A crash course to selecting the perfect typeface for your brand
For the uninitiated in the world of typography, selecting a font is a dizzying process. There’s a never-ending list of fonts to choose from – and they range from the old fashion to the comic book to our Friday-night favourite - the hawaiian themed!
The good news is that choosing the right typeface for your brand can be mostly about applying certain creative principles. And the rest? A little bit of gut instinct.
Now, we’re not life coaches, so we’re not going to show you how to trust your gut. Instead, we’ll share some of the principles and characteristics of typefaces that will assist you in your quest.
Lesson number 1: Is it a font or a typeface?
This one is easy - but important to get out of the way, particularly if you want to sound knowledgeable to your peers!
Font is what you use.
Typeface is what you see.
So, we’ll refer to typefaces - and thank Norbert Florendo for his straight-forward clarification.
Lesson number 2: Dress for success.
Its Friday night. You’ve got a hot date. Do you put on your comfy slippers and trackies? Or do you shine your shoes, press your shirt and turn up looking the shizzle? When it comes to selecting the right typeface, always put your best foot (or font!) forward. in the world of brand, that means looking for something that matches your brand’s personality (and always turns up with its hair combed).
Lesson number 3: How and what to choose?
So, just like imagery, typefaces give off different feelings. To make your choice a bit easier, they are generally categorised into different areas.
The top level categorisation is serif vs sans serif.
Serif fonts have those little feet that you see on the edges of the letter, they increase the legibility of print materials (think newspapers), because they work well in very small sizes. Sans (meaning without) fonts are (you guessed it), typefaces without those little feet. They give off a modern vibe and are generally preferred for their online legibility.
Serif and Sans Serif can actually be mixed together in a brand to create a clear hierarchy, so dont think if you choose one you can’t choose the other.
Then, there is a plethora of options within the sans and the serif families which you choose to match your brand’s personality. Here are some of the most common sub-categories of sans and serif fonts and what they can symbolise for your brand.
Geometric: Creative, Artistic, Retro, Art Deco, Modern with a twist, Aspirational - these letters are closest to the geometric shapes from which they were created and while great in headers, it is hard to see them working in body copy.
Humanist: Simple, professional, familiar, traditional, comfortable, progressive - including well known typefaces such as Verdana and Optima. Humanist typefaces are more calligraphic than other sans-serif typefaces, meaning they have a greater variation in line widths. This means they are very both legible on screen and off - which accounts for their popularity.
Old Style: Traditional, bookish, considered, thoughtful, loyal - dating back to the mid 1400s, you will recognise these types of fonts from your old school books. They can be a great choice when trying to convey a feeling of tradition and history.
Transitional: Elegant, smooth, trustworth, conventional - the most famous of these is Times New Roman. And as the namesuggests these fonts came in around the 1700s and bridged the gap between old style and modern.
Modern: Quirky, sexy, magaziney, professional but not corporate, feminine - most famously used in the Vogue Magazine logo. Modern typefaces have a much more pronounced contrast between thin and thick lines, giving the feeling of a Traditional Serif with a twist. Even though they are called “modern’ these beauties date back to the 1700’s!
Slab Serif: Sporty, Strong, Masculine, Funky, Intriguing – think typewriter fonts, or hockey jumpers. Slab serifs have little to no contrast between thick and thin lines, and have thick, rectangular serifs. They are great for a strong, unmissable message.
So next time you are thinking about a new typeface, take a moment to think about how you want your communications to feel, and which typeface might reflect this.
Lesson number 4: Display means less is more
Every once in a while there is a need for a typeface that’s got a bit of extra personality. This is what us creative types call a Display Typeface. In moderation - please. Be it a local take out menu, cupcake shop poster or your company christmas card - a display typeface can bring a whole lot of fun. But. Only. In. Moderation.
Lesson number 5: What are the rules?
Here’s the real kicker, when it comes to choosing a typeface that symbolises your brand there’s actually no real rules. Just lots of considerations. We recommend that you test, and test again. If you really love that hawaiian theme typeface, try it in lots of places and formats before you 100% commit. And then, when push comes to shove, trust your gut.
To learn more about the different types of brand archetypes and how to harness their power, download our Hero, Explorer or Outlaw: Which archetype is your brand? ebook today.
Brand chemistry is a strategic brand agency. With more than 10 years experience building brands, we know what it takes to stand out amongst your competitors. Take a look at our client case studies to find out more.