Putting Your Best Font Forward

Finding the perfect typeface for your next project takes skill and know-how. Here we put together three different takes on type and why they work so well.

Type says a lot about a brand. Letters are a language in themselves, communicating personality traits like sophistication, simplicity, and whimsy. They can shout or they can whisper. It’s also very subjective, so knowing your audience is critical. With so many typefaces to choose from, it can be overwhelming—and nearly impossible—to make the right choice for your client.

The following projects demonstrate vastly different type applications, with compelling results that speak to their intended audiences.

Herschel’s Coffee Co.

Design: Mustafa Akülker, co-founder, Monajans

Usually, the simpler a logo is, the better. Such is the case for the logo mark for Herschel’s Coffee Co., in Amsterdam, designed by Mustafa Akülker of Monajans. “I wanted the design to be very minimal, so I used a sans serif for the logotype, but then went with an italic serif Hs for the optional logo in contrast,” he says. “I like the softness of the brand with the italic font.”

The Hs can stand alone as an identifier or be used with the full name of the coffee shop. When used with the name, it’s like the crown jewel—that added touch of elegance. The soft curves of the uppercase H next to the lowercase s, create an almost theatrical overture.

A big part of the success of this identity is also the subtle, yet distinct, color palette. “You can see various tones of brown by imagining coffee beans and milk mixed together,” he notes. “I also wanted to emphasize the memorability of the brand by using blue because it’s a nice companion to brown. It adds sophistication and class, much like how I envision a discerning coffee drinker.”

Pro Tip: It can be tricky pairing a sans serif with a serif. Test many variations and ask others their opinions about what is and isn’t working and why.

Molbak’s Garden + Home

Design: Cindy Tyler

When you have a beautiful product, show it off with great photography. There’s nothing more luminous and captivating than the natural landscape, and Molbak’s Garden + Home store, in Woodinville, Wash., uses photography to great effect in their seasonal promotions featuring lush, living plants. Designer Cindy Tyler explains, “Appealing photography is essential, as is the styling. We aren’t just selling plants, we are also selling ideas and inspiration.”

For instance, Molbak’s Lookbook provides recipes, gardening tips, and useful information about plant varietals so consumers make the right choices when purchasing plants to harvest. The photos are often featured full page, with content creatively overlaid. The hand-lettered headers were part of an overall brand strategy incorporated a few years ago to create a more hands-on, friendly feel, similar to chalkboard lettering. However, due to the volume of materials she produces, Tyler says, “It’s not possible to have them actually done by hand, so I went with the next best thing – a computer-generated font that looks hand-drawn. We also use our standby sans serif face (Myriad Pro) for larger amounts of copy.” And it works. Coupons, mailers, and the website all incorporate this open, inviting style.

Pro Tip: When placing type over photos, find the greatest contrast and most visually interesting layout to draw the reader in and complement the imagery.

 

Maisons Paysannes de France

Design: Graphéine

Art direction and type design: Jérémie Fesson

Motion design: Philip de Canaga

The Maisons Paysannes de France was formed in 1965 to preserve buildings and rural landscapes that were abandoned during the rural exodus. However, more than 50 years later, its identity was outdated and overlooked so the association commissioned Graphéine to bring the brand to life. Art director, Jérémie Fesson, did just that by designing an entire alphabet, called MPF Display. The letters in this dedicated typeface can be dismantled and shifted to create patterns evoking construction and movement of architectural elements. Every visual form was considered from the accent marks and punctuation, to the dot on the i.

The stencil lettering, in essence, deconstructs to create unique, decorative elements that are in constant flux. The letter variables are played out in print and online. There’s even a video demonstrating the fluidity of the letter parts and the different ways they can be played out. Each element flutters and flows beautifully on its own and when firmly planted in place on its letterform. “Some letters, like the a and s, have several different writings: This small detail—which often goes unnoticed at first–gives a singularity to the graphics that represents the spirit of a peasant house,” says Fesson.

Pro Tip: Be sure to consider every moving part, including letterspacing and punctuation when designing an entire alphabet. Each detail is critical to its success.

Matteo Bologna: Pushing the Limits of Typography

As a young, horny man living in his mother’s house in Milan, Italy, Matteo Bologna taught himself how to design type while on the phone with an annoying girlfriend. While she talked and complained and cried for hours on end, he toyed with the seductive curves and shapes of letterforms on his computer, and eventually broke up with the girl. He found typography to be much sexier. Besides, her pasta would never be as good as his mama’s.

Young Matteo’s love of typography only intensified when he started receiving The Type Director’s Club (TCD) annuals filled with designs by Louise Fili, Paula Scher, Seymour Chwast, and Charles S. Anderson. He copied and cajoled their work, and knew the only chance he had to really break into design was to move to New York City, which he did in 1994. Shortly thereafter, he formed Mucca and he landed a big break, designing the brand for a new French brasserie, Balthazar, which quickly became famous for its delectable breads, pastries, and pommes frites. The design community also took notice of Matteo for his exquisite handling of the restaurant’s identity. The rest, as they say, is history.

Here we talk to Matteo about the power of type in design and the ways in which he pushes it. Read the interview here.

Lettering and Calligraphy: How to tell the difference

In recent years, lettering and calligraphy have experienced a resurgence in popularity. These two art forms have a strong kinship and are well worth exploring. You’d be well advised to understand their differences before listing them in your portfolio, though.

Martina Flor and Giuseppe Salerno challenged each other a couple of years ago to a competition of sorts. They created a site called Lettering vs Calligraphy, and each day they would create a letter—Flor, a letterer and Salerno, a calligrapher— “to explore the capabilities of the two technical approaches.” Here, they discuss the finer points between the two practices and talk about the competition and recent projects.

What is hand lettering and how is it different from calligraphy and type design? 

Martina: Lettering is essentially drawing letters. While type design focuses on creating a full alphabet that works in all its possible combinations, lettering often deals with just a word or phrase. These are drawn for a particular use and no fonts are involved.

Lettering and calligraphy have a doubtless relationship. However, the different nature of each (lettering is drawing, calligraphy is writing) has an impact on the artwork. While lettering often imitates the spontaneous movement of writing, it is the result of careful decision-making. It is the product of determined calculation on how that curve or shape should look. In this sense, lettering and type design are design-related disciplines, whereas calligraphy stands on the side of art. Read the rest of the article here.

Stylish-G
Martina Flor’s lettering, left; Giuseppe Salerno’s calligraphy, right.

How @Goodtype Made Hand-lettering Instagram Famous

If Brooke Bucherie, the force behind the uber-popular @Goodtype Instagram feed, has learned anything from her sizable social media presence (150,000 followers and counting), it’s this: stick to what you know and do it really well. However, the Austin, Texas-based designer didn’t start out trying to take over #typography; she was just trying to organize the growing photo album of hand-lettered pics on her phone. Now, what began as a personal obsession has grown into a design destination for lettering junkies to see inspiring work, interact with one another, and post their own projects. So how did it all happen? Turns out it was actually kind of an accident. Read the rest of the article here. GOODTYPE-WORD-SKETCH