In public relations, messaging is everything. Whether that message is in-your-face through text or implied through design, how you say it matters.
One of the most basic, yet most neglected, aspects of messaging is typography. It’s on every communication platform in some capacity and conveys subliminal, if not obvious, meaning beyond the content.
For example, the rounded, bubble-like lettering of Lego branding appears to be youthful, sturdy and child-safe. Dove’s italicized lettering evokes feelings of softness, femininity, and elegance. Beyond the logo, these same concepts can also be expressed through copy. For instance, The Walt Disney Company’s use of Avenir Next in its body copy offers modern and clean (after all, avenir does translate to “future” in French), yet friendly overtones.
As Brittany Leaning puts it in her marketing blog on Hubspot, “Typography is the art and technique of arranging…letters and characters,” not just the art of scrolling through the dropdown menu until landing on something that looks nice. From the selection of point size to line length to spacing, typography encompasses everything you find at the top of Microsoft Word’s “Home” toolbar, and then some.
Luckily for most PR pros, there are designers to do the heavy lifting in the realm of typography, so they shouldn’t be expected to create a custom font from scratch anytime soon. But, there are some basics that all communicators should understand, especially when working within the nuances of branding.
To start, typography is a font or set of characters of the design. Times New Roman, Curlz MT, and Comic Sans are all different fonts. Typeface, also called font family, is made up of one or more fonts sharing a common design but varying weights, slants, and ornamentation.
When it comes to creating a design with text, including the layout of copy on a newspaper or website, kerning, tracking, and leading are important. Kerning is the adjustment of space between character pairs used to adjust the design of a word. Tracking is the space between each character evenly used to create blocks of text. Leading is the space between individual lines of text used to either make text easier to read or provide a stylized look when done properly.
Keeping fonts consistent is important in maintaining a cohesive brand. Limit the number of fonts used for a brand to just two or three, but be sure to select fonts that have enough contrast they evoke the intended feelings. As Creative Market demonstrates, if parried carefully, serif and sans serif fonts can go well together, but they suggest not using more than one decorative font or script for branding.
In the same way adding a splash of color to a graphic can make a world of difference, so can utilizing the power of typography. It’s a change of tone. When done correctly, a font alone can take a message from nostalgic to motivating to whimsical with the click of a mouse.
Think about your favorite brands and their visual messaging. Which do you think use fonts most effectively?