Without a doubt my favorite college class was Typography. The professor was very good and intimidating at the same time. The expectations were high. At least once or twice a week students would leave the class crying. I had butterflies in my stomach every time I walked into that classroom.
Although it may not sound appealing, this class became my favorite because it took my work to a whole new level. I spent hours reading about the history of typefaces, original printing processes, and memorizing every little element that makes up the anatomy of a letter. I learned how fonts connect a story to words. Every brand should be designed to tell a story – to influence the audience to have certain perceptions. As soon as I grasped this concept as a young graphic design student, I watched my projects become more successful. They told the story they were intended to tell.
Why is this important to you as small business owner?
Start with purposeful typography. If you haven’t already invested in a professionally designed brand, it is important that you go back to the basics and determine your brand fonts. Consider the emotion and perception you want your brand to have. I encourage you to hire a professional to help you with this step. Fonts can be thought of as a person’s visual appearance. You make a first impression mostly by your body language, clothes, and overall appearance. The same word can take on various meanings when different fonts are applied to it. Just like a person, fonts can be perceived as sporty, professional, fun, creative, friendly, edgy… the list goes on. Technical factors that contribute to these perceptions are serifs, weight, kerning, x-height, terminals, decender style and historical background. If you feel confident taking these elements into consideration when selecting the fonts for your brand, great! If not, hire a professional.
Maintain purposeful typography. Once your brand fonts have been determined, it is important for you to maintain consistency. Because the fonts are often the first impressions you have with your audience (whether that is through your logo, the text on your website, your signage, the fonts used on printed materials) it is important that you are consistent in telling the same story. You have milliseconds to make the correct impression.
“What about changing it up every now and then? I get bored with my fonts and I want to spice it up for things like the holidays!” Yes, I hear you. There are very few instances where I would recommend incorporating a new font into your branding. Lets go back to the clothing analogy. For this example we are going to say that you want to be recognized as a cowboy. You have strategically chosen your cowboy outfit to include a cowboy hat, jeans, a button up plaid shirt and boots. When people look at you, they instantly think cowboy. Now you have become tired of your outfit and want to change things up to get attention for the holidays, specifically Saint Patrick’s Day. You trade in the cowboy hat for a leprechaun hat and don a kilt instead of your jeans. Two things happen when people look at you: 1) they don’t recognize that it is you because they associate your personal brand with “cowboy” and you no longer look like a cowboy and 2) they are confused about what message you are sending because you are still wearing your cowboy boots.
I realize you may find this analogy to be silly, but if you put it back into perspective of a brand you will realize how often small business owners fall into this trap. There are other things the cowboy could have done to show excitement/involvement in Saint Patrick’s Day. Perhaps a green flannel shirt and a clover leaf belt buckle? Still recognizable as a cowboy but now also connected to a current event/holiday/season. Approach your branding the same way. You should have dedicated fonts to your brand. Use only those fonts and find other design elements (ie. color, photography, iconography, pattern, texture, etc) to make temporary associations.
Your brand typography makes a huge first impression with your audience, don’t risk making the wrong first impression with the wrong fonts or losing the association with your brand by changing the fonts.