On type and typography

Type is powerful. It can change perceptions, convey personality, emotion and in many cases, gives an image when used in the corporate environment. Matthew Carter, who was responsible for Verdana, Georgia, Charter and Bell Centennial, to name a few, spoke at TED in March, and I found the talk interesting to see how type has come forward to where we are today. If you haven’t seen the video, it’s linked here .

I find typography an interesting area, partly for the reasons above, but also, when I do a few projects, it’s a powerful means to convey a message. Consider the Sainsbury’s recent rebrand, where they went from a primarily Interstate setting (with hideous Voss — there was an interesting post I once saw which said ‘Easy on the Voss!’) to one which used a varient of Stag to become ‘Sainsbury’s Slab’ to convey messages which would appear on large signs. Interstate would remain on packaging and for smaller text. This worked somewhat well, since Voss was a difficult font to read from distance, and Interstate simply didn’t have the weight behind it to make an impact. Interstate itself wasn’t the problem – it was designed with distance reading as a key part. The issue came from the fact that it’s weight was too light to make a customer stop and look. Stag is a very heavy font, and that means that when contrasted against the background, a customer is more likely to read the text, since it’s larger, more distinct and bold.
That said, ‘Sainsbury’s Slab’ didn’t last as long as I expected it to. Instead, a new, custom typeface ‘Mary-Ann’ was brought in with no ‘rebranding’ information to accompany it. Presumably, the name of the typeface comes from Mary Ann Sainsbury, the wife of John Sainsbury, founder of the company. That said, elements of Stag remain in the composure of the face – with a very heavy weight available to perform the task that Stag achieved in many settings. Unlike Stag, it’s not limited to a single weight, so it’s applicable for many settings, such as email, web settings and more.

Another subtle rebrand I saw very recently, was that of Good Technology, who are behind Good for Enterprise, a well-established email and collaboration application for secure messaging in a company. Previously, their logo was simple; a red square with a heavily kerned Helvetica Neue Bold face. This was simple, but clean and when viewing some of their presentations, it was complimented well. Now, their logo has kept the red colour, but is now in a kerned, but modified version of Open Sans, with an unidentifiable ‘G’ in the shape of a padlock. Helvetica is reserved and is professional, but it needs help to carry across an image, which Good hadn’t performed well – the apps weren’t consistent with the logo type (maybe this was on purpose?). With the new logo, the website certainly is consistent with their materials, as seen at GoodExchange, a conference led by Good Technology.

Clean, simple but conflicting

The original logo – powerful, but lacking









I might be a hypocrite then, since I used fonts like Museo but continued to use Helvetica for headings etc. Maybe there should be some moderation on what typefaces work well with each other, to convey a particular image.

June 2014

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