The Font Hierarchy of Brand Identity Design

The Font Hierarchy of Brand Identity Design

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

In an ever-advancing digital world, appreciation for typography has hit an all time high, with the font related decisions of major brands causing a stir, whilst fonts themselves draw tribal like following or despise

When considering brand identity design it’s often the logo and colour scheme that are foremost considerations, but typography also forms a vital part in creating one cohesive brand image. A company can have the best logo in the world, but this will all be undermined in an instant with an ill-fitting font. Typography’s impact on brand image should not be underestimated, after all it will convey every text-based message of the brand. This need only becomes more vital the longer a user will interact with the brand, product, app, website or a combination of these. 

Unlike vector logos or pantone colours, the use of fonts and ensuring these adhere to a brand image is a little more technically challenging when it comes to digital design. In digital form, most fonts display correctly by being dependent on existing on the user’s system in the first place. This is slowly changing with innovations like Google Fonts, but in any web design for example back up fonts are written into the code to ensure that at least if a brand’s usual font is not available on the viewer’s system, another more favourable common font would be. 

There’s also the fonts themselves, and how in varying forms or even the same font family they all must work to compliment the brand image. It’s this requirement, and a recent conversation with a friend, which has lead me to sketch out my “font hierarchy” of brand identity design, shown in the infographic for a fictional jewellery store, “Forever”. 

Whilst this is a heirachy in terms of font application, I’m going to start at the top:

The Logo/ Logo Font
At the pinnacle is the logo font. This in my view is sacred, and should only ever be used for the logo or where it will appear with a pictographic logo. It is a great irritation of mine when I see the same font used in a company’s logo emblazoned on every other piece of literature that requires emphasis. The logo font will probably spend much of it’s life as vector outlines or image, so this is the area where typography can be at its most creative and outlandish – just as long as it is clearly legible, and suits the brand. In the example here, I’ve chose a font with an elegant handwriting style, to emphasis a brand focused on individuality, quality and detail. 

Sub Brand/Product Brand Font
Underneath the sacred logo font sits a font reserved only for sub brands, product branding or services. This should compliment but not outshine any typography used for the main logo identity. Where custom or exotic fonts are used it may be necessary for this font to appear as outline or image too, particularly in web applications. Here I’ve used a font which forms a nice visual bridge between the logo font’s handwriting style, and the sans-serif main text font. 

Header Font
Next is the header font. This appears anywhere for a title and should be easily legible. Here restrictions start to take prominence – is this a common font resident on most computer systems, and easily adaptable in digital design? Here I’ve used Gill Sans – a stylish, modern looking font, the elegant lines of which compliment the logo and product brand fonts. 

Main font
Finally the main text, used for every piece of main ‘paragraph’ text communication – from internal e-mails to customer e-mail marketing, brochures or manuals. For simplicity, this must absolutely be a common font resident on most digital systems. Here I’ve used Gill Sans again – for further simplicity and ease of application, maintaining header and main fonts within the same font family is preferable. 

The Brand Personality
Of upmost importance is how all of these fonts work together to influence the overall brand image, and personality. This is entirely dependent on the application, but with a careful balance typography can add bountiful weight to the overall brand image. 

Why do you think about typography’s influence on brand identity? Do you agree with the hierarchy proposed? Let me know in the comments below.  

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