Written by Scott Milton

The power of a typeface

“I don’t believe in choosing a typeface because it’s on trend or popular within the design industry.”

To most people a typeface can been seen as pretty insignificant and they just can’t understand why designers take so much time and care choosing between two fonts that to them look almost identical. To a designer, it is possibly the most important aspect of creating a design.

A well chosen typeface has the power to create an emotional connection with the reader. Get the typeface right and it can mean the difference between having an audience engage with your message or disregard anything you have to say. It’s like choosing what you wear in the mornings: if you have an important meeting that day you’d want to dress professionally. It’s unlikely you’d choose to turn up in joggers and a hoody. So it is with a typeface, serious and authoritative, cheeky and fun, strong and powerful the style of type must enhance the message.

It wasn’t until my second year of university that I really understood typography and the power it can have over design. I created my first font as part of a project to redesign the cover for 'The Wind In The Willows'. Admittedly, I only created the letters that feature in the book title but it was my first taste of exploring the emotional connection you can create with type and the fun you can have during that process.

Now that I’m part of a design studio my interest and involvement in typography goes far beyond the playful concept of a University project. Earlier this year I had the pleasure of creating a full typeface as part of a branding project. The brief was exciting and the new brand needed to appeal to designers and creative people from other industries. I found this to be a daunting challenge knowing that I would be creating a visual language for some of the harshest critics in the industry.

Giving yourself time to consider a typeface is important because it allows you to try out and explore other options you may not of previously considered, without rushing and committing to something you couldn’t get on with later down the line.

I was aware of how big a challenge creating a typeface can be so for my first attempt I decided to use an existing font as a guide. I started with Gotham Rounded as the foundation for my typeface. From this I was able to craft character into the font that was relevant for the brand. I believe that taking an existing typeface and tailoring it to your needs is a great way of learning about type design. However, I don’t believe in choosing a typeface because it’s on trend or popular within the design industry. Everything should have a reason and purpose for being used. I could have settled for Gotham Rounded but it lacked the individuality I was after which is important when it comes to people recognising a brand.

I read a book called ‘Getting It Right With Type’ it gives a great overview of the basic understanding of typography. Learning these principles made my appreciation for designing typography stronger. I would recommend it to anyone who is considering creating their own typeface.

There is this short film on Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones.

It explains that you should start with the letter O and H before moving on to the D and P as these letters form the basic shapes to the other letterforms in the alphabet. Just that small piece of advice only increased my awareness of how much there is to learn about designing a font.

I was able to take this advice and apply it to my first typeface. Of course there’s still plenty to learn and I’m currently working on a few more projects that will have bespoke type treatments.

Choosing the right typeface is not just another gimmick.

Being able to choose the correct typeface is a skill and creating a bespoke typeface is an art.

Sometimes, the best typefaces are the ones you don’t notice because you didn’t need to notice them. Take this article for example; as you’ve been reading you haven’t been thinking about the typeface because it’s allowing you to fulfil your desired purpose: to read clearly.

So, the next time you find yourself having to choose a typeface pause for a second to consider what message or value it adds to your design.

The right typeface matters.