What Is Your Type?
There are so many types out there, all with creative names and styles…
Typefaces that is. You know, those free things that come installed on your computer otherwise, also known as fonts.
Choosing the typeface (font) for your specific business can be a challenging and addictive foray into the unknown, secretive world of type selection and font design. More and more businesses are venturing into managing and selecting their own type or company brand. This is not recommended and can lead to significant problems down the road. Designers “hate” cleaning up messes and they “will” charge you for it. They will charge you more than they would have if you brought them in at the start of building or refreshing your brand.
If your organization wants to be heavily involved in managing your own corporate brand, below are some resources to help you understand the best way to communicate your organization’s story, mission, and message to the masses through thought typeface usage and design.
Words DO communicate effectively.
As a young designer, I was taught early on to love type, to embrace type, and to know type. We live in a visual word where photos and brilliant artwork and illustration capture our attention. Designing with type is more of a feel than a visual identification process. Add in our addiction to the electronic devices and you have a recipe for word deficit disorder.
The crux of being a great communicator in the design world begins and ends with type, or should I say the right type and simplified words and phrases. Rarely, pictures alone (combined with just your logo) can communicate an effective message that compels people to act, inspires them or gives them a sense of belonging to something. Get used to working with type and do not rely heavily on just photos. Integrate type, stylized fonts, and photos together to make the strongest statement in your message.
Choose your type carefully.
I will let you in on a little secret– nearly all the success examples of type usage in communication materials contain no more than two fonts. I have seen three, four, or even as many as five fonts used within an ad or document, making it extremely difficult to know where to look. This is an example of poor type management and poor recognition of clear communication. Good typefaces are designed for a good purpose– to be used alone or as part of a minimal set of fonts that all complement each other.
Another key to remember is there should be a major difference between the fonts you use for headlines and the fonts you elect for body copy, but they need to work together visually and aesthetically.
What’s in a name?
For example: If you’re communicating to children you do not always need to use a “decorative” style font. Children tend to be much more sophisticated than we give them credit, they do not always need to be communicated within a font style that may match their own handwriting. This is a very misunderstood concept in type design. The font does not have to match the industry– there are many exceptions. Another example is a font called “blackboard” that constantly shows up in designs for a school or education. These fonts tend to be overused. When selecting the right font, do not rely on the name of the font. Experiment and be innovative.
How does it really look?
Test it out, then test it out again. Hold a small focus group to determine things like legibility, clearness from various distances, and message feel. Not every font translates well to print or the web. In what media are you using your text? If it’s print, then print it out on a low quality printer and a high quality printer to see the results. If it’s for the web, look at your font selections on a few different electronic devices– tablet, monitor, phone, etc. Also try several different web browsers. The moral of the story is your type could look very different on the web versus paper.
You’re the conductor. Working with type is a symphony. It’s fun, challenging, and rewarding, but it does take some time to invest into working with typefaces. Seek out examples of great typography. It is important to observe how other organizations are communicating their messages to get a better feel of what to do and what NOT to do. .