Typefaces can be a tricky design element in branding. On the one hand, they should perfectly suit the brand that they are associated with and become an integral part of the overall branding design. On the other hand, the right typeface for your brand should be almost invisible—a design element so well suited that the viewer hardly takes notice. So how do you ensure that you choose the right typefaces to associate with your brand, be it for use within the logo itself or for use in the complementary text on a brochure or website? Here are a few simple guidelines to follow.
Keep It Simple!
First, you must remember from the start that the typefaces you select for your brand are going to remain your “brand” typefaces for years to come. Consistency in the typefaces you select for designed materials over the coming years will not only simplify the design process; it will also help to create brand recognition. Choose one, the main typeface for your logo (if your logo involves text, that is), and possibly one other simple typeface for secondary text (such as explanatory text that will appear below your company logo on the website.) The most successful brands hover around using about two typefaces max, with many brands using only one. Target, for example, features the popular Helvetica typeface in both its logo and in all advertising copy.
Decide: Serif or Sans Serif
The main division in typefaces that you will come across has to do with whether or not the typeface has serifs or those small projections that finish off the strokes of a letter. Serif typefaces tend to look more traditional and scholarly, as they were the norm in typography for centuries. Sans serif typefaces, on the other hand, have been around since the mid-18th century, but they have seen their most heavy use in the modern era, giving them a more modern feel. So, if you want to communicate a “classic” or “professional” feel with your branding, serif might be the right choice for your logo. If you are an up-and-coming company that wants to communicate your modern edge, then a sans serif typeface might be better. Keep in mind here that these rules are not cut and dry. Some serif typefaces, for example, are styled in such a way that they have a whole different feel altogether. Slab serifs, for example, feature-heavy serifs that give them a more modern, though academic, feel.
Pick a Complementary Secondary Typeface
If you’ve selected a typeface for your logo and need to select a second one for your general body text, keep in mind that this second typeface needs to complement the first typeface you’ve selected. This means that it should contrast with the first typeface without veering into a different style altogether. You might, for example, select a neutral, yet professional-looking sans serif typeface to accompany a traditional serif typeface in your logo (one reason why Helvetica is so popular). Or, you might feature a heavily bolded, uppercase sans serif typeface in your logo and then select a thin-lined sans serif typeface in your body text.
Keep Versatility in Mind
Before you reach for that second typeface (or think that you need a third one), remember that each typeface on its own typically carries with it a great deal of versatility. Typographic options such as bolding, italics, uppercase, and extended tracking allow you to use the same typeface over and over again to fill a variety of roles, allowing you to keep things interesting, yet cohesive in your typography.