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This Chapter:

Type

By Mark Brinn
Get to grips with the crucial role of typography in branding. From understanding the basics and nuances of various font types to mastering the art of selecting and pairing fonts to resonate with your brand's identity and message. This guide also points you to some valuable resources for finding the perfect fonts for your brand.

Introduction: The Role of Typography in Branding

Typography is a powerful, but often unnoticed, part of design. When it’s done right, you don’t even notice it’s there. Sure, words give you the message, but the way those words look can add to that message in subtle ways.

People often use the word “fonts” when they talk about typography, but it’s more than just that. In a sentence: typography is the style and appearance of printed (or digital) letterforms. It’s all about making the words easy to read, and nice to look at.

Take a look at the text on this page – the text you’re reading right now. (Most likely) It’s set in a font called Work Sans. It’s a simple, clean, and modern typeface that’s easy on the eyes, which makes long pieces of text like this one more comfortable to read. It’s a widely available font by Google Fonts, which means it’s available on most devices; but depending on what browser and hardware combination you have, there’s a chance you might be viewing Arial (PC), Helvetica (Mac), SF Pro (IOS), or Roboto (Android).

And for the headlines? That’s a different font called Oswald. It’s a bit more condensed (meaning it’s taller and narrower) and it really grabs your attention. It’s perfect for making headlines pop while still keeping everything readable. Being condensed means I can fit more characters on one line, which is great for headlines.

Typography helps give your brand a certain vibe. It can make your brand feel serious or fun, modern or classic, or anything else you want. It’s like giving your brand’s voice a matching outfit.

The Basics of Typography

There are several elements of typography, including:

  • Typeface: This is the design of the letterforms. For example, Helvetica and Times New Roman are typefaces.
  • Font: This is a specific style and size of a typeface. For example, Helvetica Bold in 12 point is a font. (Even thought not technically correct, you’ll often hear “typeface” and “font” used interchangeably).
  • Size: This is the height of the characters. It’s measured in points.
  • Weight: This refers to the thickness of the characters. Common weights include light, regular, and bold. In recent years variable weight typefaces have come onto the scene.
  • Style: This includes variations like italic and underline.
  • Spacing: This involves the space between characters (kerning), between words (word spacing), and between lines (leading).

Types of Type

There are a four basic categories of typefaces:

Serif

Serif fonts are the traditionalists of the font world. They’ve got these little feet, or “serifs,” at the ends of their strokes. Think Times New Roman. They’re seen as respectable, reliable, and a bit formal. They can bring a sense of authority and trust to your brand.

Sans-Serif

Next up, we’ve got the sans-serif fonts. “Sans” means without. So, sans-serif fonts are the ones without the little feet. Think Arial or Helvetica. They’re sleek, modern, and clean. They’re great if you want your brand to feel fresh, youthful, and straightforward.

Script

Script fonts are the elegant, creative types. They mimic handwriting and can range from casual to formal. They’re great for making your brand feel personal and expressive, but be careful. They can be hard to read in large amounts.

Display

Finally, we have display fonts. These are the wild cards, the ones that don’t fit neatly into any category. They’re unique and can be very stylized. They’re great for making a big impact, but they should be used sparingly. Too much, and your text can become hard to read.

Choosing Your Typefaces

So, how do you pick the right fonts for your brand? Here are a few things to consider:

  • Consistency: Your fonts should match your brand’s personality. If your brand is fun and youthful, a traditional serif font might not be the best fit.
  • Readability: Your fonts should be easy to read. If people struggle to read your text, they won’t stick around for long.

Remember, your fonts are a big part of your brand’s image. Choose wisely, and they can help your brand make a strong impression.

Pairing Fonts

Now, onto the fun part—pairing fonts. Here’s where you get to play director, deciding who gets to share the screen together.

  • Contrast is key. Pair a serif font with a sans serif font, or a script font with a blocky font. The difference creates visual interest and helps guide your audience’s eye.
  • Avoid pairing fonts that are too similar. It’s like having twins in a movie—it’s hard for your audience to tell them apart, and it can be confusing.
  • Limit your fonts to two or three. Any more than that and your design starts to look cluttered and chaotic.

Aligning Fonts with your Brand

Finally, remember that your fonts need to align with your brand’s personality. If your brand is bold and innovative, go for a modern, clean sans serif. If it’s traditional and reliable, a serif might be a better fit.

Choosing the right font is crucial; the wrong one can completely alter your brand’s message, as shown in these switched logo typefaces.

Remember, your fonts are a big part of your brand’s image. Choose wisely, and they can help your brand make a strong impression.

Resources for Fonts

Once you’ve nailed down the type of font that best represents your brand’s personality, the next step is to find the right one. Thankfully, the internet is a treasure trove of fonts, both free and paid. Let’s dive into some of the popular platforms where you can find your perfect font.

Google Fonts

Google Fonts offers a vast collection of over 1,000 free licensed fonts. You can easily sort by category (serif, sans-serif, display, etc.), language, and other properties. I always recommend Google Fonts for websites, as they are natively available on most devices, they will make your site run faster and more efficiently.

MyFonts

MyFonts is a hub of professional typefaces, including the latest releases and bestsellers. While it’s a paid resource, the quality and variety of fonts are worth the investment.

Adobe Fonts

Adobe Fonts is part of the Adobe Creative Cloud, offering thousands of fonts. If you have a Adobe CC subscription, they’re all included. This is where you can buy fonts from the biggest foundries, like Linotype, Monotype, FontFont, Emigre, Font Bureau, and many many more.

Creative Market

Creative Market is a platform for handcrafted resources, including fonts. It’s a paid resource, but you’ll find unique typefaces that can set your brand apart. I buy most of my display and headline fonts from Creative Market.

DaFont

DaFont is a great resource for free or very cheap fonts. It’s a platform where designers share their work. Most are free for personal use, others require a small fee for commercial use.

Direct from Designers

Some designers sell their fonts directly, often providing exclusive typefaces. I always advocate buying directly from the designer if possible. Websites like those mentioned above are great, but take a percentage. If you have the opportunity to directly support these niche artists, take it.

Remember, the font you choose can significantly impact your brand’s image and audience perception. Take your time, explore these resources, and find a font that truly resonates with your brand’s personality.

Case Study: House Industries and Tobias Frere-Jones

Let’s take a look at a few of those type designers – Andy Cruz from House Industries and Tobias Frere-Jones, from Frere-Jones Type. Each has carved a niche in the field, with House Industries known for their playful fonts, while Tobias Frere-Jones celebrated for his versatile workhorse typefaces.

House Industries

Andy Cruz’s fonts are playful, full of character, and they’re not afraid to make a statement. If you’ve got a brand with a retro feel, or perhaps a bit of mischief, you might want to take a look at House Industries fonts.

Andy Cruz from House Industries

Some of my favorites from House are:

  • Fink: A dirty, stanky hand-drawn typeface honoring Big Daddy Ed Roth.
  • Sign Painter: A throwback to traditional sign painting scripts.
Sign Painter is great for adding that “old school” look to your designs.

Tobias Frere-Jones

Tobias Frere-Jones is on the other end of the typographic spectrum. His typefaces are versatile, dependable, and can fit into just about any brand. Think of a brand that values clarity, simplicity, and professionalism. That’s where Frere-Jones’ work comes into play.

Tobias Frere-Jones at his studio in Brooklyn.

My personal favorite font Frere-Jones has created is Gotham. Gotham is a geometric sans-serif typeface that’s become a staple in modern design. I have probably used Gotham on more projects than any other font.

Gotham is a very versatile font and one of my all-time favorites.
You may recognize Gotham from the Obama campaign.

When we put House Industries and Tobias Frere-Jones side by side, we see two very different styles of typography. But that’s the beauty of it. Different fonts for different brands, for different vibes.

Conclusion

Typography isn’t just about choosing a font that looks good. It’s about finding a font that feels right, that resonates with your brand’s audience, communicates your brand’s personality, and most importantly, communicates your message clearly!

Whether it’s the elegant sophistication of a serif font, the modern minimalism of a sans-serif, or the casual friendliness of a handwritten font, each typeface has a unique voice. And when paired effectively, these voices can create a harmonious chorus that sings your brand’s story.

So, what’s the story you want to tell? Is it a tale of innovation and forward-thinking? Or perhaps a narrative of tradition and reliability? Or maybe it’s a bit of both. Remember, there’s no right or wrong answer. It’s all about what works for your brand.

Now that we’ve explored the world of words, it’s time to dive into the realm of visuals. In the next chapter, Image, we’ll explore the role of images, graphics, and videos in branding. We’ll delve into the nuances of visual communication, from color and composition to symbolism and style, and provide practical guidance on creating (or choosing) visuals that capture your brand’s essence and engage your audience.

Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words. But when combined with well-chosen typography, it can be worth a million. So, let’s get ready to give your brand a face that’s as compelling as its voice.

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