Given the fact that brands are part of our lives more than ever and that we interact with them almost every second, typography has become an extremly important factor which makes out for a high percentage of their identity – logo, slogan, website, apps, TVC message – all of them are typefaces. Do not mistake typefaces with fonts: even if the terms are often confused and the latter is used more frequently, it’s good to know the difference.
When choosing the font category you wish to use, be it for a brand identity or a layout, I believe this clear classification can come in handy.
If for the most part of the last century corporations were using licensed fonts, recently more and more companieshave started creating their own typeface. Even if Apple, Google, Airbnb and Coca-Cola were the pioneers and the USA Government is the most recent oneto jump on the bandwagon, the already trending typerface ownership is starting to catch on to smaller companies as well.
Firstly because of costs, creating a typeface has been proven more affordable than licensing existing ones, at least for big companies (IBM and Netflix said they saved millions of dollars yearly by switching from Helvetica to IBM Plex and from Gotham to Netflix Sans).
Secondly, the fact that a typeface should be easily translatable into different languages that might make use of special characters or different alphabets has to be taken into consideration. Companies usually use typefaces that support Latin laguages, but as the business footprint grows, expansion to other types of characters becomes mandatory.
Also, the fact that most typefaces were designed to look very good in print, but the digital environment was not taken into account is not to be neglected: some typefaces did not adjust well on a digital screen, where they were rendered in pixels. They needed optimization, they were modified and eventually, new typefaces were created.
There are also situations in which some companies switch from a digital typeface to a print typeface, as Airbnb did (read about it here); other companies, thanks to alarge products and services range that live both in online as well as in offline environment, use a single typeface both for brand and products (Samsung and Apple). Apple went the extra mile with San Fancisco typeface and reinvented the way a typeface is rendered.
But the most common reason is differentiation
– in a world that globalization makes everything the same, we crave uniqueness,
we want to stand out through any means we find suitable for our business. Even
so, the keywords that describe custom typefaces are all the same: friendly,
modern, clean, simple, human. That leads us to a slightly different typeface
from all the others, but in the end, isn’t that what we are trying to avoid by
creating a custom typeface?
Before deciding if we really need a custom typeface, we should analyze the reasons behind considering this option. And last, but not least, we should asks ourselves if we can create something that will work better or, at least as good as something that already exists, and that is also unique.
The article was written by Ioana Dumitrascuta, member of IAA Young Professionals Romania.