“You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone,” sang Joni Mitchell in her 1970 hit “Big Yellow Taxi.” The same philosophy could certainly be applied to branding. We will often have an association or link to a particular brand and may not appreciate how tied we are to that brand’s look and feel, until it changes. Andy Payne, chief global creative officer at Interbrand said, “Like signatures, brand names and fonts create recognition, identification and differentiation; their expression being carefully informed by the values and personality attributes of the brand owner. The more unique and identifiable the letter forms, the greater their ability to travel while still maintaining their original character. The associations and emotional triggers that fonts evoke on a daily basis, play an important role in helping our decision making process.” With such an important emphasis placed on branding and the attributes of the brand, including the typography used, businesses need to carefully considertheir options before making any significant changes.
There are times when a brand wants and needs and refresh. Andy Paynecontinued, “As with most parts of brand identity, fonts may need to evolve with their times to ensure they are always sending the relevant message to theirreaders.” But these changes need to be implemented with sensitivity and caution – something at which even big brands are guilty of failing. The most recent example is Microsoft’s decision to change its logo and font for the first time in over 25 years. This decision has wider implications than Microsoft’s design team simply wanting a change and the fierce reaction by the public and analysts clearly supports this, demonstrating the integral part branding plays. Despite the varying opinions on the actual look of the brand, the reason for changing it points to the desire by the company to reinvent itself.
One of the most famous branding controversies in recent years was that of Ikea, which changed its signature typeface from a customised version of Futura, an integral part of the company’s brand, to what it said was a more “functional” off the shelf font, Verdana. Ikea had built its success on its design strength - whether it be the products it sold, the layout of the store, or the catalogue it printed. Its decision to fix something that wasn’t broken created such a furore that a petition was launched with the aim of reminding people and corporations how the importance of design and how much it matters. The online forum Typophile posted “It’s a sad day” on its blog referring to the change and Ikea’s branding betrayal was felt keenly by the design community which considered the company one of their own. A design consultant Marius Ursache commented, “If a company like Ikea can make this mistake, you have to wonder who is going to lead when it comes to design.”
The above examples demonstrate that typography forms a major part of a company’s brand. Most companies will select a font which has already been designed by a type foundry. However, some will identify a need to develop something bespoke or custom which speaks to their audience clearly and is easily identified as belonging to their brand. Using type experts who have extensive knowledge of font formats, languages and scripts, platforms and environments enables the brand to solve complex typographic problems. A company like Monotype can create custom fonts - existing fonts that are modified to meet a customer’s requirements or bespoke fonts, which are completely new fonts designed for a particular use.
Monotype has worked with major brands across all industries including British Airways, The Daily Telegraph, Vogue, Waitrose, and Xbox 360 to develop custom fonts developed and tailored specifically for their needs. Working with Monotype’s font experts has enabled these brands to inject their own values and identity into the logo and the text. They now enjoy a unique and highly recognisable style as well as the benefit of unrestricted font use with no licensing costs. For Waitrose, Monotype set out to design a logo and font family that was born out of a distinctive, classically contemporary look and feel. Waitrose wanted to display its brand values of quality, honesty, excellence and simplicity so a clean, crisp custom font was created by the team which is now used across all Waitrose products.
Another brand, the British Council needed a font that would work internationally. Tony Bains, Head of Design said, “Commissioning our own font was the best investment we could have made in our identity. Monotype designed a versatile new sans serif that’s perfect for our wide variety of applications. Our Web site is the main international gateway to our services, so on-screen performance is also critical. We operate in 110 countries so the Latin typeface has to work alongside many languages. Monotype international expertise helped us develop our global solution.”
A brand is the window to a company’s soul. Once a brand’s identity is established businesses should consider carefully before rushing into a significant change. Expert consultancy can help to measure all the options and create a bespoke look which represents the brand and its values in the mostaccurate way.
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