Any talented designer can tell you: Good, consistent typography is essential to building a strong brand. Deciding which typefaces will be used in a project is an important and long-considered choice. Typography is used to subliminally communicate ideas with the reader — the wrong type will send the wrong message. In this post, I’ll be showcasing some examples of strong, communicative typography and giving tips on how to bring good type to your website and branding.
Type & message
Subtle differences between typefaces create entirely different type personalities. Type and layout can be used to convey a message to the reader, defining a brand’s image. Common intentions are reliable, classy, professional, modern, quirky, or funky.
When used well, type can fill the role of an image, providing both impact and meaning. Distressed type and clashing colors portray the uncomfortable notion of war in this brochure for Emerson College as well as any photograph could, while reducing printing costs.
The Metro free commuter newspaper has good typography. They abandoned the classic news type conventions in lieu of a modern sans-serif face designed by Lucas de Groot. The Metro has a strong sense of hierarchy with an easily scannable mix of headlines, sub-headlines, pull quotes and running copy. The overall look is very cohesive, fresh, and actively engaging — well targeted for its young audience. The Metro has 20 million daily readers, making it among the most popular newspapers.
Take a look at these two logos, one for high-end dry cleaning chain Holly Cleaners, and one for a business based on cell phone texting.
Looking at the logos, what impressions do you get about the two companies? Which one is cheaper? Trendier? More classy? Which business do you think is older? What age group are they targeting?
Both brands have very well-developed graphic identities which excellently communicate their images through typography. This is great type design, and these are the questions designers ask themselves when evaluating a company’s image.
Type on the web
Web typography is rapidly changing. For now, working with web type is difficult and limited to the use of very few typefaces. Interactivity and ease of use are vital to good web type. Here are some basic but important tips for functional web typography:
- Use contrast. Make sure type stands out strongly against its background
- Never underline text, unless it’s a link. Use italics instead
- Don’t use more than two fonts on a page
- At small sizes, use a sans-serif font
- Leave plenty of space around blocks of text to minimize distractions
- Above all, keep your sizes, colors, and fonts consistent across the whole site
New technologies, like sIFR and CSS 3’s new @font-face property are growing in popularity and support. Soon, designers will be able to be as creative with web typography as they are with print. Until then, special care and expertise is needed to make eye-catching web type. Images with special fonts are used to simulate headlines, and stylesheets are carefully edited to control type. Different users will see the same web page differently, so any typographic design for the web must be flexible and extendable.
When a website is well designed with careful attention to the typography, it looks professional and stands out from the crowd. See this interesting resource: The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web.