It’s easy to underestimate the importance of type in the life of a brand. At its most basic, type is used to articulate written messages. But it also contributes to the subtler aspects associated with a brand: style, tone, voice. The choice of typeface serves as a backbone for design. It can be every bit as important as the logo, the colors, and the overall content, establishing a cohesive voice – from banner ads to billboards to fiscal reports to t-shirts.
As a practice, type design is a mix of history, art, sociology, math, and culture. When we dig a little to see where any given typeface comes from, we begin to understand what nuances it will convey to someone, without them necessarily even realizing it. Delicate and swashy script? High contrast Didone? Swiss minimalist sans? You get a sense of tone before you’ve even read a single word. It’s why Comic Sans is the go-to font for elementary school bake sale flyers and your local non-profit’s blog: as a font voice, it is approachable, inclusive, warm, even if a little clowny. In this sense, it’s obvious why a law firm might want to opt for something a little more elegant and sophisticated, but most typeface choices present more nuanced opportunities.
Here are two examples from our client work that shed a little light on the thinking.
Stowe Mountain Resort’s primary brand typeface is Neutraface, a design based on the architecture of Austro-American architect Richard Neutra. A relative celebrity in the architectural world during the mid-20th century, Neutra was recognized for his “rigorously geometric but airy structures that symbolized a West Coast variation on the mid-century modern residence.”
As a design, Neutraface aimed to express the architect’s aesthetic through type. Our use of the typeface in Stowe collateral lends the brand a classy, vintage-modern feel. Paired with Stowe’s primarily black and white photography, the result is a brand persona that taps into the nostalgia of carefree ski days, fireplace nights and the sophisticated luxury that the resort aims to embody.
Healthy In a Snap is a nutrition education resource for 3SquaresVT, the state’s food security program. As a tool to help parents add more fruits and veggies to their family’s diet, Healthy in a Snap needed to present its information-heavy content in a visually engaging way. So when it came to typeface selection, warmth and approachability were high priorities, while also maintaining a trustworthy, professional voice. Our designers chose Cubano as the headline typeface and Montserrat for the body content.
The pairing of two sans serifs* could be considered a little unconventional (generally type pairings are a serif with a sans serif to provide a bit more contrast in the overall layout), but these work nicely together in that the shape and character of the letters in both styles were inspired by a Central and South American signage aesthetic. This hand-crafted style gives SNAP a welcoming, unintimidating voice, which helps get people “in the door” to expanding their nutritional knowledge and, ultimately, improving their diets.
Designed in 2012, Cubano offers thick, squishy strokes and rounded corners for a fun, super-friendly voice. This is also accentuated by the round topped A, and the low height of the cross bars in the A, B, H, and other letters.
Want to learn a little more about type and how to better use it? Here are some good resources.
• From Hoefler&Co, Combining Fonts
• On type classifications: Typographer’s Glossary
• More on type classifications: Making Sense Of Type Classification
* Serifs are semi-structural details or small decorative flourishes on the ends of some of the strokes that make up letters and symbols. An example would be the Times New Roman font. Sans serif does not have these details or flourishes. An example would be the Arial font.