Choosing the Right Typography to Clearly Articulate Your Brand Messaging
Perception of your brand relies on many visual elements to deliver your brand’s purpose, personality, and communication consistently. Typography is the most critical of these components for delivering your brand messaging because it visualizes all your outward-facing words and, as a result, weighs heavily on whether or not your message is legible. To deepen your understanding and ensure effective brand communication, brand leaders, CMOs, Marketing Directors, and internal CDs will benefit greatly from diving into the fundamentals of typography. As your branding develops, you’ll face the rather complicated task of choosing the right typography options to represent your brand and successfully deliver your brand messaging across several mediums. With thousands of typeface and font options at your fingertips, where do you even begin? This post covers the fundamentals of typography to help you select the right typesets to communicate your brand messaging clearly and establish trust with your audience. What is Typography? Typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible, readable, and appealing when displayed. Through typeface, point sizes, line lengths, line-spacing, letter-spacing, kerning (the space between pairs of letters), and color, typography is the way we illustrate a brand’s messaging to comprehensively and attractively communicate information through any and all mediums it is delivered. Without the awareness of the reader, these three fundamental aspects of typography—legibility, readability, and aesthetics—work to achieve consumer trust through clarity and consistency. Legibility When selecting typography, legibility is the primary function and the first thing to consider, regardless of medium. Legibility refers to a person’s physical ability to perceive something with their eyes. In other words, how easily someone can distinguish one individual character from another determines legibility. For example, if the characters "b" and "h" are difficult to distinguish at small sizes, this is the result of poor legibility. Sometimes poor legibility is a matter of size or case, other times, it is more fundamentally a matter of design. For example, certain fonts, such as Brush Script, are known to have less legibility at smaller sizes. Typefaces that are more true to basic letterforms are more legible than those that have been altered and manipulated. All features, including serifs, upper and lower case, contrast, modulation of strokes, font stress, glyphs, and even style variants like italic and bold, combine to facilitate or hinder legibility. Legible typefaces can still become unreadable, however, through improper setting and placement. Readability Readability refers to how easy it is to read text as a whole, as opposed to the individual character recognition described by legibility. That is to say, readability measures how easy or difficult it is to process the strand of letters that make up a word before moving on to the next strand. While legibility is measured by speed of reading, readability looks at the movement of the eye to understand which fonts may determine the reader’s ability to maintain focus and reading endurance, as well as word shape recognition. Use of tight or loose letter-spacing or word-spacing and overall document structure impact readability. Some font styles, like sans-serifs, are considered to have low readability, and are not considered suitable for longer form texts. Aesthetics As it has the power to impact brand perception on a subconscious level, the aesthetics of typography build on legibility and readability to create harmony with what is displayed and appeal to the viewer. As far as aesthetics are concerned, all elements of typography are of significance. Following a set of principles to make aesthetic decisions, typographers make decisions to involve or limit the specific use of color, font, typeface and size, as well as document structure. Different arrangements of text are more legible, readable, and appealing in different mediums. When selecting typography for a brand and brand guideline we typically choose fonts in different use cases including: digital (website, presentations, ads, email signatures, etc), print (business cards, signage, brochures, documentation), and logo. Characterization Within each category of typography there are numerous techniques to characterize your type and properly represent your brand personality. These include modifications of serifs, proportion, font metrics, and optical sizing, as well as variations, such as bold, extra bold, regular, light, italic, condensed, and extended. Each classification of typeface has a different set of connotations, and therefore, can create a different representation of your brand. Use of serifs—the slight projections or “swoops” finishing off a stroke of a letter in certain typefaces—is a good example of how font style can accomplish this. Because serifs originated from carved inscriptions in the Roman Imperial period, and have been heavily used in print-based typography more recently, an instant association with classical origins makes them more suited for the more thoughtful and serious brand associations seen in academia and publishing. Sans serifs (without serifs), on the other hand, came to the press in the digital era, when pixel focused typefaces required less complexity and density of characters than serif fonts. The appropriations of sans serif styles has led to their representation of more calculated, clean and straightforward uses in the modern technological era. Stroke modulation is another example element for your consideration. How your characters are shaped, and the proportions of height and width of their strokes (think calligraphy) can determine whether your brand is perceived as warm and friendly, or cold and mechanical. The contrast between thick and thin speaks volumes. High contrast designs can provide a classical impression of grace and elegance, while lower contrast designs exhibit a bold sense of confidence and durability. High contrast designs, with micro-thin strokes, bracketed serifs and smooth curves, express a timeless style often used in fashion. On the other end of the spectrum, homogenized proportions lacking contrast completely, represent the simplicity and purity often used in the technology sector. Serifs and stroke modulation sit at the surface of the vast sea of typography. As you dive deeper into the process, you’ll become aware that each element of typography, although subtle, is critical to the whole. At ATOMIC D, we follow a simple but thorough process for developing a company’s brand strategy to ensure decisions like typography are successful in communicating your brand’s messaging. Before carving your decision in stone and licensing a font family, we highly suggest working with a typography professional to help you dot the i’s and cross the t’s. With the proper typography in place, you will consistently visualize your voice and your personality in a way that is legible, readable, and aesthetically appealing, to leave a lasting and trustworthy impression on your audience.