Previously we’ve explored what branding means in terms of colour, and how certain colours can reflect certain messages about your brand. Your brand symbology is quite simple in principle. You’ve got a brand and you attach some colour, a logo, some text and some images to it.
However, the symbology you use is all you’ve got to enlighten newcomers to your brand on the surface. So in practice it’s quite a complex art. How can something so nuanced be so reflective of such a big idea like a brand? Take typeface for example, it’s something most people don’t even consider to be a thing. But people will spend days and days exploring hundreds of typefaces to find that one that delivers for them.
So how can we rationalise what certain typefaces mean, and can certain typefaces and fonts be synonymous with certain brands. Take Coca-Cola for example, you can picture what their logo and typeface looks like just in your mind. Their typeface selection has become an integral part of their brand, that when you now think about Coca Cola you think about an ice cold beverage, and their swirly font logo.
There are quite a lot of differences between Coca-Cola and your given law firm, but one of the most obvious ones is that they sell a physical product. Law firms don’t sell a product, and thus when people think about your brand, they can’t think about a product you offer, they’ll think about the other visual representations of your brand.
Typeface for Law Firms
Typically your logo is one of the first things someone will see about your brand. If you hand someone a business card or they visit your website, your logo is normally one of the first visual things that greets them. The font you use can and does communicate a lot about your brand, and it can tell someone subtly who you are and what you stand for.
Some typefaces are very artistic and creative, whilst some are formal and traditional. Typically typefaces can be broken down into five main classifications.
In typography a serif is essentially a line or stroke attached to the of a letter within a particular font family. Sometimes called hands or feet, serif fonts have a very subtle finishing touch as seen in the below picture. Typically serifs fonts are popular within body and copy content, as the small accents aid legibility compared to some far more artistic fonts.
Serif fonts in the past have been largely associated with print media, and have been widely used in books, magazines, and old english or roman scripture. Therefore a serif font largely gives off a traditional and reliable image about your brand. Traditionally law firms would tend to opt to use serif fonts in body content due to this traditional feel, but some law firms are very much pushing boundaries and breaking new ground.
Most popular in this category: Times New Roman, Garamond, Georgia, Bodoni.
A fairly obvious difference between the two, as sans quite literally means without in latin. Therefore sans-serif fonts are without the finishing touch that accompanies serif fonts. These fonts are much more minimal and simplistic, whilst still being incredibly legible. If serif fonts are about tradition and history, sans-serif fonts are much more modern, and favour sophistication.
Typically these font styles have a more youthful cutting edge feel. Therefore most disruptive brands in the legal industry, or indeed in many other industries will use a sans-serif font as their font of choice for copy content. The sharp, clean lines can be seen as a very approachable brand because of their simplicity.
Typically both serif and sans-serif fonts are used in long form content because of their legibility, but both are used quite widely in the legal industry in headers, logos, and imagery too, because of their appeal as traditional and modern fonts with a limited artistic flair compared to others.
Most popular in this category: Helvetica, Arial, Calibri.
Script fonts are a class of fonts that look very stylised to the point of being handwritten. They often appear calligraphic and offer a display of elegance, style, and poise. Due to the handwritten nature of script fonts they are largely associated with traditional values within a branding context. However, their legibility often means they have limited use outside of headers and logos.
The sense of opulence and elegance that script fonts given off means there are use cases within the legal industry. Whilst script fonts are typically not as prevalent as the more legible serif and sans-serif fonts, especially in long copy content, there is definitely value to be taken from exploring these traditional styles.
Some of the most recognisable script fonts are designed by in-house branding teams, or are associated solely with singular brands (think Coca-Cola, Disney, Cadburys, Corona, etc), but generally the most popular ones are: Luminari, Broadley, Monarda, Old English etc.
Monospaced fonts are rarely used in branding or design. This style simply means each character occupies the exact same space as the next. Regardless of whether said character is a letter, a number, punctuation, or a symbol etc. Monospace fonts have their primary use in computer language or code, where deciphering individual keystrokes is of the utmost importance. On occasion they’re used in headlines and logos, but are generally far less popular in copy than sans-serif and serif fonts due to their lack of style, and their decreased legibility over the previous two.
Most popular in this category: Courier, MonoLisa, Apercu.
The final font style is display fonts. Display fonts are normally pretty decorative and characterful, with most of their use coming from creative industries and businesses. Display fonts, like the name suggests, are not designed to be used for body copy, but instead in headers and logos.
The array of styles of display fonts is far wider than any other font category, but typically the main goal is to stand out and grab people’s attention. However, it does mean that the emotions and thoughts these fonts can communicate can be quite far reaching, but the main thing that encompasses all is individuality.
Similar to script fonts, some of the most recognisable display fonts are often associated with certain brands entirely (Fanta, Lego, Netflix)
Generally some of most popular in this category are: Bourton, Exo 2, Ad Lib, TNT battenberg.
Traditionally most law firms have used slightly more traditional styles within their branding, and thus serif and script fonts are the most common. Sometimes a combination of the two is used, with serif’s advantage in legibility dominating most body copy content, and the calligraphic style in script fonts used for logos.
While fonts are very subtle nuances, there can be quite a lot of subconscious thought attached to them, and they do communicate far more than would be anticipated.