An MIT study found that unappealing fonts tend to reflect badly on the readers' emotional response to content.
Fonts influence your readers’ subconscious perception of your brand.
This is why selecting brand typography that conveys your business’ personality and values is one of the key elements of visual branding.
In this article, we will look at the five steps you can take to find a brand font for your business.
We will also discuss:
- How brand typography can help you form your brand personality and identity
- What pro tips you can apply to your search for a brand font
- 5 examples of typography use that helped big brands
What Is Brand Typography?
Brand typography is a visual element of brand style guide, or brand book, that arranges your business's written copy in a legible way and aligns your messaging with your brand personality.
Brand typography is not quite the same as brand font or typeface, although they are all closely related.
- Typography is the collection of traits that support the design, brand voice and personality of a business on all digital and traditional channels
- A typeface is the name of a family of related fonts
- Fonts are the elements that constitute one typeface, such as weights, widths, and styles.
Why Brand Typography Matters And How Font Can Boost Your Brand Identity
Even though you may not notice it, typography comprises a large part of a brand identity.
The aspects of a brand such as logo, packaging, emails, documents, website and social media imagery include a good amount of typography.
So, being such an important part of a brand - how DOES typography boost the brand?
- Typography gives the brand a meaning: Typefaces and fonts convey the values and the tone of your brand just like your colors do. Typography has a diverse set of connotations and presents what your brand stands for: clean, modern and simple sans-serif fonts reverberate with the audience in a different way than old-fashioned serifs. Monospaced fonts have a technological feel while blackletter while script fonts are more personal. That’s why it is important to choose typography wisely AND understand why you’re using it.
- Typography defines the way people experience your brand: Your customers are seeing your brand’s messages on TV, online ads and retail stores and reading about you online and in press. They experience your brand through words and branding is, very much, a sum of experiences your customers have with your business. Positive experiences form positive brand connotations. Typographical mistakes such as small fonts on a website - one of the main web users’ complaints - lead to bad brand experiences.
- It changes users’ perception and builds brand recognition: Typography and fonts affect the way your audience sees and remembers your brand because they are a large part of your visual identity. A memorable typeface is instantly recognizable - think of widely admired brands like Coca Cola or Disney that have even created and registered their own typeface as a way of making it a part of their identity. Think about your own business and audit typography across all touchpoints by asking:
- How does my brand’s typography make me feel?
- How good of an experience is it creating?
- Is it recognizable and memorable?
- What tone does it set?
How To Choose The Right Fonts For Your Brand In 5 Steps
Before looking into the ways you can choose or forge the right typeface, font and typography of your brand, let us look at the qualities of a good brand font.
A good brand font should be:
- Multi-platform oriented
- Able to communicate brand personality
These are the essential traits of typography that your brand will be using as an extension of its personality across multiple channels.
Before you adopt a typography, though, you should understand these stages in the process of choosing a font.
1. Define Your Brand’s Personality
Brand personality is a cornerstone of a brand identity that also boosts brand awareness.
It is a collection of traits that your customers relate and associate you with and remember you for.
Brand fonts and typography, much like other brand components, must be aligned with your brand’s personality. You may have already defined your brand’s personality in concrete terms, but if not - invest time into thinking how you would like your brand to be perceived.
Brand owners, managers, decision-makers and very much everyone comprising your team should think in terms of main types of brand personalities, or brand dimensions, and their common traits:
- Sincerity: thoughtful, kind, professing family values, down-to-earth
- Competence: successful, influential, accomplished, leadership-savvy
- Excitement: daring, carefree, youthful, up-to-date
- Sophistication: prestigious, elegant, upscale, charming
- Ruggedness: outdoorsy, tough, athletic
Once you have established which traits form your brand’s personality, you are prepared to choose the font and typography for your brand that will match it.
2. Understand The Personality Of Every Typeface
Only, of course - fonts and typographies have their own personalities and characters, as was discussed earlier. So you need to know these as well.
Font psychology is understanding that every typeface has its own unique traits. They come in categories which are classifications for better identifying and choosing fonts.
The basic font categories and their traits are:
- Serif: Traditional, classical, reliable. For brands that convey the sense of respectability and age-long class.
Some of the Serif fonts are:
- Times New Roman
Sans-serif: Minimal, clean, contemporary. For brands that evoke a sense of cleanliness and modern directness.
Some of the Sans-serif fonts are:
- Droid Sans
- Script: Unique, elegant, distinctive. For brands that emphasize their special purpose.
Some of the Script fonts are:
- Alex Brush
- Handwritten: Arty, informal, fun. For brands that present themselves as playful and approachable.
Some of the Handwritten fonts are:
- Porcelain Sans Serif
- Decorative: Dramatic, stylized, diverse. For brands that aim to be instantly memorable.
Some of the Decorative fonts include:
- Slab serif: Confident, bold, off-beat. For brands with a proven history of quality.
Some of the Slab serif fonts are:
- PT Sans Pro
- Avant Garde
- Dejavu Pro
3. Choose A Typeface That Is A Match For Your Brand Personality
Now that you have established your brand’s personality and have a better understanding of each font category’s traits, it’s time to find a typeface that is the right fit for you.
Each font category, of course, comes with its own variations so when you’re pairing the two fonts you need to be aware of the end-result this will produce.
Certain typeface pairings and single usage work better for certain brand personalities than others. For instance:
- Minimal sans-serif font makes for a professional and corporate look
- Bold serif headers + nondescript sans-serif subheader conveys a trustworthy feel.
- Thick and rounded sans-serif fonts create a youthful and friendly feel
- Traditional serif font conveys a conservative corporate feel
- Thin sans-serif fonts can be used to make an elegant, high-end feel
4. Make Sure Your Fonts Meet These Requirements
No matter what typography you decide on for your brand, it should have some characteristics that are common for all fonts.
Your brand’s typography should be:
- Flexible: Make sure your typography works well across all mediums such as online, print and mobile devices. Your typography will be a part of your brand identity for years so you want it to be as flexible and able to apply smoothly to all of these platforms such as print, product packaging, web, and mobile.
- Contrasting: Multiple typefaces you use for your brand should have certain contrasts between them. Fonts should create harmony in differences. Choosing two typefaces that have one thing in common but are different in other areas is the rule of thumb a business should follow when coming up with an effective brand typeface. Establishing a hierarchy when combining two different fonts is important - we will discuss this aspect later in the article.
- Legible: Your brand fonts must be perfectly legible and readable. Any text you create using your styled fonts should be easy to understand, in large or small letters, as well as lowercase and uppercase. Header text can be somewhat less legible than the main text, but it should be clear and understandable at one sight of a reader.
5. Think About Budget And Licensing
The question of sourcing and licensing your brand font is the only thing that remains following the above four steps.
Some libraries offer free and open-source fonts such as Font Library, Font Squirrel and Google Fonts. While they are convenient, these libraries are often limited in terms of the volume of fonts they offer.
For a more professional approach to brand typography, licensing fonts can be helpful but you need to be aware of the individual fees and licensing fees.
Also, if you wish to use different typefaces for different platforms - print materials, mobile apps, mobile websites and such - you would need to obtain separate licenses for each.
Best Fonts For Branding: Additional Typeface Brand Guidelines
Once these key steps in identifying the right font for your brand are over and done with, some more technical guidelines remain that you should also bear in mind.
Here are additional ways you can find the right typeface and then apply it to make the most of it.
1. Choose Between Open Source, Paid Or Custom Fonts
Paid, open source or custom typography? It all depends on the balance of the advantages and disadvantages and our business needs.
- Open source typography: Easy to find and play around with, open source fonts are often the choice of startups and small businesses. Typography such as Google Fonts is web-friendly and consistent across all platforms and devices. Their downside is that they are often generic and lacking in character and they don’t add much to a brand personality.
Pro: Free and easy to get.
Con: Often bland and do not contribute to better brand recognition.
- Paid typography: When you pay for certain fonts, you are ensured a greater degree of flexibility, freedom and uniqueness of personality. Options are more numerous and it’s easier to get a font that really suits your brand.
Pro: A much bigger variety of fonts that suit your brand well.
Con: Licensing for these can be costly.
- Custom typography: The surest way to truly make your mark and get a font that is a 100% reflection of your brand identity is to create a font of your own. Custom typography provides a unique visual language, but it can get quite expensive. Creating primary, secondary and tertiary font type is also very time-consuming which can be a problem if you are pressed for time. However, all the biggest brands have their own typeface - it really is the signal of a successful business.
Pro: Tailored to your unique needs, sets you apart from everyone else.
Con: Time-consuming and expensive.
2. How To Narrow Down Your Font Choices
You may get overwhelmed by what’s out there in terms of typography choices, and by the time you’re done selecting those you’d like to use, you may end up with dozens of potential fonts.
Narrowing them down to one or two typefaces becomes a challenge. To overcome it, here’s what you should ask yourself.
- Which font is the most distinctive? The first characteristic of a font that defines a brand personality is that it should make you stand out in the crowd.
- Which one is the most flexible? The font you choose must work great across all channels, devices and platforms and must be responsive.
- Which font is the most complementary with your other brand elements? Which of the fonts would look best paired with your logo and imagery? Look for common traits of these elements and a font, such as round or sharp edges.
- Which font do you think can scale up with your brand? A comprehensive font that can grow with your brand should be your best bet. Think of the characters the typeface has and does it have all you need? Also, is it available in multiple sizes and weights?
3. Establish Your Font Hierarchy
Once you have decided on your typography and fonts, it’s time to establish a system that aligns them in a logical way in your brand book that will be easy for other users to replicate it.
This font hierarchy should be a part of your comprehensive brand style guide that includes clear and relevant examples of use cases.
Your font treatment must be very consistent and not overly complex. The two or three typefaces you choose should comprise:
- A primary font: The default typeface which communicates your brand’s identity, values and personality.
- A secondary font: A typeface that complements the primary font and supports the typographic design system.
- A tertiary font: Font your brand uses for accents.
Each of these fonts have a specific purpose to serve. They also play a specific role in the hierarchy of your design system. Each typeface should fulfill roles like:
- Product packaging
5 Great Examples Of Brand Font Use
Nothing puts the use of fonts in branding into perspective like looking at specific examples of brands that owe part of their success to excellent typography. Let’s take a look into this notable five.
1. Alfa Romeo
The Italian automotive brand is famous for its class, style and elegance. The font of this company’s choice - Apex New - reflects this personality and tone of voice in their messaging while being fit for the trends of the XXI century market.
The historic magazine, that is almost 100 years old, has one of the most distinctive fonts in journalism and print media. Their clean NY Irvin font is simple and only slightly quirky, providing uniqueness and enticing readers into consuming the equally one-of-a-kind content.
An example of a brand doing the custom, proprietary font right. Uber’s commuting services are now a global thing and the custom typography, Uber Move, certainly helps a lot with the brand being instantly recognizable.
Iconic fashion magazine Vogue is among the most influential print media on the planet. The Bodoni typeface was created as a way of experimenting with thick and thin elements blended into a single font. It lends a degree of elegance and drama to the magazine normally associated with these traits.
Geometric and modern Futura font reflects the coexistence of individualistic and mass production spirit of Bauhaus movement that made it famous. This sans-serif font has made Fedex’s logo one of the most instantly recognizable in the world.
20 Best Free License Fonts You Can Include In Your Brand Style Guide Today
If you look for a quick and effective solution for your brand typography, then look no further than the below list of free, downloadable fonts in each category that are going to provide a difference to your business identity.
Sans Serif Fonts
Takeaways On Brand Typography
Coming up with brand typography is a complex process that will result in increased recognition of your brand and attainment of consistent brand personality across all channels.
To find and apply the right font to your business, you should:
- Understand and define your brand’s personality
- Understand the traits and personality of each typography and find the match for your brand
- Decide between open source, paid and custom fonts
- Make sure the fonts you choose are legible, flexible, complementary with your other brand elements and can follow your growth
- Establish a hierarchy of your fonts and outline this in your brand book