What’s in a font?

28 Oct 2014

Choosing a font can be one of the most important, difficult and subtle aspects of creating or modifying a brand. The font – or typeface – can say a lot about your organisation. Consider the jokey Comic Sans or the stern-faced and traditional Times New Roman: which would be the most appropriate for use in a cartoon or a bank letter? It may be an extreme example, but immediately you can see how a font can convey a certain mood. With over 200,000 to choose from, the range of possibilities and subtle mood changes is vast. So what should you look at when choosing a font for your own organisation?

Match Your Font to Your Values

You might not choose Comic Sans, but if you run a fun and frivolous business such as a joke shop or novelty greeting card website, you might want to choose something that reflects this mood. On the other hand, if you run a bank or government department, something with a little more gravitas may be suitable. You should also think about fonts in terms of families and combinations. You should have one for your logo, but you may choose a different, complimentary font for your written communications. Other factors come into play here. Readability is an important one, as is the availability of suitable matching fonts which also manage to convey your core values. An early choice may be between serif and sans serif fonts. Many people consider serif fonts to be more readable and traditional, whereas sans serif fonts can look more modern.

Mistakes to Avoid

The most obvious pitfall is to choose a font that does not reflect the mood of your business. You should also, however, ensure that the font family contains a type that will look good in the sizes that you most often use, or that there are matching fonts to achieve this. Don’t forget that the most fundamental quality of any font is that it should be readable, so check out your chosen font for clarity and legibility in all sizes that you will be using. Remember, too, the media in which your messaging will be displayed: some fonts work better on computer screens, and others are more suited to print media.

Learning from the Big Boys

One thing we can see from a number of large corporations is that they tend to grow and evolve. The font that suited a young start-up company may not be so suitable for a FTSE 100 or Fortune 500 corporation. This is one reason why such companies change their font and logo. Similarly, a big corporation or government department may think that their image is too stern for the new business landscape they find themselves in. In this case, they may seek to soften their image with a more approachable font.

Whatever the situation, it is likely that your brand identity will be with you for some time, so it makes sense to get it right. Working with professionals in this area can be rewarding, creating a more focused brand and avoiding the common problems that can trip you up later.