When building a web page, designing a company brochure or flyer, or creating a logo; the first step most people take is clicking on the drop down menu and selecting a font. Usually the main criterion is that the font looks “cool”.
The science and art of selecting typefaces is not new to the internet age and is known as typography, and despite a long history which proves that the font used plays a crucial part in a product’s image, it is applied far too infrequently.
Some fonts have become so identified with a particular brand that it is impossible to see any message set in that particular type without thinking of the brand. Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Disney and Lego are perfect examples.
Book publishers have long understood the importance of selecting the correct font and many include a note about not only which font was used but why on the end pages.
In the multi-dimensional world of the web, making the correct choices is even more important, as it can help engage the audience and give them a preview of the type of information that is being presented.
The analogy most often used when it comes to selecting a font is to think of it in terms of choosing what you are going to wear. A font can be anything from a tuxedo, a business suit, business casual, backyard barbeque attire or a masquerade costume. Regardless of the message, the font has a powerful impact on how the viewer interprets the message.
The typeface is just part of the overall impact of a logo or webpage and has to be considered in concert with the colors used and the overall design. The type must bring all of the aspects together.
The first step in choosing a font is to ask yourself some questions:
Sans Serif or Serif? – This may seem way too simplistic but this simple choice can set the tone for your message. Almost all typefaces fall into one of these two categories. Sans serif typefaces are perceived as more modern, while serif fonts (meaning the letters have “feet” at the ends of the letter is considered old fashioned, but have a long-standing image of being more readable.
What is your purpose? – If your message or product is serious, your logo and fonts should reflect that. If your product and message is fun, then use a “fun” logo, but keep in mind that some of the more unique fonts can wear out their welcome quickly. Also keep in mind that most people have a limited number of fonts installed on their computer. So while you may have found the perfect font for your logo and product page, it is useless if your audience can’t see it. If you are becoming bored with your normal font, experiment in the headings and titles, not the main copy.
Is your intention clear? – Many web page and logo designers attempt to create a sense of contrast in order to make a point. One of the tricks used is to use two different fonts. While it is more effective to use different weighting of the same font, like bold or italics, if you feel that the design is strengthened by using two different fonts, make sure they are from completely different genres. Using two old style fonts together actually serves to confuse your audience instead of reinforcing your message.
Did you test your design? – All browsers are not created equally. While a logo and web page may look great on a couple of browsers, make sure that it looks equally good on all of them. You mainly have to worry about the big three – Chrome, IE, and Firefox – but you should look at some of the even more obscure ones if your content appeals to specialty users.
Do you have enough information? – Make sure you truly understand the basics when designing your logo and webpages. One of the best books available is The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst.
Here is a sobering fact about logo design: there is a good chance that someone has already had a similar idea. Part of this is due to the sheer volume of information that we take in daily; a great deal of this information becomes part of our subconscious memories. It happens to songwriters; it happens to logo designers.
Designer Mike Donaldson summed it up well when he said, “Tell yourself at every step in the design process that someone has undoubtedly already thought of this and what can you do to really set it apart. In design, and particularly logo design, the pessimistic axiom that ‘everything has already been done’ is becoming more and more true, and it is only the virtuous designer who can continue to stand out in a sea of sameness.”
One of the classic examples of this is the NBC logo of 1976. In an effort to update the old “peacock” logo, the network debut a trapezoid logo. Part of their efforts to introduce the logo included a member of the Saturday Night Live cast appearing on stage in a costume of the new logos. A month after the introduction, NBC was contacted by the Nebraska ETV Network who stated that the new logo infringed on their logo which had been in use for over two years. The two reached an out-of-court settlement which included NBC giving Nebraska more than $800,000 in new equipment and paying $55,000 for the design and marketing of a new logo.
Paul Brand is famous for creating some of the more iconic logos in the world, including IBM, ABC and UPS. He said that “A logo does not sell (directly), it identifies. A logo derives meaning from the quality of the thing it symbolizes, not the other way around.”
Great logos all share five basic elements:
Here are four logos that are examples of effective use of all five elements:
Nike – The Nike “swoosh” is the ultimate in simplicity and works as well today as when first introduced. The logo gives the impression of movement and activity, and works in any print environments. The Nike logo is the one of the most recognizable in the world.
PokerStars – The world’s largest online poker site’s logo is a perfect example of a logo that appeals to the audience. Spades have always had the image of being the trump card, so placing a star inside the spade icon is simple and effective. The logo is ready made for use in collateral materials ranging from t-shirts to poker accessories.
AOL – America Online served as many people’s introduction to the web. While AOL’s importance is drastically diminished, the logo is still instantly recognizable and still fits a company whose main business is as a web portal.
Apple – Perhaps the best logo of all time, not just of the modern age, is Apple’s. It is instantly recognizable, can be applied with ease to any device or gadget the company develops, can be any color or combination of colors that is desired, and of course is laughably simple.
The digital age has proven the biggest catalyst to entrepreneurship since the Industrial Revolution. One of the key factors is the simplicity of starting and establishing one’s own brand. However, this same simplicity can lead to faulty implementation. It is important to look at the simple things, like fonts and logos, as part of any business strategy.
This post has been written by the team here at Splashnology.com
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