Choosing the right typeface is a critical part of the logo design process – indeed, many of the world’s most recognisable brands are wordmarks, relying entirely on typography to convey their message.
Here are our logo design tips to get more from your typography.
01. Choose your typeface carefully
Sans serif fonts have dominated logo design in recent years, often going hand-in-hand with the minimalist movement – examples include Pentagram’s high-profile rebrands for Windows, MasterCard and the University of the Arts London.
In 2015, Google famously exchanged its longstanding serif logotype for a much friendlier, more contemporary sans serif. But don’t let trends cloud your own judgement: a serif font could still be the right choice for your latest project, particularly if you need a stylish and luxurious or traditional and professional feel, so take the time to research your options.
02. Tweak and refine to add personality
If you use an existing typeface in a logotype, particularly a near-ubiquitous one such as Helvetica, there is often more pressure on other touchpoints, such as imagery, colour palette, tone of voice and so on, to develop and enhance the brand’s personality.
Skilful tracking and kerning is essential when setting a simple logotype in an existing typeface. Wide-tracked type can feel sophisticated and authoritative, while tight, meticulous kerning can help lock individual letterforms together as self-contained unit.
Once in logotype form, tweaking and modifying the typeface can also smooth links between letterforms, or add a unique twist to fit the tone of the brand – one example would be shearing off letter terminals at matching angles to give a sharp, progressive feel.
03. Consider illustrated, fully-bespoke type
Sometimes an existing typeface just won’t cut it, and a hand-drawn typographical treatment feels much much more appropriate for the brand. Perhaps the most iconic example, which has evolved gradually over more than a century, is Coca-Cola.
Compared with its fierce rival Pepsi, which has been through at least seven major iterations, the market leader sports much the same logo as it did in the late 1800s. If Coca-Cola had ditched that familiar scrawling script for a sans serif, like Pepsi did in the 1960s, there would have been uproar.
The point is simple: get a truly unique, custom bit of illustrated type spot-on and you’ve bought yourself some powerful brand recognition with genuine longevity. (Although if all else fails, these free handwriting fonts are pretty great options).
04. Explore serendipitous letter combinations
Monograms don’t have to be restricted to dressing gowns and wedding invitations, and when given the right treatment, company initials formed into a typographic lockup can make for a simple but effective emblem for a brand.
This is notably true in the fashion sector – Coco Chanel’s interlocking Cs and Yves St Laurent’s dollar sign-esque lockup being standout examples. Also see our best 3-letter logos for other marks that combine characters in effective ways.
Sometimes even the simplest typesetting can reveal serendipitous ‘accidents’ that, developed properly, can lead to twists of genius. One classic example is Landor’s FedEx mark, the hidden arrow between the ‘e’ and the ‘x’ making an otherwise plain sans-serif logotype the toast of logo design critics the world over.
Try typing out the brand name in different typefaces and perhaps a similar happy accident could occur in your own work. See our post on logo Easter eggs you might have missed for more examples of hidden messages in logos.
05. Take ownership of an entire typeface
If your client can afford it, working with a specialist bespoke type design agency such as Dalton Maag or Fontsmith to develop a fully branded typeface family can put typography front and centre of a brand’s personality, transcending the logotype and permeating all brand communications.
Between them, these two agencies have worked for an array of brands including Nokia, Lush, Rio 2016, Sainsbury’s, ITV and Lloyds. “Type defines the tone of voice of a brand by its emotional qualities,” Dalton Maag founder Bruno Maag told Computer Arts in the video interview below.
“A grotesque typeface such as Univers, Arial or Helvetica feels more masculine, mechanical and engineered – colder – than, say, a Frutiger, which is a humanist sans serif with more open, warm, friendly, approachable tones. Whereas a serif typeface may appear old-fashioned, or bookish.”