Typography is everywhere. In the seemingly fast moving letters of Nike. The serious and trustworthy capitals of HSBC and BARCLAYS. McDonalds’ tasty looking M and not to forget the unmistakable, casual and fun facebook F. The type, or font, these big brands use, tell us everything they want us to know, and perhaps much more than we are aware of.
I am a self-confessed ‘Type-Nerd’. I’m obsessed with typefaces, quality typography and the power that it has. There are hundreds of thousands of typefaces and I believe that each one has a different personality, just like me and you. Tell me who you are and I give you a typeface that is the perfect representation of you.
I recently had the chance to hear the wonderful Sarah Hyndman, author of ‘Why Fonts Matter’, speak about fonts. She is an even bigger Type-Nerd than me and she believes that:
Fonts are like multi-sensory imagination grenades.
I couldn’t agree with her more. Once I start a project with a new client and we had our initial meeting to talk about their business, story, values, and future vision I start to think in typefaces. Sounds weird, I know. But it really helps me in formulating a design concept for the business that really tells the world what you want it to know.
Getting the message across
Type is an invaluable, but sadly incredibly underrated, part of the visual identity toolkit. I put a lot of emphasis on type and make sure that my clients use their particular typefaces at every possible opportunity. Why? That’s easy. Type is the vehicle for your message, it is the only constant of a Visual Identity. It carries your information from your social media banner all the way through to your invoices.
Larger corporate companies have their type custom designed to make sure it is absolutely distinctive. Lou Dorfsman, who used to be Creative Director of CBS had two corporate fonts designed. When the channel moved to 6th Avenue in Manhattan, he was in charge of making sure that the whole CBS branding would be carried through the entire building. He went so far as to have clock faces made using the corporate type. He even convinced the New York safety authorities to use the custom font on the, otherwise standard issue, fire exit signs.
Do you think he might have gone too far? I don’t think so.
Here is another example for you: which airline is behind this statement?
The words alone are not necessarily enough to spark that instant recognition. But with its effective use of Cooper Black in a bright orange, Easy Jet has ingrained its brand in all our minds – through its corporate type.
The psychology behind type
Type is very practical as it supports your message visually. Letterforms can have an incredibly expressive character that can say a lot of things. This is why type can help you tell the story of your brand and provoke a feeling or emotion. It gives you the power as part of your visual toolkit, to steer perception. But beware, make sure that the typefaces you use are appropriate and match your offering. You need to align the expectation your typeface promises with the experience you give your clients.
Let’s say you are a lawyer. It’s a very traditional profession, based on trust and credibility. If you were given two business cards of lawyers written in the typefaces below, which one would you deem to be more trustworthy?
Lawyer 1 probably comes a cross a bit flaky, scruffy and casual. He seems a more risky choice, whereas lawyer 2 seems to come from a well established firm, is solid and experienced and has a polished, professional appearance.
Or picture this scenario: you see an A board on the high street. A café trying to lure you in to buy their freshly baked goods.
I think you are far more likely to have a leisurely cup of coffee in café 1. Their message feels subtle, inviting, conversational, casual and caring. The typeface itself looks delicious. Coffeeshop 2 leaves a sour taste. Their board is shouty, abrasive and far too salesy. It looks faceless and doesn’t have an awful lot of personality.
How is this for a third example; You would like to commission a company to build an app for your business so your clients can use your services straight from their phone or tablet. Which company do you feel might do the better job?
Company 1 seem a bit behind the time. Their Visual Identity wouldn’t fill me with confidence in their ability to create a digital product fit for the 21st century. The team of company 2 looks as if they are at the cutting edge of technology. They’re visionaries and full of ideas and technological skill. Their typeface is futuristic and geometric with slightly rounded edges to give it a human touch.
These examples show how type can influence your gut feeling, your subconscious decision to opt for a company simply based on the appropriateness of their type choice. These scenarios are of course a little exaggerated, but even if the differences are more subtle, potential clients will pick up on it. So make sure you have a suitable typeface that truly represent your business and use them religiously across all your communication channels.
I will soon be holding a workshop on Good Typography with useful tips and tricks for your everyday use of type and typesetting. A date will be announced shortly. Sign up to my newsletter and follow me on social media to keep in the loop.