By Jaycen Mitchell
The most important thing that a brand or company should think about is how it presents itself to the public. Brand names and their logos make themselves recognizable to the general public. Typography and symbols play a huge role in how the public will perceive brands all over the world.
Why is Typography Important in Branding?
Typography is something that companies should pay attention to when it comes to branding themselves. A company needs to understand and take advantage of what typography can do to elevate their business.
First, the typography a company uses represents their identity. Similar to how a person’s handwriting reflects their identity and personality, the way brands use typography will reflect its identity. If you think about it, if every brand used the same typeface, nothing would set them apart from one another. The way brands use type can reflect how they want to appeal to potential customers.
Second, anything a company produces will involve typography. Everything from the brand name, the box/package the product comes in, labels, and even admit tickets in movie theaters. If you were to look at your phone right now, you would notice that all of the text underneath the apps, in your messages, and even the time display uses typography to represent its brand.
Third, typography can affect the consumer experience. This is most represented through websites and brochures, mostly to be accessible to the majority. The typography used in websites is used to improve the user experience. Easy to read and high contrast text are pleasing to the eye which is a perfect way to get someone to continue browsing your site.
How does Typography Reflect the Brand?
Without knowing its content, the typography a company will use to represent their brand can be tied to “personality-like” traits. Similar to color can be associated with a mood or feeling, the same can be said about typefaces. Each typeface can affect how people perceive the company as well as the purpose of its existence. Serif, sans serif, and script fonts are most commonly used in branding and advertising.
Serif fonts are fonts with the little lines at the ends of the letters. Serif fonts such as “Times New Roman” and “Georgia” are associated with tradition and authority. Brands that use serif fonts in their logos are Louis Vuitton, Sony, and Volvo.
Sans Serif Fonts
These are fonts without the little lines at he the ends of the letters. Sans serif fonts such as Arial, Verdana, and Impact are associated with being clean, modern, and objective. Brands that use sans serif fonts are Google, FedEx, Amazon, and Uber.
These are fonts that try to emulate the flow of handwriting. Script fonts like Lobster and Pacifico are associated with elegance, creativity, and friendliness. Brands that use script fonts include Chick-fil-a, CocaCola, Ford, and Kellogg’s (yes, the cereal brand).
How Do Brands Use Typography?
So, how do brands use typography to their advantage? Fortunately, some brands have published how they use typography as well as their rules involving placement, line weight, and formation. I am going to use Uber as an example and break down how they use typography in their branding and marketing strategies.
Uber has created a custom typeface called “Uber Move,” complete with light, medium, and bold variations. According to their webpage, this font “works to maintain consistency, create clarity, and provide equity to the brand as a global leader in multi-modal transportation.” With Uber being a new mode of transportation, simplifying and replacing the cab/taxi business, and being a multinational company, they want their use of typography to reflect that.
Uber has specific pairings that they use when working with headers and subheaders. The pairs are displayed as two options to choose from, a “Medium” header with a “Light” subheader or a “Bold” header with a “Regular” subheader. Reading from the page, “This allows for clarity, consistency, and a strong hierarchy for all communications. Medium weight should be paired with Light weight, and Bold weight should be paired with Regular weight.”
Reading from the page, “It is important to organize typography in a hierarchical system according to relative importance or inclusiveness through scale and function depending on communication.” Uber is showing its various implementations of hierarchy as it pertains to specific needs.
Starting from the box to the left, it shows an example of hierarchy using their typeface to raise awareness from its user. Keeping the most important information at the top, grabbing the user’s attention, then following up with details underneath the header.
The second box in the center shows an example of hierarchy when asking the user to consider doing something or perform an action. The information is kept center followed by a hyperlink at the bottom, using a smaller font size.
The third box to the right shows an example or hierarchy when requesting an action from the user. The request is placed in the center with no other unnecessary information.
The common denominator with these examples is that the Uber logo is somewhere on the screen. Its placement seems to vary, as shown in the second example, to keep the composition balanced.
Reading from the page again, “Typography should be black on light imagery and white on dark imagery. When aligned with the logo, typography and logo should be the same color.” It makes sense… Keep the type visible so it is easy to read. Also keeping the logo color consistent with the top text shows attention to detail.
Uber has some guidelines “what not to do’s” that they refer to keep their typography on brand.
- Do not use colored typography (black or white only). Very on-brand. Given the way Uber wants the public to perceive them, using any color not black or white in their typography would not reflect their identity.
- Do not use all caps. Their logo is not even in the same case. The service brands itself as being modern and sophisticated using the combination of upper and lower case letters. Using all caps not only signifies loudness and urgency, but it takes away from what Uber wants its company to be seen.
- Do not adjust kerning or tracking. I would assume that Uber designed its typeface to not need additionals adjustments such as kerning or tracking. Its text is meant to emulate the logo text. Additional kerning or tracking breaks the consistency.
- Do not make different levels of hierarchy the same weight. This would make it difficult to distinguish the levels of information.
- Do not make different levels of hierarchy in the same size. Again, this would make it difficult to distinguish the levels of information.
- Do not separate chunks of text. Uber tends to have their chunks of text aligned to the left. This keeps things clean. Compared to the example, this makes the information seem broken apart and is not on-brand for Uber.
A lot of brands do not only cater to a specific market. These brands are international, meaning that their target customers are from different regions, countries, and cultures. This means that brands have to start focusing on making themselves multilingual. This means more than a direct translation, but an understanding of the cultures that they are advertising to. Sometimes the direct translation of your brand or product may mean something completely different in certain languages. For example, Chevy marketed their car, the Chevy Nova, to Spanish speaking countries. The embarrassing thing is that “no va” in Spanish translates to “no go “ or “does not work.” Another example is Coor’s slogan “Turn it Loose” which can be roughly translated to diarrhea in Spanish. Multilingual branding should result in similar responses to different cultures. Instead of hoping that the brand name or product will come across well internationally, try to adapt the branding in certain areas to appeal more to that area. Unfortunately, there is not much information about companies or brands that use multilingual branding but I guess they rely on their logo to get the recognition.
How to Brand Across Languages
If multilingual branding is not your cup of tea, but you still want to market your brand internationally, I suggest you make the logo the most recognizable no matter the language. The text may not be in English but you can still recognize the brand just by looking at the colors and logo associated with the brand.
A way to market a brand across language and culture is to use transcreation rather than a direct translation of your brand. Transcreation refers to the process of adapting a message from one language to another while maintaining its intent, style, and tone.
The fast-food restaurant Subway does this by keeping its arrow motifs, the same as the FedEx logo. The use of motifs in logos when designing the translated logo supports the process of transcreation.
An example of a brand that I feel understands using transcreation and multilingual branding to spread itself internationally, is the cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants. SpongeBob SquarePants airs in many countries around the world and has 82 language variations of its title logo, even in languages like Korean and Hebrew who do not use Latin characters. I feel that this is a great representation of what brands should do when advertising to an international market. The motifs of the logos generally stay consistent with each other between languages. The water splash background with flowers, the sponge title typeface, the white bottom text with the dark blue background, and Nickelodeon’s logo in the top left. I bet that if I showed one of the other variations to a child (who is familiar with SpongeBob) they could figure out what it is.
Typography is super important for brands to thrive. It represents the company’s identity while influencing the public perception of that company. Multilingual branding is something I feel brands should improve upon to properly and effectively reach their international audience. Translating your brand name may not always end in the results you want, focus on transcreation and making your brand recognizable across languages.
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