When it comes to choosing your brand’s typeface, you need to think beyond serif or sans-serif. Like colour, typography is vital to conveying brand messaging effectively. From just a glance, a potential customer will immediately have preconceived notions about your organisation and what it represents.
1. The importance of typeface
Whether you use premade fonts or a bespoke design, every brand should utilise typeface to differentiate itself from competitors and have a strategy for using it effectively. As a general rule, you’ll want to select two main typefaces to be used across all visual messaging. Your header copy should be impactful, bold and clear. Whereas your body copy should be clean and easily legible.
Typeface is everywhere. From book spines to ad copy, you’ll find type wherever there’s a written message to be conveyed. We want to stand out amongst the Open Sans or Times New Roman users. Creating something unique is extremely powerful for brand expression. After all, brand expression is a language, and type allows you to echo your distinctive voice, tone and messaging subliminally. Have fun with your experimentation, but always remember that your typeface needs to be cohesive. No individual letter should stand out from the rest.
2. Conveying brand personality
It might be difficult to understand how type can convey such a large amount of personality. Here are a couple of aspects to consider to help you get started:
- Serif or Sans-serif? – Your first choice is between these two families of typeface.
- Serif fonts harken back to a historical age of scripture with their delicate lines. They create a sense of gravitas, class and intelligence – brands like Time Magazine and Rolex.
- Sans-serif fonts are a more modern invention from the 19th century. They radiate cool, clean modernity and sleek professionalism. Think Facebook and Adidas.
- For practical reasons, serif fonts are generally used for large bodies of text as the ‘flicks’ tie together the letters and allow for better legibility.
- High or low contrast? – When we say contrast, we’re talking about the thickness between the main and additional stroke. The below example shows a low contrast font to a high contrast font.
- Very low contrast typeface is bold and uniform. Much like it’s high contrast cousin, extremely low contrast typeface becomes difficult to read when shrunk to a smaller size. Its blocky nature makes it difficult to distinguish when used as body copy. This kind of typeface is solid and radiates confidence. Modern, innovative brands like Netflix and Apple use a low contrast typeface.
- Medium contrast fonts are best for body copy. Staying away from extremes allows for optimum legibility.
- Very high contrast typeface becomes difficult to read when it’s small, which means its better utilised as header copy than body copy. Like serif fonts, they radiate elegance. Many high fashion brands like Vogue or Dior use high contrast fonts.
- Diagonal or vertical stress? – The stress of a font is the angle that contrast occurs in its lettering. It’s easiest to work out what kind of stress a typeface has by looking at the letter ‘O’.
- If the bottom left is thicker than the top left, then that’s diagonal stress. This style is reminiscent of calligraphy and has a friendly, inviting, warm feel to it.
- Vertical stress is when the left and right side of the letter is thicker and the tops are thinner. These styles feel bold and striking with a core of confidence and authority.
3. Cohesive design to drive brand recognition
To help drive brand recognition, your typeface needs to be distinctive enough to be recognisably your own. It’s going to be used across a range of platforms so should be recognisable at a glance. Make sure to consider the little details. It’s the specifics that will differentiate your brand from the rest.
A great example of this is Duolingo’s bespoke font. During their recent redesign, there were talks of making the typeface a clean serif. Johnson Banks, Duolingo’s chosen font designer, explains, “Instead of using neutral typography alongside the symbol (like every other tech company), we redrew the logotype drawing inspiration from Duo’s feathery form to reflect the company’s quirky personality.” Banks makes the important decision to stray away from the norm and create something wholly unique. Duo’s signature colour and recognisable curves are synonymous with the Duolingo brand. Banks further clarifies, “We redrew the logotype, drawing inspiration from Duo’s feathery form to reflect the company’s quirky personality.” The ‘feather bold’ typeface features round characters and little quirks to resemble the blocky feathers on Duo. The result is a typeface that is entirely recognisable as Duolingo and conveys the brand’s quirky brand messaging.