By Sebastien Hayez. Published September 20, 2023
Fonts in branding
The role of fonts in branding
Typography and brand identity... That's a question that deserves more than a summer entry. And that's probably what we'll try to correct later.
What is branding?
The branding corresponds in its etymology to the mark left by the breeder in the flesh of cattle (and also humans) to indicate its ownership. Branding is still practiced in the USA in particular, even if its use is no longer of great use in the age of electronic tagging, which hosts much more complete and easy-to-read data.
Branding is therefore the design of a graphic identity (but not only) for commercial or non-commercial organizations, association, trade union, political party, school, business, industry, etc.
The purpose of branding is to enable the organization to be identified via its own graphic codes, i.e. different from its competitors or any other company.
However, the aesthetics of different business sectors also make it possible to recognize whether Apple sells fruit or electronics, whether Shell sells shellfish or fuel. The etymological root of the word "identity" lies in the identical, the similar: we define ourselves first in relation to our nearest and dearest, then individually.
A good logo has to be simple to be recognizable. This law needs to be verified by researchers, but for the moment, the history of graphic design and the success of many companies prove it right.
While Apple, Nike and Shell are known for their clean-cut symbols that have become engraved in the collective unconscious of Western society, the graphics of Coca-Cola, Ford and Disney are equally powerful images.
Thinking about the typography within the logo is therefore a crucial task.
- Make sure the name to be included is short enough to be compact and easily pronounced. If it isn't, you can condense it into a monogram.
- Always work in black on a white background, using your brand symbol as a starting point (Apple's apple, Nike's swoosh, etc.).
- Draw inspiration from the shapes present in this sign to develop a formal grammar. The aim is not to develop a type design directly inspired by these shapes, but to keep a similar state of mind.
- Select typefaces that match, whether in capitals, in lowercase, in a mix of both, or even by imagining retouching to obtain an omnicase (capitals and lowercase being at the same x-height).
- Handwritten? Sometimes, the best typographic solution is a handwritten reference to the signature. In this case, work on thickness and rhythm, without falling into illegibility or clichéd calligraphy.
- The use of a second typeface for a logo must be limited to a few glyphs or a word that remains secondary, otherwise a dominant typeface will no longer be identified.
- Retouching certain glyphs can reinforce a rhythm, accentuate the meaning of a name, or include a symbol in place of a letter. In short, once you've selected your typeface, the creative game begins, highlighting your customer's values.
- Colors come next. Limit them to 2 or 3 colors maximum. Think about deployment on printed documents, and therefore about the fidelity of their rendering. Metallic inks or special finishes deserve alternatives to render correctly on screen or on a sign, for example.
- Logo animation isn't just for film studios or TV channels anymore. Think also about how to make the logo appear on a website or corporate video. Simple fading is no longer enough. If used frequently, this animation can also be the element that gives the logo its true meaning.
- The creation of a custom font is necessary if glyph retouching requires harmonization on important product or subsidiary names. In this case, working in partnership with BlazeType will ensure the smooth running of a tailor-made design that respects the final customer's needs. Tinkering with a few glyphs is within the reach of any graphic designer; producing a harmonious set of glyphs remains a craft in its own right. To find out more, read by here, there, or here (ITW summer2023 à ajouter).
Then, brand guidelines
Evolution: Your brands will evolve over time. So even a start-up deserves a graphic charter that can grow with it. Choose typefaces with extended styles: roman, italic, bold, bold italic. These typefaces should also include an extended glyphset: numbers, punctuation, diacritical characters, even other writing systems (greek, cyrillic, arabic, chinese, etc.) if your brand communicates to a wider audience.
Logo? : The typography of your logo, whether custom or commercial, should not be used for body copy or titling text. In fact, this typography consists more of a text image. As such, its strength lies in its style and, above all, in its restricted, well-defined use.
Titling: the titling typography will be the entrance to your print or web publications. It's vital that this typography reflects your client's values and dynamics, while remaining legible for the final target. Variable types will enable you to adapt to any context: our articles on Fonts for Books, Posters, Screens, Signage, are proof of this.
Body text: body copy typefaces requires careful selection. Legibility criteria are an important consideration: high x-height, open counterforms, sufficient weight, variety of shapes for each glyph are points to be carefully observed. This is where the variety of styles for your typefaces is crucial, as is the range of font systems supported by your font.
Last but not least, a custom font is an investment of time, energy and money, with countless returns:
1/ a unique typographic identity developed as a communication tool tailored to your needs
2/ development can take place in several stages, while respecting the initial identity: extending a glyphset to non-Latin writing systems, including new styles or a set of pictograms, means extending its identity in line with its economic development.
3/ This investment can be recouped more quickly by planning for :
- future commercialization via its foundry: this type of transfer reduces development costs while once again communicating the originality of the project;
- some brands, such as IBM, offer their fonts free of charge to the public. So, when a user uses the typeface on his computer, his drop-down menu reminds him of the brand's presence. A fine but recurrent form of advertising.