expression of mood and tone.

"At first glance, it seems as if Instagram chose these typefaces because each one is quite different from the next, going with a mono-weight script, an all caps sans-serif, a regular sans serif, and a serif — the typewriter."

Stylistic choices: "I don't necessarily see any 'mistakes', but I do see a difference of opinion in style. The 'a' looking 'o' [in neon] is just that, but I wouldn't consider it a mistake — it's just a nuance of that particular typeface. I don't love the capital 'G' in the modern typeface, but I wouldn't consider it a mistake. All typefaces are legible and lend to allowing the user to relay a message more in line with their mood or tone."

Popular opinion: "Hard to say."

Font I'd like to see in the future: "I'm a sucker for the Futura typeface."
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