How bespoke typefaces can empower your brand

by Nathan Rothfield

First impressions count, and nowhere is this more important or relevant than in branding. When a consumer encounters a brand, one of the first things they notice is the typeface and the message it is communicating. Some typefaces communicate strength, modernity, or creativity – while others offer a more retro, playful, or informal feel.
 
While there are thousands of pre-existing typefaces to choose from, it is unlikely that any one option will be the best fit for a particular brand. Even if a business does discover a satisfactory typeface, there is always the risk that they’ll have to share it with another business.
 
Bespoke typefaces are the solution.
 
To better understand the value of bespoke typefaces in communicating brand identity and indeed brand equity, let’s look at a couple of real-world examples.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)

As one of Australia’s most trusted media brands, the ABC enjoys a monthly readership of 7 million across a variety of platforms. Their online news site produces 60,000 articles a year, with text as the dominant content form.
 
Given that the ABC frequently communicates its brand through text, the organisation commissioned the creation of a bespoke typeface in 2016. Increased readability was obviously a primary objective for the news site, but the design also needed to incorporate uniquely Australian elements of nature. This included conveying the connection to land with a distinctly coastal and outback flavour. The typeface also needed to embody Australian culture and the celebration of inclusiveness and larrikinism.
 
Importantly, the new typeface also needed to correctly display foreign names and places with accented characters in every global, Latin-based language. In this case, the bespoke typeface lent a certain credibility and trustworthiness to the ABC’s brand – which is obviously crucial as a major provider of news.
 

Apple

No discussion on branding would be complete without mentioning Apple. The company has used several new fonts over its history, commissioning them as far back as the 1980s. In 2015, Apple upgraded to a bespoke typeface called San Francisco.
 
The typeface embodies Apple’s brand image with clean, compact shapes, a subtle roundness, and ample space between the letters to create the characteristic minimalism which consumers expect.
 
While it has been said that Apple developed San Francisco for maximum readability on the Apple Watch, the font embodies other elements of the Apple Brand. San Francisco is bolder than the font it replaced, reflecting Apple’s market leadership in design and innovation.
 
Apple’s platform reach is also vast, so the new typeface had to be versatile and adaptive to smartphones, tablets, watches, and desktops. To be readable and recognisable on a range of devices, the typeface has taller lowercase letters to make words easier to read on smaller screens, among other features.
 
Critics have argued that San Francisco is a rather safe choice for a company such as Apple who prides itself on design. However, clarity, functionality and user-friendliness are no less important when considering a bespoke typeface. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these elements are also a core part of Apple’s brand identity.
 

Businesses who commission bespoke typefaces understand the power of typography in communicating brand identity and equity. This accurate and cohesive storytelling ultimately leads to market differentiation and then to competitive advantage.
 
In the examples above, the creation of a bespoke typeface enabled the ABC and Apple to communicate their core values through words. Both organisations have consistently presented their brand across multiple channels and as a result, there is no risk that the message is diluted or confused.
 
For smaller businesses without the marketing budgets of these large organisations, there is always the temptation to opt for a low or no-cost standard typeface. Despite the diverse selection in these typefaces however, none are likely to match a business perfectly. Indeed, they may convey some aspects of a brand – but they will not tell the full story.

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