Brand Design 101: Fonts

Brand Design 101: Fonts

posted in: Branding | 0

An important and vastly overlooked ingredient in developing your brand identity are the fonts you choose to work with.

Yep, fonts.

McDonald's old logo with ComicSans as the font
ComicSans – Not Lovin’ It’

I’m assuming that everyone pretty much knows what fonts are, but from my experience not everyone realizes that a font can literally influence the direction, look and feel of your identity. Think of the McDonald’s logo with the font Comic Sans. Doesn’t feel right, does it?

“This is where you get all techno-weird, right?”

It’s true I’m a proud font nerd and while this is not meant to be the definitive word on font usage, this post is focused on helping non-designers understand the basic differences – without having to send you to typography school.

I’d like to note for clarity, fonts are also called:
type
typeface
typestyle
All stemming from literal typesetting letterpress days of yesteryear.

There are generally five main font categories, but after that it’s open game as far as category naming convention goes. Most of these categories are not generally associated with the fonts heavily used in the comics themselves, but it’s important to understand them and what distinguishes them for use in print (books, signs or flyers) and on websites.

fonttypes

The common five are:
  • Serifs (Times, Garamond or Georgia), are commonly used in print because they are easier to read.
  • Sans-Serifs (Arial, Helvetica or Verdana) offer a thicker, clearer display on your computer which is why many websites use sans-serifs.
  • Scripts (Zapf Chancery, Snell Roundhand) also fairly self-descriptive.
  • Monospaced (Courier, Monaco – not pictured) otherwise known as non-proportional or varied font. The letters in these are all basically the same width.
  • Dingbats (Zapf Dingbats, symbols) are fairly self-descriptive. (not represented in the illustration)
Let’s look are important factors to consider when selecting your fonts.

Tone:
If you were to try to categorize your business in the sense of a font, what would that be? A digital-tech company/product/service might start looking at a font that is modern, professional and clearly legible. A non-profit children’s charity may use something that has an approachable, human and warm feel to it.

Usage:
Will your font be flexible enough to support using it in print, on the web, in an app or on an outdoor billboard? Will it look as good six feet tall as it will at six pixels? I think one good font to use as an example here is Trebuchet which looks good at 12 or 14 pixels, but in my opinion loses it’s appeal and professional flexibility larger than 30 pixels.

Font appeal example:
Trebuchet 12px
Trebuchet 14px
Trebuchet 30px

Our next article will look at Leading, Tracking and Kerning – how to avoid looking like an amateur and show like a pro.

Note: This was originally part of a series of articles I wrote while I was developing my webcomic ‘Rick the Stick‘ but I’ve redeveloped this post with a focus on branding. The site Webcomic Alliance is geared towards helping aspiring comic artists and you can view the original article here.
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