Building Brand Character(s)

Date: 12 January, 2018

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Big brands aren’t settling for Helvetica anymore. There’s an ever-growing increase in brands creating custom typefaces.

In a world where it often feels like everything has been said, seen or done before, brands are striving for individuality and personality. One place to do this is the often overlooked typeface.

In an increasingly overcrowded and growing brand landscape, where your mates, never mind a brand have to fight it out for a few seconds of our attention, it perhaps isn’t surprising to see more and more brands investing in bespoke typefaces. Brands are analysing every element of their artillery to ensure they represent their brand message. For many years, typography has been an underutilised and in the worst cases, neglected brand asset.

Although typography can often be an overlooked component of branding and advertising – as well as distinction and stand out, fonts carry with them a lot of meaning.

Your font embodies your tone of voice, so one would argue using generic options, takes away from your Individual personality. Within your category, your ‘image’ should be distinct from your competitors. Fonts are emotive and have the ability to evoke certain feelings or assumptions in the reader.

Although there has been a trend towards ‘images having more impact than words’, at the end of the day, most messages created by brands are still written, not visual. Regardless the piece of comms, it’ll be rare for it not to contain copy.

The communications of the moment is a dialogue based relationship between brands and consumers, brands must use every element of their identity as well as their ‘message’ to build brand love.

Although brands have been using bespoke fonts for years. The huge success of Channel 4’s ‘Horseferry & Chadwick’ in 2015 (designed by Brody Associates) showed brands just how effective and powerful a well-designed brand font could be as an ownable asset. Recent rebrands for Sky Sports, Formula One, Eurosport, and IBM to name a few have made the move in this direction. In all these cases (although some are more successful than others in terms of design) there is no denying the custom typeface has become a massive part of the identity and will help do a lot of heavy lifting in terms of brand recognition.

Bespoke typefaces not only make sense from a brand impact point of view but also financially.

Where large companies are spending thousands sometimes even millions on font licenses every year. IBM’s commissioning of its own brand typeface will reportedly save the company $1million a year in licensing fees that they would have had to pay to Monotype for the usage of Neue Helvetica.

It is fair to say that a lot of this depends on the scale of the client and the project, often commissioning custom fonts for smaller brands where budgets can be tight, might not make as much financial sense. However, these brands don’t have to settle for the expected, well-known fonts. They can still be distinctive with just a little more digging. What’s great to see is more and more designers are turning to the smaller, lesser-known foundries to choose their fonts – this acts as a good alternative where brands can choose lesser known fonts as their own, allowing them to portray their personality within a budget. Bespoke typefaces are the ideal, but where they are not possible it is worth exploring some of the many great foundries and adding some more new fonts to the once repetitive landscape.

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