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Why you should never underestimate your typeface

By 27th November 2020January 24th, 2023No Comments
typeface and typeography

When it comes to web design, perhaps one of the most overlooked elements is typography. It’s very easy to get caught up in the bigger picture – the colours, elements and copy of the website – but does typeface really make a difference?

As the following examples show, typography is about more than just establishing your brand. Font categories have the ability to divide whole industries, spark lawsuits and even solve crimes. Next time you shrug off that typeface, remember these true stories.

Fonts polarise professionals

It’s a long-standing joke among designers that Comic Sans is the lowest common denominator of font families. It’s inspired industry professionals to create whole websites calling for its ban, making bold statements like: “It’s analogous to showing up for a black-tie event in a clown costume.”

By some stroke of magic, Comic Sans birthed an even more contentious font-family: Comic Papyrus. In 2016, there was a scandal among the font world when Papyrus changed its name to Parchment, with its creator claiming there was “no link” to Comic Sans.

Though the typeface appears to be a blend of funky fonts Comic Sans and Papyrus, creator Ben Hartman has denied the connection. The name change has baffled designers ever since.

Font creators can get in a lot of trouble

The 2018 Russian World Cup was the centre of its own typography scandal. While the ‘global identity’ for the World Cup branding was created by Portuguese agency Brandia Central in 2014, all player equipment typography is slightly different.

Fast forward four years and design experts were noting the similarities between the Russian World Cup designs and the 2014 Brazil World Cup branding. In tandem with the logo, the typeface was quite literally plagiarising itself, according to industry professionals.

Litigious allegations also befell the 2019 Women’s World Cup. BBC Sport was accused of plagiarising not only a book title, but a typeface. Their chosen slogan, “slay in your lane” was originally used as the title of a book designed to empower black women.

Critics noted that not only had it been trademarked, but the typefaces on both the campaign and book were similar.

Fonts can solve crimes

This cautionary tale likely delighted the designer community back in 2017. The font family Microsoft Calibri proved a crucial element in solving a corruption scandal in Pakistan.

The case was linked to the 2016 Panama Papers leak, and involved the prime minister’s daughter handing over documents in 2006. There was just one problem – the documents were typed up in Calibri, which wasn’t commercially available until 31st January 2007. Investigators used this as evidence of forgery.

Fonts can save lives

As in-car technology continues to advance, experts at MIT are claiming certain typefaces can save lives. The reason? It all comes down to distractions on in-car infotainment systems.

According to MIT’s research, ‘humanist’ font families are easier to read than ‘grotesque’ fonts. To clarify:

  • Humanist styles are based on geometric shapes e.g. Tahoma
  • Grotesque styles are the earliest sans serif fonts and are considered plain e.g. Arial

Researchers said that humanist letterforms are more open with increased spacing, which led to 11% less time spent glancing at in-car systems.

Think before you font

As we can see here, font families do more than just cause arguments among designers. They can impact the way users perceive your brand, or generate publicity…for better or for worse.

Next time you shrug off your font family choice, don’t forget the psychology of your decision. If you’re looking for design help in the Lancashire area, contact Tall Zebra Designs today.

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