Type as a corporate “voice”

  • Type as a corporate “voice”

In collage (yes, many years ago), I found typography to be absolutely one of the most interesting aspects of graphic design. Yeah, the teacher was really good, thank you Chuck Donald. Upon graduating as a graphic designer we worked together on publication “Pulse Magazine” (of Tower Records) but that´s not relevant, really 😉 So, typography, a fascinating trade with a history, and man did it undergo changes when computers came to town (not that long ago, we´re talking in the 80s). Yet, the architecture of type or fonts is still very complex and I think I´m being quite universal when I say that typographers receive earned respect among designers and art directors in the creative world.

In branding, the goal is to achieve recognition, awareness, emotional evolvement and ultimately loyalty. For this to happen, the messaging of the brand needs to be consistent. In other words, the brand experience needs to be coherent. One way to achieve visual consistency is to use a single type or a font duo. Usually graphic designers are happy to discuss fonts and guide the font choice/choices. In this day and age this task is easier and the selection is huge as new beautiful fonts are released every day on pages such as www.myfonts.com.

Abbott Miller, a partner at Pentagram, a design firm that´s been around and has offices in the U.S., London and Berlin, talks about type as “voice,” and stresses the importance of carrying this “voice” across all marketing efforts and public communications if you want those messages to be effectively connected with your brand. By maintaining consistency in “voice” one stands a far better chance in having these multiple messages reinforce each other.

Most corporate identities are composed of one or two font families. Domino´s Pizza for example uses the font Trade Gothic (cover image in blog) in America and Europe. Trade Gothic, a classic typeface, was designed by Jackson Burke in 1948 and is widely used in North America.

And then there are custom fonts. This means that the company or design firm which the company uses, has created or commissioned a typographer or typography studio to create a custom font that is licensed to this one company for exclusive usage. This is similar to the difference in purchasing royalty free and licensed photography. Imagine using a photo that everyone else can also use in comparison to having exclusive rights to a unique photo. The problem is that drawing a font is very complex and time consuming and not to mention pricy.

Domino´s also uses a custom font. Uuuu, impressive. I´m assuming that´s because Domino´s is a big company and means business. It has more than 11.000 franchises in more than 70 countries. Talk about a challenge in creating one voice, company wide, in multiple cultures. The custom font is called Pizza Press and was created to “increase flexibility, variety and excitement to the Domino´s brand voice. The font functions across a range of sizes and environments, including packaging, web and broadcast. It also works well with Trade Gothic.”

But being consistent, company wide, takes a commitment. Miller argues that the best way to convince a team is to show the reasoning behind choices. Even though, it comes down to a matter of sheer preference or taste, it helps being able to rationalize and describe thinking. This gives skeptics a far better chance to follow along or at least respect the consideration that went into the work.

–María Ericsdóttir