Designing Fonts That Break Barriers
The way we see it, fonts are the visual equivalent of voices. They play an integral part in conveying what a brand stands for and, like all visual elements of a brand’s identity, they pass on a direct message to readers. But they also carry more hidden ones that affect viewers regardless of content. So yes, there’s more to it than picking a pretty font.
Here’s the balance we strive to strike when putting concepts into words and words into shapes:
- Representation: With fonts still being qualified as “masculine” and “feminine”, it comes as no surprise that industries relying on trust and authority have mostly adopted bold, rigid fonts while brands wanting to appeal to a female clientele went for twirling, looping letters. Just take a second to remember how Barbie was written vs. how Action Man was on toys boxes when you were a child. Yet, as brands embrace more inclusive and empowering messages, it is important for their typography to follow through.
- Emotions: Much like colors, fonts can dictate the tone of a piece. Friendly, excited, warm, sophisticated, confident, soothing or insightful – there are a thousand ways to type “Hello” and make it sound different in your reader’s mind. Also, by playing with weight, textures and shapes, we can go a long way in influencing the way your text is perceived and tell the story that lies behind your entire brand. For instance, beyond sounding happy, YAHOO! Looked happy and excited too – and that’s not just because of the “!”.
- Legibility: At the core of type design lies the need for words to be readable. This is all the more important in today’s fast-paced world where people are bombarded with spoken and written words throughout their day. Simply put, a clear font can mean better business by leading people to read your post, enter your shop, or notice your product from afar on a crowded shelf. And don’t get us started on lengthier pieces such as articles or newsletters being read on low res screens, which are the mere reason for the existence of fonts such as Verdana.
- Personality: It’s safe to say you’d recognize the Coca Cola font anywhere, even if your electricity bill was typed using it. It’s because the font has become synonymous with its personality, making it one of the most recognizable brands all around the world. This is why it is crucial to choose the right typography for you, one that would convey your brand essence all the while mirroring your target audience. So what shall it be? Casual, elegant, modern, bold or traditional?
- Innovation: Working with different alphabets is a great design challenge, but it’s also an opportunity to innovate. As a bilingual team, we’ve witnessed firsthand how the Arabic script has evolved to embrace the digital age and assert itself as a tool for modern marketing. It is thus with a lot of pride and pleasure that we play our own, small part in experimenting and exploring the different feelings and shapes that can be conjured from the Arabic alphabet all the while preserving its identity and heritage. We’ve even turned this ongoing exercise into a fun workshop for the entire team to rediscover and get creative with our very own 28 letters. You can check it out here!
Beyond creating a unique identity, your font can mirror the values you share with your customers and stir emotions that lead to action. When done right, type design can also help craft more meaningful, relevant, and impactful brands and be used as a great ally in addressing issues and advancing ideas across alphabets, causes, and industries.