Typography is like the written voice. If you were talking to someone, the intonation and cadence that comes through would be translated in typography. To demonstrate, if you want to yell at someone DO IT LIKE THIS!
When we’re reading, we don’t have the luxury of someone telling us how the words should sound. In design, what we lack in audio stimulus we make up for in visual. It’s important that the message we are conveying is interpreted the way it is intended. It becomes especially important when we are creating a logo because we’re often relying on just one or two words.
In terms of design this means using typefaces or, as they are commonly known as, fonts. When we talk about typography we are referring to how the letters and characters sit together. There are a lot of technical terms, but generally you are going to be concerned with which fonts you use and the spacing.
While not especially important to you right now, there is a difference between the word font and typeface. Basically, fonts are like files. I read a great analogy comparing MP3 files and songs. You never say “I really love this MP3!” at a party. You say “I really love this song!” and then shimmy your way over to the snack table for some dip. Fonts are like an MP3 file, where the actual piece of artwork is the song or typeface.
There are a few basic typographic tricks you probably use all the time. Bold, Italic, and Underline. These are what we call emphasis. This should seem like a fairly obvious term since the times we use them are when we want something to stand out. It works quite well in paragraphs of text or on a menu. When it comes to logo design you use them with more purpose, assessing their visual qualities and strength in conveying your concept.
The term bold usually refers to the weight of the type, ie the degrees of how thick or thin the actual letterforms are. You want to carefully consider the weights of your type since their voices are very different. Very heavy (very bold) type doesn’t necessarily mean loud. It can often mean strength where a light (thin) type can mean friendly or high tech even. These are not hard and fast rules though because the actual typeface chosen and composition also play major roles.
Italic or oblique treatments are very dynamic. Diagonal lines in general are considered dynamic, having motion, action, or speed. Take the Brandcouver logo for example. We aren’t conveying speed with our dynamic type, we convey forward movement. That forward movement gives the sense of progress and action. We’re not a static institution sitting on our high horse. We’re moving, baby, shaking things up, making a difference.
Using a default underline on a logo is a big no-no. For one, slapping an underline on a logo does not give it emphasis in the way it would in written text. And two, that underline acts as a distraction if it does not belong.
When does it belong? Visually it must have a purpose. Maybe it is leading the eye from one place to the next or maybe your business legitimately is called “Underline”.
We use lines in the Brandcouver logo to represent the marks coming from the two pencils in the A and V. They also help in framing our business name.
There are four different overarching type classifications (font types) to think about: Serif, Sans Serif, Script and Decorative.
As you can see, each have very different voices. Let’s see how the voices translate when used in logo application.
Tangent Cafe uses a heavy weighted serif typeface. The voice we hear is traditional and reliable. There is no extra air of being overly sophisticated or high-end due to boldness of the type. Do you feel the softness it has while using normal title case instead of an uppercase treatment?
Green & Blacks also uses a serif but can you sense they are going for a more sophisticated approach? Their type is in all caps and is much thinner, and delicate. Things that are thinner and delicate are generally more fancy in our daily lives. This type mimics that. It makes sense for this chocolate brand because they don’t want to be seen in the same category as a Mars bar. They are more rich and decadent.
Earnest Ice Cream also goes for a heavy weight but instead uses a sans-serif type (sans-serif literally means no serifs, the extra little jobbies on the ends of characters). The lack of serifs and changes in weight (notice all the letters have consistent thickness with no variation?), make us think simplicity. Earnest relies on very few ingredients, keeping their product exceptionally wholesome without additives. It makes sense their logo would convey exactly this. There is a slight wobble to the characters and all of the corners are rounded. This makes the logo much more friendly and somewhat handmade.
Toyota uses the sans-serif in a very different way. They also employ all capitals, but in this instance the voice is more authoritative. Their letters are spaced perfectly, the edges are dead straight, and the corners are crisp. For Toyota, hand-made is really not their message. They want their customers to believe in the precision of their product. After all, safety is among our top concerns for a vehicle. The voice of their type is straight to the point.
Marcello employs a script face that has a very endearing voice. Script typefaces can go in many directions. The voice can range from extreme elegance to down to earth and honest. This is because scripts are the closest typefaces to our own writing. If you start handwriting with a big ol’ Sharpie it is going to read a lot differently than if you pull out the calligraphy pen. The Marcello logo is closer to a signature giving us that sense of pride in the business. The name is on the door and Marcello is someone we can trust in his honest, homestyle way of cooking pizza traditionally. They’ve given us their word by use of their signature.
Taking a look at the script for Cadillac we can see a very different approach. Take a look at how perfect the letters are. The weights are unwavering and precise. Every corner is sharp. Again, like Toyota, precision is very important. Unlike Toyota, their brand is built on prestige and this classic looking type oozes it. Isn’t it interesting how two companies selling cars use typefaces that are so different yet fit their brand so perfectly? This is what I mean when I say it is the voice of a business.
These kind of typefaces you won’t often find in large blocks of text. They are much more graphic than they are functional. They can make excellent headlines or logotypes though. Bandidas uses text with cross-hatching in it. The type really feels at home with the day of the dead motif. In this case you can tell these were drawn by hand. Like a handwritten script, this gives us a sense of authenticity while staying true to the flavour of the restaurant’s Mexican cuisine.
Saloniki has the standard Greek looking text you would expect. Graphically it looks somewhat like the Greek written language which is why it is a favourite among most Greek restaurants. This is where you should watch out though. You should never choose your typeface based on what everyone else is doing.
The voice may seem right but the issue is that it is the same voice as every other Greek restaurant. It will never be distinguished in a room of people shouting in the same tone. That’s not to discredit or neglect the merit in these socially accepted cues—just make sure it is a voice that fits your business in a unique way.
Second to the overall concept, typeface choice is the most important you will make for a logo. There are very few logos existing without some form of text accompanying it. Choosing type that matches your business's voice is a sure-fire way to boost the overall effectiveness of your logo.
So how are you going to do it? Are you more contemporary and modern? Does the idea of artisanal appeal to your target customers? When customers come to your business are they looking for something high end or hand made?
These are just some of the questions to ask yourself before designing your logo; but if you’re already very sure on what your brand promise is, you’re already more than halfway there.