What your font says about you
You see fonts every day. You use them where you work, they sit on your business card, on signage and across all of your communication and designs.
If you have never been involved in the creation of the brand, you may never have given a thought to what a font says about you and your business. Fonts are ubiquitous and subliminally powerful.
Classically, serif fonts (those with the little line on the end of the letters) are associated with brands and businesses that project an old school image.
Resonating with strength and longevity, serifs are typically the domain of older brands in the service industry, lawyers, accountants and clubs, but they can also be utilised by new businesses to project those values.
HSBC is one of the world’s major banks. It utilised a classic uppercase serif font to radiate strength, longevity and trust. More recently, they have changed to a sans serif font in order to project a modern and forward looking company, which is a more fitting image for the digital age. The word sans serif means quite simply ‘without the little strokes’ (sans in French is “without”).
This change in style does remove it from the visual cues that are associated with the category. But given the enormous nature of the business category, recognition is less important than perception of culture and service.
Brands with a long history tend to go through a number of font iterations over time. While the current Mercedes Benz font is a serif font, they were using a sans serif font as far back as the 1920’s.
Mercedes has been employing a serif font for some time now and it creates an interesting set of visual cues when such a dominant symbol (the three pointed star) sits above a serif font. History, style, and sophistication all wrapped up in one product.
Sans serif fonts project a more modern clean, contemporary feel, but they also need to sit within the context of what you are.
It is important to find a font that subliminally projects your core brand and overall purpose.
Helvetica is one of the classic sans serif fonts. It projects design, art, subtle sophistication and is the go to for many creative industries. It is very neutral and very clean. Arial has been around forever and is the beige jacket of the sans serif family; a wee bit uptight, but you can wear it anywhere. A good, purposeful all-rounder.
Talking about fonts and projections, have you ever had a good think about Courier? A monospaced serif that looks like it has just come off your grandma’s old typewriter. It was developed by IBM who did not trademark it, and it became the standard for the typewriter industry.
What do you think of when you look at the above? If you are below 30, it may not gel unless you are in the film industry. Above 30, you may have had more exposure to scripts and maybe even a typewriter. Courier has become the standard for screenplays. If you ever go for that part as an extra in Neighbours, you will be reading a script most probably in Courier.
Fonts need to work in concert with the space and information around them. Context is important.
The font in your brand is something you see everyday, but how often do you actually think about what it says about you and your brand?