I run a brand design studio in Hornchurch, Essex and I come into contact with many businesses who have a common disregard for typography within their branding and design documents.
This could include:
- A bad typeface used for their logo design
- No consistent typesetting used for their collateral or web design
- No font formatting for text
- Poor layout of text
This might not sound like the end of the world but bad use of typography does have a bad impact on your business.
Bad typography immediately indicates that something was cheaply made (or is cheaper). If used by a business then it suggests that the business itself may not be that successful, or not as successful as another and immediately positions your business in a different class. It subconsciously raises questions with consumers as to whether they should actually invest in your brand, product or service because bad typography creates doubts. You may not realise it, but it does!
Being inconsistent with your typography also reduces the marketing potential for your business. Consumers may not recognise typefaces by name or commit typeface details to memory but subconsciously they do know that a particular looking typeface belongs to a particular company. This psychological impact is created through consistently using and displaying a single typeface to represent a business as oppose to using a variety of typefaces.
Let’s take a look at how you can improve the typography for your business to create a better and more memorable impression on your customer base.
1. The difference between typography, fonts, typefaces
So far, I’ve used words such as type, typography, fonts and typefaces and although each term is different in definition, they’re used more synonymously these days. Take a quick read so you can understand some of the basics of creating type.
- Type Design: Designing Individual Letters eg. A, B, C, D
- Typeface: Creating a set of letters that carry the same design features eg. Arial
- Typography: Arranging a typeface so they can be displayed with eligibility eg. Setting the size of letters, kerning and spacing between letters to form a unified set.
- Font: A specific size, weight and style of a typeface eg. Arial Bold 14pt
- Font Family: A typeface that has been redesigned into several font variations to create a collective eg. Arial Bold, Arial Black, Arial Narrow, Arial regular = Font Family
Due to the likes of Microsoft Word, you probably think that all of the above is just a font and you’d be right in thinking so. MS Word made it incredible easy to just pick a font, make a size adjustment and use the font, but what you may not know is that professional designers use professional design software, where a typeface doesn’t come as just a single font. A designer will have an entire font family available to use, meaning that they have many variations of a single font at thieir disposal. These variations share a synergy of features between them making them relative to one another but at the same time, each variation can create a totally different message due to its change in characteristics such as being bold or light.
The point in knowing the above is to show that fonts share relationships with one another just like a family does. A font may come from a particular family (immediate family) and it can also have friends in the form of fonts that pair well together (like cousins or relatives). The above definitions also note that there’s a difference between a typeface and a font which is good to know, as it may cause confusion later on.
To keep things simple, think of a typeface as a font, and a font as a formatted font (bold or light).
2. Font Classifications
The design of typefaces may be one of the most elegant, refined and complex studies in graphic design, with classic outcomes still being used today. With thousands of years of type design, there are now thousands of typefaces to choose from, so a way to categorize these designs helps identify and control their usage.
Fonts in general tend to fall into one of four categories, each one with its own subset which could be linked to an era in time. There’s:
- Serif Typefaces
- Sans-Serif Typefaces
- Script Typefaces
- Decorative Typefaces
Serif fonts can be seen as more classical typefaces using small decorative elements to accentuate character for the letters. Sans-serif fonts do away with serifs to create a more metric design that’s contemporary. Script fonts take the form of hand written typography. Decorative fonts are more entertaining and exaggerated forms of type adhering to their own style.
Each typeface classification (serif, sans, script, decorative) has at least half a dozen subsets each, to help classify fonts with greater details. For example, Serif fonts can be subset into Slab fonts taken from the Egyptian style.
As we delve deeper into typefaces and fonts we can see that time and history becomes apparent with each design, linking to a style or tone from an era. All of these small details are characteristics that can help your business to communicate a message with the right choice of font.
On the most basic level we can say that a serif font gives a classic and trustworthy feel, whilst a sans-serif is contemporary and sleek. Script is personal yet exuberant, whilst decorative is original and niche.
3. Improve your logo design with a good typeface
To improve on the fonts for your branding, pick a typeface from a classification (serif, sans, script, decorative) that communicates your business message. Think about depth, character and tone of the typeface as well as style. After choosing a classification set, you can then delve deeper into finding a specific typeface to use. Once that’s done look at each font set within the family of fonts to get the perfect font for your logo eg. a bold format or light.
If your logo has any other design elements such as an icon then you’re also going to want to pick a font that pairs with that design element to create a balanced logo design. Look at the design elements used for your icon such as any curves, spikes, lines or shapes. These elements need to compliment or contrast your choice of font to create a single image that forms your logo design.
4. Pairing fonts
The font you use for your logo doesn’t have to be the font that you use for every piece of marketing collateral, however, as mentioned, consistency is key to creating great, memorable brand imagery so to make your branding better, choose and use either:
- An entire font family
- A second font that pairs with the first
By choosing and using a second font, you can expand on your branding and make it a more versatile tool. Your logo design may use a big bold and decorative font which is iconic and memeroable but it might not be the best choice for a long piece or text such as a report or brochure. This is where a second font comes in handy but the two fonts must be paired correctly.
Pairing fonts is a task that’s second in difficulty to actually creating a bespoke typeface. Tips for choosing and pairing fonts are :
- Use fonts that create eligibility
- Use fonts that complement each other
- Use fonts that contrast in style
- Use fonts that deliver in context
- Use fonts that don’t conflict
Technically, this means that any two fonts can be paired together but the question is whether they work well together.
When pairing a second font think about the context in which it will be used. If it’s for long pieces of text then you’ll want a neutral typeface suitable for paragraphs and easy reading. If it’s for headers and titles then a bolder bigger font can be used.
Styles need to complement each other whilst also contrasting each other to show a difference in context and style. The most important thing is that fonts do not conflict with each other. A conflict can occur if the two fonts are too similar or too dissimilar in mood or style.
Pairing fonts could mean matching moods or neutralising them, and it may come down to your gut instinct to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
The easiest way to combine fonts is to pick a font from a different classification from your logos font choice.
5. Improve eligibility, style and communication with your fonts
The end goal for any written piece of text, is to be read! And you can help the chances of that happening through your choice of typography and layout. To effectively improve your brand communication, select font choices for specific purposes because any document you create could need u pto 5 different variations of a single typeface.
Try not to use more than 3 typefaces and 3 font variations for any document but if needs be, use fonts within your selected font family to keep consistency. The overall image of “less is more” will creates a better impression when it comes to typography for professional documents.
Typefaces are just graphics but they mean much more, creating language and communication that can be instantly understood. It’s such an advanced age old concept and it has become second nature for us to use typography but not to give a second thought on the impact that each letter has. Choosing good fonts for your branding can help send the correct message and create the impression for your business.
Good use of typography is one of the fundamental practices of good design so any designer worth their salt will incorporate good typography into any design project to make it work.