Your brand is more than a logo. A brand is the emotion that the public conjures up when they consume your product, see your logo flash across the television set, or interact with your website. Typography is an extension of your brand and the digital landscape is finally allowing modern brands to shine on the web too. The next time you want to “make it pop,” consider typography as a way to to help give your brand soul. Think of it as putting your best foot forward.
Today’s design trends are leveraging a lot of using modern web technology. Sure, it’s easy to get sucked in by HTML5 video, but after that video has looped… your customer will continue to interact with text-based content. There is probably more text on your site than anything else, so make sure it packs a wallop! While there are plenty of free fonts out there, you should consider the value that paid fonts have in elevating your brand.
Classic print publications have soul online, too.
Way back in 2003, the New York Times chose Cheltenham as their lone font to be used in headlines, cleaning up what was once a front page filled with as many as six headline fonts. A newspaper paper isn’t made up just headlines however, so the Times worked with foundries to customize customize a few fonts including: Cheltenham, Franklin, Karnak, and Stymie. Presumably the changes included hinting, a process which helps maintain the intricate details seen in printed typeface, ensuring an an accurate representation of these beautiful and consistent experience for readers online and off.
USA TODAY celebrated its 30th anniversary by evolving their logo and word mark. Futura is, quite appropriately, the font family they chose to modernize their brand. According to Bold Monday, the foundry, USA TODAY’s customized font has several modified characters and has also been kerned from scratch. These changes may be nuance to laymen, but they do improve the reading experience and ensure that USA TODAY looks unique.
Digital typography gives brands more freedom.
In the days of Johannes Gutenberg, changing fonts was a big ordeal. Switching fonts (ahem, “typesetting”) from Bembo to Garamond meant unpacking and repacking the entire alphabet on a letterpress. Now, it’s much easier for us to change between fonts to help improve readability – allowing for headlines, subheadings, and body copy to be made up of any number of different fonts.
Although digital typography has come a long way in the past five years, there are still a myriad of fonts that aren’t totally web-ready, and that’s mostly because of browsers that don’t really cooperate. If you end up finding a font that doesn’t look the way it should on all browsers, it can reflect poorly on your brand. And no one wants that.
Keeping all of this in mind, paid fonts can help you increase brand equity. Services like Adobe Typekit make it easy to find and obtain fonts that are ready to use on the web. TypeKit works with individual foundries to test and produce high-quality fonts with a more uniform look and a quality representation of the actual fonts which may have hundreds of years of history. Another bonus is that Creative Cloud integrates with Typekit so designers can more easily experiment with many fonts in design to find the best set for your brand.
If you’d prefer to host your font files on your own server… Fonts are also available through any number of sites – fonts.com, myfonts.com, etc – or an individual foundry. These “one-time buys” can be less expensive than hosted solutions with recurring charges. When licensing, do consider how many and the type of license you actually need. You’ll want to make sure that your whole design and marketing team is outfitted with a licensed copy of your approved font. Otherwise, you may end up with a piece of important collateral using the wrong font!
One font does not necessarily define your brand, but it could.
Most companies want to keep branding pretty uniform, and your font choice can really say something about your brand. But can you imagine if Disney or Coca-Cola leveraged only their logo’s font on their website? Talk about usability issues! Instead, these global power brands use a host of fonts including typefaces like Disney’s custom “Matterhorn” in addition to classic fonts like Arial and Helvetica.
Typography options allow your brand an opportunity to create a multi-dimensional personality. Take Fullscreen.net for an example. They use Brush Up in marquee areas to push their brand in marquee areas while leveraging Proxima Nova (also a paid font) throughout the site. Using unique fonts in special circumstances, drives key messages home and gives the overall brand aesthetic a boost. Jumping on the free font bandwagon can make it difficult for your brand to stand out.
Target and Crate & Barrel are just two of many brands using Helvetica in their logo. Both of these stores have anchored into this classic font and are using it throughout their websites. Helvetica is great, classic, and extremely readable. The trouble is the marketplace is already saturated with this sans-serif font. Don’t believe me? Check out this trailer for the Helvetica movie.
You wouldn’t have any problems paying for your font when you’re creating your logo or word mark. Think of paying for a web font as an opportunity to brand holistically. In some cases you may be able to match brochures and other print media, an option that probably wasn’t available five year ago. Alternatively, you may find something complimentary that helps extend your brand. Either way, making an investment in typography shows that you’re fully committed your brand. ; you’re not stopping short of what’s most important.
Don’t forget cross-browser compatibility.
Having a multitude of fonts to choose from is great because you can pick a font that works with your existing design, reflects your company’s brand, and is easy for consumers to read. With all of that said, it’s imperative to also consider quality of the font across all browsers. A tool like Typecast can help you and your designer make well-informed decisions about which typefaces and font weight/sizes to use.
Even web-ready font files are susceptible to poor browser rendering. While your browser may display the font, it might not look the way it’s supposed to look. Pixel hinting and anti-aliasing can compensate for that. It’s a time-consuming process to make them look good on screen. Typographers will spend countless hours refining a font (and time is money, just sayin’), which in turn makes these high-performance fonts a bit more costly.
Google Chrome, while highly revered as a great browser, actually severely lacks in font display (and don’t get us started on older versions of IE). Fonts need to adjusted for each browser to look as they were intended. Unfortunately, most free fonts aren’t going to provide a true-to-type, quality, and uniform look across different browsers.
Show your support, pay for fonts (don’t steal them).
So, beyond just getting a font that looks good on all different mediums and browsers, why else should you pay for fonts?
Well, as previously mentioned, creating fonts is an incredibly tedious process. From an ethical standpoint, we should really support these designers because they put an immense amount of work into designing fonts. Some type designers may spend an entire year on just one character! Sharing font files is illegal, and using unlicensed copies among your team or on your website is stealing. Please, don’t cheat the industry and the hard-working designers. You’ll sleep better at night by giving credit where credit is due. It’s a win-win.
Typography is a mix of art and function. It’s seriously important in your overall design, so it’s worth investing in. After all, there is probably more text than anything else on your website or in your product.
Font foundries are still alive and well. Many of them have moved beyond the printing press and plates into the digital realm. Even still, these craftsmen spend countless hours (even years) developing typefaces that you and I get to enjoy without even giving them much thought. Consider using a paid font to help your brand stand out.
What do you think? Is it worth it to whip out the old pocketbook and pay for the goods?