Typography is one of the most powerful tools in a graphic designer’s toolkit. More than selecting fonts that look good together, thoughtful typography can deeply enrich a brand’s personality and amplify its core message. That’s why we always emphasize typography as a key component when developing branding and designs for our clients at Red Onion.
Most fonts fit into three categories: serif, sans serif and slab (a blend of the two.) As you know, serif has curly bits on the end (think Times Roman). Sans-serif does not have curly bits. And Slab has a gentle blend of the two.
Many products and services have “brand values.” While these are all different, interestingly, they each fit into three basic categories. Brands are either predominantly superior (Mercedes Benz), safe (Volvo) or exciting (BMW.) These also map to fonts. Superior is serif, safe is slab and exciting is sans serif. And happily enough, that’s the fonts those brands use.
This article will explain tips and strategies for using typography to create designs that embody your brand’s voice and spirit.
Choose fonts that represent your brand’s personality
Fonts have an incredible ability to convey certain attitudes, feelings, and attributes. For example, a script or handwritten font implies creativity and approachability. A bold, thick sans-serif font indicates strength and confidence. Slab serifs feel traditional and scholarly.
When selecting your brand’s typography, consider the personality traits and themes you want to communicate. Do you want to be seen as elegant? Friendly? Authoritative? Trustworthy? Cutting-edge? Your fonts will play a significant role in expressing your brand personality.
At Red Onion, we always start client projects by identifying these brand attributes so we can select appropriate fonts. For a recent luxury hotel client, we chose refined serif fonts that aligned with their sophisticated sensibility. For a tech startup, we used sleek sans serifs that felt forward-thinking. Matching typography to brand personality ensures authentic, consistent messaging.
Establish visual hierarchy through strategic font choices
Once you’ve selected fonts that match your brand voice, use typographic hierarchy to direct viewers through your designs. Hierarchy creates contrast between elements to emphasize important content.
We recommend choosing one display or headline font paired with a complementary body text font for most projects. The display font will grab attention in titles and headlines, while the body font maintains readability in larger blocks of text.
You can establish hierarchy through font size, weight, italics, space around the text, and colour. For example, large bold titles followed by smaller text in a lighter font quickly show what content is most significant. Strategic use of hierarchy guides readers smoothly through your designs.
Reflect tone through creative typographic choices
Typography isn’t about font selection – creative styling allows you to infuse visual interest and tone into your text. For a playful, casual brand, we may use bubble letters or unconventional colors and formatting. For a luxurious brand, letterpress textures and metallic foils add refinement.
Consider how letter spacing, sizing, alignment, effects, and ornamentation can make your typography reflect your brand’s specific visual and verbal tone. Aim for typographic choices that feel cohesive with your personality and messaging.
At Red Onion, we brainstorm imaginative typographic styles tailored to each brand, whether that’s using hand-drawn letterforms for an artsy brand or digitized glitch effects for a tech company. Typography with character makes designs distinctive and memorable.
Design custom typefaces for maximum brand identity
For brands that want to take their typography to the next level, we recommend custom typography, known as proprietary or bespoke type. This involves designing an original font tailored to your brand.
Custom fonts integrate your brand identity right into the letterforms. For example, we created a custom angular font for an architectural firm that mirrored their modern aesthetic. We developed a font using elongated ligatures for a high-end jeweller to reflect their elegance.
Proprietary typefaces require significant time and investment but make your designs unique. No other brand will have access to your fonts, guaranteeing a distinctive visual brand identity.
Follow principles of good typographic composition
In addition to creative typography, it’s essential to follow best practices for setting and formatting type to maximize legibility. Key principles include:
– Maintaining adequate contrast between text and background colours. Dark text on light backgrounds works best.
Use appropriate line spacing and margins so the text doesn’t feel cramped.
Setting body text between 10-12 points for optimal readability.
Keeping line lengths between 45-75 characters.
Avoid long blocks of italicized, underlined, or all-caps text.
Align text strategically with elements like images and sections.
While creative typography adds personality, adhering to established composition methods ensures your designs remain easy to parse and read.
Typography is a nuanced craft that can enrich or undermine your designs if not handled skillfully. By choosing fonts matched to brand attributes, using hierarchy strategically, applying creative styling for tone, designing custom typefaces, and following best practices – you can leverage typography to express the heart of your brand.
If you need help finessing the typography for your next branding or design project, our team at Red Onion would love to partner with you. We’re passionate about typography and creating designs authentically representing your brand’s voice.
Get in touch today to get started.