Typography Can Make or Break Your Logo: Tips for Designers
February 20, 2021
Font selection is one of those aspects of design that many seem to take for granted. As someone who has an innate love for words and letters, typography has always fascinated me. Good typography is a great marrying of design and storytelling, in a manner quite different from purely visual design.
The History of Typography
Way back in the mid-1400s, Johannes Gutenberg created the world’s first printing press. In 2007, I had the opportunity to view one of these old presses for the first time. I could not help but stop and stare at its mechanisms, its crudity. It enthralled me. While others quickly moved on to other objects and artifacts in the museum, I stood mesmerized by the press, taking in the scope of its history and what it represents. The impact of text on human culture has not diminished over time. This impact stretches to the use of text in the design world. Humanity has always had art, but the accessibility of printed text dramatically changed civilization.
The art of typography for design has become something I am drawn to almost despite myself; typography speaks to something quite powerful about human history and the development of modern society. Printed words put intellect and ideas in the hands of the common people. This is why typography should not be taken lightly as part of the design process. Great typography can sometimes evoke even more emotion than a great photo or piece of design artwork on its own. Typography has a strong role to play in good logo design. Letters and words naturally tell stories, even on their own – even without a string of combinations to create sentences. The letters and shapes communicate beyond their stature. By their very nature words, and indeed letters, speak.
Typography Tips for Beginners
Typography logo design can seem overwhelming, especially as a beginner, but it can be a fun and extremely creative process. Read these typography tips for beginners to help you get started.
- Focus on the brand identity — Any logo you create should be highlighting the brand’s persona.
- Stay consistent — If you create a typography style for the homepage of a website, that style should be used across all the other pages as well.
- Stay readable — For a typography logo to be impactful and memorable, it needs to be easily readable. This includes using a font that is legible for everyone.
- Keep it simple — Aim to use three or fewer fonts in your logo design. Too many font options can clutter up the design and make it harder to read or understand.
- Choose web-friendly fonts — Since almost everything you create for typography logo designs will be used online, ensure that the fonts you choose are easy to use on websites.
Here are some basic typography practices that every logo designer should know.
Kerning is the process of adjusting spaces between individual letters of any font. If the font you’ve chosen is mostly proportional except for a few letters, kerning helps you fix any odd spaces. These minor spacing problems aren’t easily seen with the untrained eye; however, most people can tell that the word looks off, even if they can’t place why.
Script fonts are so named because they closely resemble handwriting styles such as cursive and calligraphy. Using script typography in a logo design gives you the flexibility to create both modern or traditional styles.
Displays are meant to catch attention and display fonts are no different. These fonts are more decorative and eccentric and are meant to catch the eye, drawing attention to wherever they are used. Display fonts should be used sparingly as they can easily overwhelm design layouts.
Tracking has to do with the overall spacing between letters in a word. Not to be confused with kerning, which deals with spacing between individual letters, tracking looks at the spacing of the whole word. Tracking can be preset in a design program to space all letters evenly for any font you use.
Negative space in a typographic logo design is any space between or around the image. Having negative space makes a logo read better but it also presents an opportunity to create hidden images in the empty space. Think of the FedEx logo with its hidden arrow in the space between the E and X. That is a perfect example of using negative space to add another image.
Letterform refers to the shape of the letters used in typography. You can alter the shape, size, and orientation of the letterform to create a unique style for a logo design.
How to Make Typography Fun
While most typography logo designs are made to be professional, they can still be fun. You can try a variety of approaches, including:
- Ditch the computer for handcrafted designs
- Doodle playful options to see where your mind takes you
- Play with different concepts
- Add personality, or personification, into your typography
- Don’t aim for perfection; little imperfections add a unique touch
Understand Font Families
There are different groupings of fonts called font families. While each font can be used individually, using other related fonts helps create cohesion and unity in your logo designs.
An Additional Tip
Stretch or alter the letters to tell a story or evoke an emotional response. This is one of my favorite aspects of logo typography. A prime example is this typographic logo for a company called Killed Productions. The design is so simple it almost looks easy. However, the precision with which the font was selected, the spacing, and the choice to knock the ‘i’ down flat creates something that is instantly memorable, recognizable, and amusing. Instead of having a design around the text, the text is the design itself.
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Even the greatest artistic design, if combined with badly created typography or poor choice of font, will fall flat. It’s very important to choose your typeface wisely and keep in mind that font is more than just letters. Be aware of what you are saying with the font you choose and how you use it.
If you have any examples of great or poor use of typography in design, please share them here! We’ll compile a list with the highlights.