As Matthew Butterick wrote in Butterick’s Guide to Practical Typography, “Typography is the visual component of the written word.” This means that typography plays a significant role in how messaging is received by the viewers. For this reason, typography must be carefully considered, especially when it comes to selecting brand typography that will be used time and time again.
When developing brand typography there are a few things I take into consideration in order to ensure effectiveness:
1. Excellence in design and execution.
I avoid typefaces with missing characters or numerals like the plague. As tempting as free and cheap typefaces may be, they commonly were only half-designed, therefore have missing punctuation, numerals, or a lower case st. Typefaces that require lots of manual kerning are also highly problematic, and are indicators that a typeface was not properly developed and designed. When looking for an excellent typeface, I make sure it is highly readable at both large and small scales. This is especially important for body copy. Typefaces for body copy should have a fairly high x-height and have lower contrast in stroke weight to ensure legibility in long paragraphs and small sizes. Headlines, or display faces, allow for a little more liberty.
2. The perfect balance of neutrality and personality.
Striking the “perfect balance” means something different for each brand. Sometimes the brand I’m working with is meant to appeal to a younger audience and have a short shelf life, so it is appropriate to choose type families that are trendier or funkier. However, most of the time I am working with a brand that needs a typeface with longevity and flexibility. Picking a typeface with too much personality in and of itself could get old fast. But a typeface that is fairly neutral can fulfill a variety of different needs depending on how the typography is set.
3. A robust option of weights.
Superfamilies are a wonderful option for brand typography. They allow for seemingly endless possibilities with weights like compressed, condensed, hairline, extended, ultra, etc. Typically, brands these days need the flexibility to evolve with the times, and having extensive options for on-brand typography allows for that kind of evolution as needed.
4. Well-paired type families.
Bethany Heck has forever changed my philosophies on type-pairings. While I don’t often find myself using more than 2-3 typefaces for brands, I do carefully consider how the characteristics of the typefaces I’m selecting compliment each other. Pairing typefaces with similar curvature in letterforms, or that have strokes that taper are simple ways to build a suite of typography that feels both diverse and cohesive. Fonts in Use is a great resource to see how other designers have paired typefaces in the past and break down what works, and what doesn’t.