typography: branding’s hidden secret
Typography is deeply rooted in the world around us. Everywhere we look, it’s there. Even when we don’t notice it, it’s affecting us on a subconscious level, sending out its intended message.
For brands, typography is a crucial aspect of design when it comes to overall message and image. Without quality typography, a company will struggle to compete in their industry. Just look at Tropicana orange juice. Years back, it completely changed its logo, and its packaging design and typography. It was a total failure (to the tune of 50 million dollars), and they went back to what they previously had used pretty quickly.
Wield Unlimited Power?
If you think about it, it’s not a stretch to say that typography is really just the psychology of using fonts to convey specific meaning. When it comes to branding, typography is manipulative, persuasive, and can shape a reader’s perceptions entirely. On purpose! In other words, the value of typography is priceless.
From the company logo, to the product and packaging copy, to collateral and web design, typography is as vital as imagery and color use is. Typography entices, attracts, allows for recall, conveys brand consistency, and sends a clear brand message to the consumer … if you employ it correctly, that is.
So, Which Font?
The sheer number of fonts to choose from is rather staggering, and each one can convey a different meaning to a consumer. So how in the world do you pick the right one for your brand? You must first ask yourself:
1. What type of font do you need to use?
Serif – Professional. Traditional. Think: books and newspapers.
Sans Serif – Modern. Sleek. Stylish, and the way most fonts are displayed online.
Script – Elegant. Think: brushstrokes.
Handwriting – Fun. Playful. Yes, it looks just like handwriting!
Display – Bold. For use with large font size needs, like on billboards.
2. What are you using the typography for?
Logo – A brand’s logo is almost as important as the product is. Look back to Tropicana. Their once classic, and recognizable logo was minimalized and made bland. It not only turned people off, but it made the brand nearly unrecognizable, and caused people to not even be able to find the orange juice in the store!
Product – Besides the logo, a product can be covered in typography, especially on the packaging. While conveying your brand personality is always important, you don’t want to pick a font that will be hard to read (especially with ingredients), or will perplex the consumer (graffiti is cool and all … but come on). Consider a catchy font for something larger, like a title, but use sans serif for the body.
Web copy – Your website shouldn’t turn people away because it’s littered with a horrible font (insert Comic Sans joke here). Your copy needs to be pleasing to the eye, but at the same time capture the personality of your brand. Hey, nobody said this would be easy! Sans serif is the most used style online today, and there are many fonts in that style to choose from that will generate specific meaning.
Emails – Believe it or not, the font you use to type an email can turn people off in a heartbeat. Have you ever received an email with garish-looking font? Exactly. What is your brand personality trying to say? Is there a font that matches that? At the same time, will it turn people away by the mere look of it?
A serif font is not out of the question for email.
How you present the typography is also key. Everything from headers, titles, subtitles, and body copy are all read differently.
Header – These are usually very large in order to draw attention. Usually bolded.
Title – Like a header, these are large and draw attention, but with a bit more personality than a header usually has.
Subtitle – Smaller than title font, and more often than not in a different but complimentary style. It still needs to capture a reader’s attention.
Body – No matter if it’s sans, or sans serif, body copy needs to be readable.
Now Let’s Get Technical
If you use more than one font somewhere, they must work in unison, so as not to cause any confusion to the reader. Having your logo in one font, headings in another, and body copy in a third (all in the same area) comes off as chaotic. At most, you can pair two, but they have to compliment one another completely. Also important are:
Letter scaling – Do you want the words to appear compact? Stretched? Thin? Thick?
Tracking – This is the space between lines. Keeping them even is usually wise.
Kerning – This is the space between letters.
Case – All caps means you’re shouting! STOP DOING THAT.
Size – Body copy, for example, should be smaller than the title is.
Balance – How will your copy appear? Centered? Justified? Left aligned? Right?
A great example to go by is Virgin. They employ a red, handwritten logo that slants to the right. The slant is said to indicate self-assertiveness, confidence, and positivity. The red gives the impression of courage and confidence.
One of the most interesting things about typography is that it can work silently, and go unnoticed as it performs its intended task. Another great example of good typography is an Exit sign. We all know what it wants us to do, but we never actively read the word. But the large, iconic, red letters let us know where to go in case of an emergency.
You may have noticed it was mentioned multiple times above that your typography must be easy to read … but also capture the personality of your brand. It takes some research for sure, but it can actually be a fun task.
Look, typography distinguishes your brand from a competitor’s. If it stays consistent in its appearance, it creates loyalty over time. Typography also communicates your brand’s intended message. But it can break you. Typography must always be aesthetically pleasing, professional, grab a consumer’s attention, be unique, not confuse … ever, and it must always be legible (unless you’re Coke).