What can type say about you?

Every computer now comes with a whole bunch of ‘fonts’. Google also has a load that can be used ‘on-line’. The world of a small (or large business) is now seemingly spoilt for choice when it comes to type.

But what does your choice of type say about your organisation?

Actually this is a subject (without writing a book) that we can only really ‘scratch the surface’ on. Because, the way type is used goes a long way in creating an impression. This includes decisions such as size, ‘weight’, colour, space around the text etc.

So, for simplicities sake we’re just going to give you a broad stroke overview of the ‘personalities’ of the three main type variants (shown below); serif, sans serif and script. Most fonts you will get free will fit within these three simple categories.

A quick overview of the anatomy of type

A quick overview of the anatomy of type

The first ‘commercial’ type was ‘Blackletter’ which was modelled on the lettering of monks and scribes. However this wasn’t great in print, it was a bit dense and didn’t reproduce well. It wasn’t until the 15th century that the first ‘serif’ fonts were created. Serif fonts were based on classical Roman type from historical sources and were much more legible in print.

Type from the Roman Theatre in Antalya, Turkey

Type from the Roman Theatre in Antalya, Turkey

There are actually a great number of different variants within serif fonts themselves. These include Egyptian/slab, Old style, semi, transitional, Modern etc. Serifs in the main, can give an air of tradition and history; they speak of mainstream thinking and safety. A serif font is not one to ‘rock the boat’ it has classic style.

Sans serif
These fonts are quite self-explanatory, they are without serif (direct translation of the French). When the first examples of sans serif fonts initially appeared, they seemed so controversial that the first name given to them was “grotesque,” and were very rarely used except in advertising.

In the main they have a simple consistency about them, the ‘strokes’ giving the impression of being quite uniform. San serif fonts are (in terms of type) relatively new to the world (first appearing at the beginning of the 19th century), hitting the ‘mainstream’ in the mid 20th century.

Sketches by Eric Gill for his typeface Gill Sans (1928) (©Monotype)

Sketches by Eric Gill for his typeface Gill Sans from 1928 (©Monotype)

Again, as with serif fonts there are variants within sans serif type such as geometric (made from geometric shapes) and humanist (less rigid than geometric, gentle curves etc). San serif type is quite ‘practical’, they’re simple to read and in some ways can be a little clinical. They give an impression of modernity and used well can be extremely ‘elegant’. With the breadth of weight variations that most san serifs carry they can be extremely flexible to use for both headline and text.

A lot of fonts use script in their name. Scripts are basically the recreation of hand lettering from the ornate to comic book script to simple ‘handwriting’ fonts. Script fonts are best used sparingly (though there are always exceptions to the rule.

Used sensitively script fonts can create a feeling of quality even luxury. Script fonts can give a document real standout, and be a point of difference. They can also give a personal feel or a friendly face to a design piece (think Macmillan Cancer Support).

Obviously this is just a quick overview of a subject that has libraries of books written on the subject. The ‘personalities’ above are not a hard and fast rule; contemporary design can use serif fonts and traditional products can use sans serif. Type is something that can be used to great effect that can say so much more than the sum of its parts, more than just what the words say. This can be a positive, but also a negative.

So… what does the way you use your type say about you?

Puur can help with all of your graphic design needs. We specialise in unique and ownable identity development borne from customer awareness and a rigorous creative process. Give us a call today to chat over your needs and see how we can help.

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