What is typography?

What is typography?

Wikipedia defines typography as “the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible, readable, and appealing when displayed.”

However, there is a lot more to typography than the purely functional definition. Type is everywhere, from this blog post to the text message on your phone, the info on the back of your cereal to the packaging for that new iPhone. To many, the collection of letters which make up the content we visually consume daily may seem insignificant. But for any successful brand, careful consideration of all aspects of typography is as important as any major business decision they make. Typography is as much about readability as it is about the message and feeling the reader takes away from it.

Take Apple as an example. It is well known that Steve Jobs was fanatical when it came to the look of Apple’s products and their packaging, advertising and marketing. A little known fact is that one of the few college courses he took was on calligraphy, lettering and typography. The evolution of Apple’s typography is like a timeline of their product range and their target market. For almost 20 years, Apple Garamond, an adapted version of the classical serif font was used on the Macintosh, including such minor details as the letters on the keyboard keys, on-screen and all related marketing. In 1993, when Apple began to venture into personal portable devices with the Newton PDA, their typographic style changed to Gill Sans, a timeless sans-serif font.

Since then they have stuck with the basic sans-serif design language through the development of the iPod, iPhone and iPad. What may not be obvious to the consumer though, is the constant tweaking and improving of that language to stay current and meaningful, to the current use of San Fransisco, a custom designed font which is used on everything from the product logos to the typography on their website, ensuring that the Apple visual language is incredibly consistent. This goes to show that even the smallest detail, even a typeface, can have a huge impact on one’s brand.

So what does this mean in marketing? Simply put, choosing the right typography for your brand and marketing is not as simple as choosing the first font in a drop-down menu. Careful consideration should be used to select the right font, and once that has been chosen, even the amount of letter-spacing used can have a significant impact on the look and feel of the type. Taken to the next level, some companies may choose to have custom typefaces designed solely for their use, ensuring exclusivity.

Article by Warren Chaplin – Designer

Warren has extensive experience in the design and
advertising industry in New Zealand and South Africa
Let Warren help your brand stand out. Contact him today.