How does type make or break your branding?

We are surrounded by fonts and type everywhere we go. As I prepare this blog and glance around, I am surrounded by more than 20 different font types: from the lettering on the screen of my Mac, the bold typeface on my printer, to the more traditional Times New Roman on a return address envelope. With so many different variations, it’s no wonder type is sometimes an afterthought when the reality is that it should be one of the most important aspects of a brand’s identity.

You could say it’s a real niggle of ours, but fonts and typography in branding are hugely unappreciated. It’s immediately apparent when a brand has side-lined typography in favour of the other visual aspects of its identity (logo, colours and photography). There’s a feeling of disconnect as the type fails to support the visual and tonal messaging of the brand.

That’s why we place typography at the heart of the process. Without fail, every brand identity concept starts with us auditioning many typefaces until we hone in on the ‘right’ one. Quite simply, typography is the foundation of our brand identity design work, and within this blog we explain why.

Why should you embrace the superpower of typography in your branding?

If you were to remove the logo of some of the biggest brands in the world and change the wording, there’s a high chance that you would still recognise that brand in a blink of an eye. Why? Because brands designed with typography at the forefront understand that their audiences react to shape and form.

If we look at typography from a purely psychological perspective, the human mind has split-second reactions to type based on instincts, learned cultural norms and mental models. How we react to typography happens on a subliminal level without us being aware of how we feel. Therefore, your target audience will attribute a subconscious meaning and association to the typefaces you use within your branding.

To articulate the point in a little more detail, let’s look at the three ways in which typography can be used to tell your brand’s story and create an emotional connection with your audience.

1. Using type to carry your story

Type is a fundamental communication tool within brand identity. It is the glue that holds the elements of your brand identity together. From website visuals and advertising campaigns to your invoices, having a consistent type that expresses your brand is essential in carrying your story.

To breathe life into your messaging, you need an effective vessel that carries it, and this is exactly how typography works. After all, it is not just what you say (your written message); it’s also the font in which you say it. Fonts have the power to transform the meaning of a word in an instant and so turn text into stories.

There are literally thousands of fonts that you could choose from to help express your brand’s positioning, character traits, values, and cultural elements. That’s why typeface selection is so important. For example, do you want your brand to be friendly and playful or perhaps a little more conservative and straight-talking? The two personas would require very different typefaces. The possibilities are limitless, but if you know how you want your words to be read and what you are trying to express before you settle on a font, you’ll be in a far stronger position.

But remember, type should also be a true reflection of your tone of voice, as is the case with our client, Vale Designs, who create the most beautiful bespoke handmade kitchens from their Suffolk workshop. When we revisited their brand identity last year, we knew that the right typography would really help lift their brand identity and reflect the incredible craftsmanship in a very evocative way.

To achieve this, we combined a traditional serif with gorgeous ligatures reminiscent of quality craftsmanship and traditional cabinetry skills, paired with a handwritten font to mirror the kitchen drawing design process.

Vale Designs concertina leaflet showing three internal pages with copy, image and illustrations
Vale Designs’ fonts and typography in their concertina brochure
Vale Designs homepage and process webpage shown on two mobile phones
Vale Designs’ handwritten and serif typeface on their website

2. Creating distinction with fonts and typography

Introducing carefully chosen fonts and typography that carry your story can strengthen your brand’s distinctiveness and uniqueness. That’s why large brands invest in custom typefaces specifically designed for their branding. Just think of the quirky chunky typeface of Easy Jet or the iconic Johnston typeface used for the London Underground. You can already visualise them in your minds-eye. This is because fonts help to visually differentiate a brand and make it more memorable and recognisable, and so introducing the right font we help anchor your brand in people’s minds.

Although good fonts are widely available for free, you do need to weigh up the benefits of using one with how frequently it is used. This is especially important if your competitors are using the same or similar font type. So, as part of the font selection process, we always recommend allowing a budget for typeface licenses. This may sound expensive, but it needn’t be. There are established type foundries who offer quality typefaces at reasonable licensing costs, and in our experience, it always pays in the long-term to invest in distinctive, good quality typefaces.

A strong example is our client, lettings specialist, Concord Property. The team at Concord Property has built a successful business from taking a warm, empathetic and considered approach to letting. So, we decided on the typefamily TT Norms, a modern geometric typeface with a friendly and positive character.

The result is a bold and impactful message that has notes of warmth and characterful charm to emphasise their personal approach.

two Concord advertising posters next to each other on a wall
Examples of Concord Property’s advertisement typography

3. Resonate subliminally with typeforms

Type is often confused with just being text, but there’s a lot more to typography than words alone. The shape and form of a typeface serve as strong non-verbal communicators. Type can either support an image or be the image itself. After all, the mind recognises type as shapes that trigger an emotional reaction without us even knowing. This means it has the power to influence all our senses and not just the way we see and read words.

Believe it or not, typography can make us taste (think labels on a wine bottle) and encourage us to hear something as type can feel loud and shrill or quiet and soft.

With this in mind, the right font can instantly change our perception of a message and in turn, shape our perception of truth and brand authenticity.

Fonts build the character of your brand and carry your identity just as much as your logo or your colours do and should therefore work in harmony with all your brand identity assets.

For a cluttered world full of noise, fonts are the very notes that allow your brand to sing through, as is the case with our client, Lofty Heights CIC.

When we were first introduced by Suffolk Pro Help in 2020, Lofty Heights CIC’s brand was muddled. Their previous typography was ever-changing, non-distinct and uninviting; the opposite of Lofty Heights who help vulnerable people live safely at home through their specialist and sensitive decluttering service. The typeface did not give the impression of compassion, calmness, trust, and warmth.

Type was incredibly important in the new brand identity we created for Lofty Heights CIC. We choose a typeface with round and open letter shapes to communicate warmth, transparency, trust and an ethical approach to work seamlessly with the new logo and overall brand tone of voice.

cover of the lofty heights hospital discharge service depicting an illustration of a hospital bed with hoist and bedside table with lamp
Lofty Heights Hospital Discharge leaflet
laptop with opened lofty heights services landing page showing a number of cards and illustrations of the key services
Lofty Heights services landing page on their website

Final Thoughts

Quite honestly, there’s a lot more to typography psychology than has been covered, but hopefully, you’ve found this article helpful and inspiring. If you’re seeking to create a new brand or are going through a rebrand, we always advocate for placing typography at the heart of the process.

Even if you are only just beginning to have a conversation about the future of your brand, it’s never too early to start thinking about letter shape and form. At Studio Brand Up, we have an established process for teasing out the very essence of a brand to create brand identity assets (including fonts) that make memorable connections with audiences.

To find out more, please reach out to us. We’re always happy to meet for a chat.

About Franzi Scheithauer

Franzi is Creative Director at Studio Brand Up and specialises in brand strategy and identity design.