Brand typography: why it’s important and how to get it right in 5 steps

It’s not only what you say, but how you say it as well. And rand typography is the how-to your what.

Most brands, however, downplay its importance. They’ll do a quick scan of available fonts, pick one that they like and kiiiinda feel goes with their brand, and that’s it. Done, created, released.

Your brand typography, however, is communicating things about your brand that you as a creator might not easily pick up on. It is helping to establish how yous brand feels and what its vibe is. And vibes, as we know, can turn people on or off in an instant without needing any logical explanation.

So, whether you are building a brand from scratch, redesigning it, or releasing a new reinvented product, its time to go deep into the dynamics of brand typography and figure out which works best for you.

A few things to consider

According to Steve Matteson, Type Director at Monotype, “all typefaces have a voice, and using that voice consistently is key to bringing more engagement to your brand.”

Think of the mediums you use for communication. Your brand typeface will feature in all of those. Whether it is the products, the manuals, the services page, the social media posts, etc., your brand typeface will be key in establishing a relationship with your audience and non-verbally expressing your brand personality to them.

For large corporations, this font is going to be reproduced almost everywhere. Hence, it is important to find one that fosters brand recognition but is also long-lasting and legible.

Choosing a brand font doesn’t mean you select 1 and are done with it. It means piecing together a rich palette of typefaces that communicate your brand essence whether used alone or together. This means you will be creating a font family that includes a wide range of weights and styles and allow your in-house designers to play around and get creative. 

Another important thing to factor in is the playing field of your brand. Is it global or for English speaking natives only? If you have the former case, then it is a good practice to craft your font family accordingly.

Typeface popularity is another factor to consider. Geometric sans are pretty in these days due to its combination of modernity and elegance. A few geometric sans fonts include: Spartan, Futura, ITC Avant-Garde, and Century Gothic among others. Have a look:

brand typography

These are immensely popular these days due to their versatility. They work well with a variety of images, are clean, not overwhelming, and go well with a lot of other typefaces.

The foundational stone: Question Thyself

The fundamental question that any brand should consider while deciding on the fonts for their brand is: who are we?

Followup this question with others like:

  • What emotions do you want to evoke?
  • What values do you want to reflect?
  • What is your USP?
  • How do customers perceive you presently?
  • What impression do you want to make?
  • What personality do you want to portray? (Same as the above, but sometimes a change in wording can elicit clearer answers).

After answering these questions, distill the answers into 7 words. Then pare them down to 5, and finally to 3. This will make your essence clearer to you which you can then communicate to your designer, a creative agency, or a freelancer- whoever you’ve hired to do the job.

Afterward, you can also look for typographic inspiration to get your creative juices flowing and envision your ideal brand typography. Look no further than Typewolf, Typogui, Brand New, Typographics.org.

The next steps

The next steps involve keeping an eye out for the fonts that communicate your essence. Here’s how to begin the process:

Decide between serif and sans serif

The most basic division between fonts is into serif and sans serif. Here’s a glimpse of the most popular sans serif fonts:

brand typography

Source

And serif fonts:

brand typography

Source

The differentiating factor is the stroke at the end of the alphabet. It is present in serif, but not in sans serif (sans meaning without). 

The advantage of sans serif was felt most strongly in print typography. They help to combine the alphabets and make for a coherent reading experience. The resulting horizontal rows of text are easier to read and make the process of switching from one line to the next, efficient. They also give off an air of classiness and are felt to be literary and high-end.

Sans serif, on the other hand, wasn’t found to be as good for printed material as serif. Reading felt harder and so they were not used in newspapers, magazines or books. However, with the coming of the digital age, sans serif fonts became popular. They are easier to read and follow on a screen as compared to serif fonts. They were also easier to reproduce digitally since they work well with low resolution. Wherever they are used, they give off a feeling of strength, clarity, and modernism.

Along those lines, your font palette could consist of sans serif fonts for your digital presence and serif ones for print media. 

Decide between open source, primary, and custom

You can either go for open source typefaces that are free, or primary ones that you can license others for a fee, or take the creative route and design your own.

Open source typefaces are free. But, on the flip side, they are also generic and not much variety is available. Lots of people might end up using them, so there’s nothing to make your brand stand out. You can go through Font Squirrel, Font Library, Font Ninja, and Google Fonts to find these free typefaces.

With primary typefaces, you have much more variety. But, the licensing fees can add up. Especially if you have to pay for the bold/ italics/ underlined version separately or if you have collaborators/ freelancers who need licenses of their own. Primary typefaces can be found on FontShop, Fonts.com, and Typekit.

Finally, if you are feeling particularly creative and have both time and money, you could design your own fonts. You would have complete autonomy and space to do what you wish, but still, the final design would need to be approved by your team and seniors (if any). If you are up for the challenge, you can look at Fontstruct, Glyphs Robofont, and BitFontMaker.

Question the typeface

With all the tools and websites at your disposal now, do not be swept off into the Typography LaLaLand. Decide on 10 to begin with and further narrow it down to 5 (trust us, you’ll be happy later). Ask these questions to help in the elimination process:

Is this legible?

The most important question perhaps. If it is not legible, then no matter how beautiful or noble or striking it is, it is just going to turn people off. No one wants to read gibberish when they signed up to read English. Make sure to check both capital and lowercase and how the alphabets connect with each other.

Is it unique?

As unique as it can be. You want to stand out from your competitors, after all.

Is it enduring?

Are the selected typefaces available in multiple weights and styles? Does it have all the required characters?

Is it flexible?

Print or digital, website or product- will your typeface work everywhere?

Match up

Now, you can start seeing the results of all the hard work you’ve done because it’s time to mix and match the selected fonts.

Use tools like Typetester, Font Pair, Flipping Typical, Typeplate, and TypeWonder to play and experiment.

Also, while you are experimenting, be sure to create and save mockups of all you are testing. These will help you to decide later what’s working and what’s not. Select these pairings keeping in mind that your typefaces are going to be used on your website, product, packaging, etc.

You can also check out these typeface pairings by Canva to get some ideas rolling.

Determine which font goes where

This step is very important to ensure that your typographic system is coherent and consistent across all channels. Choose for each of the following:

Primary type: default typeface that reflects the overall brand

Secondary type: complements and supports the primary type. If the primary is serif, you can go for sans serif here.

Tertiary type: can be used for accents

Also, determine which typefaces will be used for headings, subheadings, body text, product packaging, and callouts.

Combining all this knowledge, you can create an entire typographic/ visual brand guide (just like you did for the brand voice).

There you have it. A complete guide to building your very own brand typography that will only add to the strength of your brand and its personality. Congratulations, finally what you say and how you say it are in alignment.