Chances are that as a small business you have spent some time worrying about what those well versed in marketing call “branding”. You have probably paid for a logo or logotype, signs, business cards and the whole works. (If not, get in touch with our team at Trends Mobile and Web Solutions and we can help take your brand to the next level.) Good news all that is behind you, isn’t it? Unfortunately there’s more to branding than having a spiffy logo.
In essence, branding is the ongoing process of representing your business (and the aspirations of your business) to your current and potential customers. A logo is just one small portion of that effort. Think or your brand as communicating the feel of your business to others.
That feel of your business extends far beyond your business cards. It extends into the way you treat your customers, the way you talk to them and every visual aspect of your business that potential customers see. For example, if you run a health services business you might want to portray a sense of serenity or calmness, therefore you might use smooth flowing prose in your brochures, complimented by light shades of blue in your visual materials. Your business has a message or story to tell and how you market your brand will determine how well that message is heard and ultimately understood.
Circling back to the title of this post you might well be asking yourself: “what does typography have to do with any of this branding business?” To explore that answer it is perhaps most prudent to quickly recap the modern era of type, typefaces and typography. Generally speaking, typography is the study or practice of creating and setting type. Traditionally this was done manually using tiny steel or wooden letters hand laid on a printing press. Fast forward half a millennia and all this tedious work is done on computers. All we have to do is select a digital font (e.g., Helvetica, Times New Roman, etc.) and type away.
There are a few broad families of type styles and many smaller ones if you care for precision but for our purposes we will stick to the following: serif, sans-serif and “other”. Serif fonts are the oldest of the lot. Serif fonts are recognizable by the small “serifs” that stick off the end of certain letters. Take a look at the letters above and notice all of the protrusions they have on the “top” and “bottom” of each letter (there are technical terms for each of these parts but we will leave that for another day), that’s how you recognize a serif font. The form of each serif, like every font, varies quite a bit, however, serif fonts are generally modelled after medieval calligraphy. The strokes on some letters may be thicker or thinner to emmulate the pressure of a calligrapher’s pen. Some serif fonts that you might recognize are Times New Roman, Georgia and Palatino.
Sans-serifs, if you are following along, are recognizable for what they lack compared to their serif brethren. As the name so perfectly illustrates these fonts are missing the serif on each letter. Historically, this general style of font is more modern and recent; thus there is little homage paid to handwriting. The letters are generally uniform in the width of each stroke. You won’t see as exaggerated a difference between, say, the thickness on the different sides of an “o” in Helvetica, for instance, as you will with Times New Roman.
Finally there is the “other” family. This is a catch-all for the sake of the post, not a hard and fast category. These might include anything from chicken scratch looking handwriting, to beautiful script and everything in between. You might see them described as “display” fonts because generally they are used for more decorative purposes, i.e., where style is more important than readability. There are no rules for what constitutes a display font per se, but they can easily be defined in difference to the two above.
Every font has different visual characteristics that readers can use to infer something about the person or business that used them. In this way fonts are no different from colour and imagery. Where typography is different is that it has a function separate from its visual style: fonts are meant to be read.
Your business needs to communicate with its (potential) customers and these days more of that is happening through digital means. Whether its email campaigns, your website or even an custom app, typefaces are on the front lines between you and your customers. What you might not have been thinking about before today is that beyond what you intended to say to your customers your font choice is sending another message. You have to ask yourself whether that message is inline with the rest of your brand.
Serif typefaces lend themselves best to brands that are well established, traditional, foundations, etc. They are easily read and are therefore recommended for long stretches of text (think about what your newspaper—remember those!—uses for its articles). If your business is a serious profession or service, or perhaps desires to align itself with the best of the past, like some luxury brands, or are considering communicating in large passages of text you should consider integrating a pleasing serif font into your marketing repertoire.
Sans-serif fonts are typically considered more modern. Increasingly as our digital devices feature better and sharper screens the full value of sans-serif fonts are realized. Sans-serif fonts convey cutting edge sophistication (when used in thinner weights) or a youthful playfulness (when used in heavier weights). They work great for punchy headlines and small passages of text. If you consider your brand to be modern and cutting edge look no further than a thin, geometric sans-serif font. However, if your brand is more humane or aims towards a younger crowd, think of incorporating a chunkier, rounded sans-serif font.
Whenever you consider writing anything for public consumption, think long and hard about your brand and how you want your customers to experience it. Fonts are a lot like people, they have personalities. You don’t want just any personality working for your business. It will be key to pair the perfect typography with the way you communicate with your customers but if you really nail it everyone of those people will know that your brand is high quality.
If any of this sounds overwhelming, fear not! The design team here at Trends Mobile and Web Solutions are fully trained in branding, design and marketing. Please get in touch so we can provide you with the perfect solution for your small business.