Branding With Type
A fairly regular client recently came to me with a new project that involves some logo design and branding work. I started playing with possible type choices and got to thinking about how a font can influence a brand.
A fairly regular client recently came to me with a new project. He is a developer who does some pretty serious application stuff (far beyond my mortal intellect), and he often brings me into projects for the “dressing.” That is, my job is to make his stuff look good with logos, icons, splash screens and whatever else the app requires.
This new project mainly involves some fresh brand development and a website. Obviously, the brand stuff comes first, which means a logo, some type direction and some color choices. Now I don’t pretend to be Mega Brand Consultant Guru—what I know is what I know, and I learn what I can along the way. I’ve built brands from scratch and reinvented old ones, but there are many people out there considerably better than me. (And considerably more expensive.)
When I first start thinking about any company’s potential identity, I consider two key ingredients—type and color. Even without a logo, a solid brand could be built on those two things. (For example, Starbucks—never before has Clarendon and forest green been so abused on a national level.)
Tonight I began experimenting with type. The project is for a group of doctors, who we will call Hillshire Dermatologists for lack of a more clever pseudonym. I opened up Photoshop, turned on a shitload of fonts in Type Manager, and began scrolling for what I thought were appropriate typefaces for a medical collective. From my uselessly large collection of 1,200 fonts, I found maybe 40 I thought were appropriate. From that initial effort, I narrowed it down to this elite group of nine. Some are common, some not so much.
When I began reviewing the above list, I started thinking about how such a small thing like a font could drastically alter the perception of a company. Example: compare Apple’s identity a few years ago when they were using condensed Garamond with their current sans-serif look. Completely different.
Essentially, we are standing at a crossroads with nine diverging paths in front of us. Do we harness the classic look of an old school serif like Berthold Baskerville or Caslon? Do we shape a cleaner, streamlined look with a sans like the understated Bell Gothic, the elegantly trim Neutra Text or the bold and unapologetic Trade Gothic? Or do we venture into contemporary conservatism with the chunky Calvert or a thicker, more pronounced serif like Cushing?
Each of these faces could define the brand. Because of the massive influence type plays in an identity, it’s always the first place I start, even before flipping through Pantone books. And no, I haven’t made a decision yet, but I definitely have my favorites. I pretty much stopped right in the middle of the project to record this spontaneous stream of thought, so feedback is more than welcome on this one.