Finding the perfect typeface for your brand to convey your brand’s personality is an important step in creating brand identity. But, the process of choosing the perfect typeface for your brand can feel overwhelming.
In this article, I will provide tips to help you make the right choice. Before we delve into the world of typography, it is crucial to understand the distinction between a typeface and a font. A typeface is an entire family, while a font is only one style of that family.
To find a suitable typeface for your brand, you should look for a typeface that allows for flexibility, be it right away or to adapt to your brand’s future growth. In this post, we will explore the following attributes that affect a typeface’s personality:
- Serif vs Sans-serif,
- High-contrast vs low-contrast,
- Vertical stress vs diagonal stress,
- Low x-height vs high x-height,
- Condensed vs extended,
- and Rounded letterforms vs angular letterforms.
Understanding these attributes, will equip you with the tools needed to choose a typeface that represents your brand’s unique personality.
Serif vs sans-serif typefaces
There are many more (sub-) classifications for typefaces, but I only focus on serif vs sans-Serif for now.
Serif typefaces date back to the 18th century when stonemasons carved letters into rocks. You can recognise serif typefaces by their decorative flourishes at the end of their letterforms, called serifs.
Due to their history, serif typefaces are perceived as elegant, trustworthy and established. Law firms, wineries or newspapers might use a serif typeface to come across as reliable and sophisticated.
Yet, there has been a trend to a more playful application of serif typefaces in recent years.
Some well-known serif typefaces are Baskerville, Times New Roman and Garamond. Open-source alternatives include Playfair Display and Lora.
Sans-serif typefaces emerged around 1800. But, they only gained popularity in the 1920 –30s through the Bauhaus movement.
Sans-serif typefaces are modern and clean. We often use them in everyday, approachable designs. You will come across sans-serif typefaces in a range of industries, from sports to tech companies.
Futura, Univers and Helvetica are popular sans-serif typefaces. If you are looking for open-source alternatives, consider Roboto, Open Sans or Source Sans Pro by Google Fonts.
Tip: For font pairing, don’t choose two typefaces of the same classification. Pairing a sans-serif with a serif is a better choice because they contrast one another, not compete.
High contrast vs low contrast typefaces
The contrast of a typeface describes the variation of the stroke width within a character. High-contrast typefaces, with their exaggerated variation of the stroke width, convey classiness, while low-contrast typefaces communicate sturdiness and trust.
You will find high-contrast typefaces used for luxury fashion labels or hotels to imply exclusivity and high prices.
Bodoni is a classic example of a high-contrast typeface. Check out Prata as a free alternative to Bodoni.
Tip: Don‘t use high contrast typefaces for body text. Their delicate strokes make them illegible in small sizes.
Vertical stress vs diagonal stress
The stress of the axis refers to the angle at which the contrast occurs in letterforms. Look at the letter O to determine the stress of the axis.
Typefaces with diagonal stress, such as Garamond, originate from the calligraphy in old-style roman typography. They have a warm, human feel and are often used for body text in printed materials.
In contrast, typefaces with vertical stress, such as Bodoni, are more modern and convey a sense of stability and formality.
Tip: For font pairing, use two typefaces with similar stress to match them up.
Low x-height vs high x-height typefaces
The x-height, or the height of a lowercase x, can influence the mood and readability of a typeface. A low x-height conveys delicacy and luxury, while a higher x-height looks strong and solid.
X-height should be considered carefully in body text. Fonts with small x-heights can become hard to read in small sizes, as their counters (the enclosed spaces in letters such as c) tend to optically fill up, making a c look like an o.
Meanwhile, typefaces with very high x-heights can also present challenges to legibility. When we reading, our brains recognize the shapes of words, rather than individual letters. In typefaces with an overly large x-height, the eye may struggle to distinguish these word shapes, leading to reduced readability.
Mr Eaves is an example of a typeface with a low x-height that conveys delicacy and refinement, while Helvetica, with its high x-height, looks solid and strong.
Tip: For font pairing, choose typefaces with a similar x-height to make them feel harmonious.
Condensed vs extended
Condensed fonts are designed with a narrow width and tight spacing, which makes them useful for fitting a lot of text into a small space. They are often used in newspaper headlines or other situations where space is at a premium.
Condensed fonts have a precise and efficient look that can convey a sense of reliability and professionalism. They also tend to have a more intense, energetic feeling, which makes them suitable for designs related to sports or other high-energy activities.
On the other hand, extended fonts have a wider width and more generous spacing, which gives them a spacious and open feeling. They are often used in designs that communicate positivity, lightness, and airiness.
Examples of condensed fonts include Arial Narrow and Gotham Condensed. Examples of extended fonts include Optima and Franklin Gothic Wide.
Tip: Some typefaces, often superfamilies, come with narrow and extended weights. Combine both weights to create tension.
Rounded letterforms vs angular letterforms
Rounded letterforms are often associated with positive emotions, such as happiness, comfort, and friendliness. They suggest softness and playfulness, making them a great fit for brands targeting children or families.
A study showed that people associate positive qualities like sprightly, sparkling, dreamy, and soaring with curved, light and possibly sans-serif typefaces.
On the other hand, angular letterforms evoke a sense of strength, stability, and authority, making them a popular choice for corporate branding and businesses in the finance or legal industries.
To sum up, selecting the appropriate typeface for your brand can be challenging. When looking for a typeface, you should choose one that provides flexibility for different purposes and future growth.
Before deciding on typography, be clear about your brand’s personality. The choice of typeface can significantly impact your brand’s identity. By considering the different aspects above, you can identify one or more typefaces that suit your brand.
Finally, you can always pair different typefaces that complement and contrast them to come up with harmonious designs.
If you enjoyed this article, you might also want to learn about what goes into choosing the perfect colour palette for your brand.
This blog post was inspired by “Typography 01” by The Futur and the “Flawless Typography Checklist” by Typewolf. I highly recommend both.