“On brand” has become a trendy idiom for describing an action that’s very much in line with one’s personality. We now joke about what’s typical of our loved ones by using this description in statements like, “Oh, that’s very on-brand for them.” This expression works because we inherently understand that brands have a personality, one that is consistent, even reliably predictable – down to the very fonts it uses for branding. And when we see a company’s logo, we immediately recognize what kinds of services or products it might offer. We also get a sense of its spirit.
The first step in branding is to define the personality. Then, you’ll have to design a logo, select fonts, and general appearance for the brand that represents this personality and supports your brand guidelines. Essentially, this is an act of making sure your brand always appears, well, “on-brand.”
Why are Fonts Important for Branding?
Part of establishing these important visual cues is choosing a proper font. Most brand logos feature text, and with good reason. Alluding to or displaying your company’s moniker ensures that viewers will later be able to associate the look of your business with a name. Very established, universal brands can get away with removing their name from their logo in some instances because the graphic material itself is so recognizable.
Social media platforms, for example, are widely associated with images: Instagram with the technicolor camera graphic and Twitter with its chirpy white bird on a blue background. Nonetheless, even the most ubiquitous brands have specially-chosen fonts that accompany these images in larger renderings of their logo. For example, many of us can likely bring to mind the whimsical script of Instagram’s brand name.
At least half of the work of correctly branding your company is figuring out your brand’s personality, including how it makes people feel and what it stands for. The rest is a question of design – including what font you pick. It’s important to consider lettering because the best fonts for branding are those that have personality but are clear and legible. Fonts provide an opportunity to not only communicate language but also for define and express character and identity.
What to Consider When Selecting Fonts for Branding
Take a Personality Test
At some point in our lives, we’ve probably all taken a personality test, whether for school, a job interview, or as a fun activity with friends. Think back to the last one you took. Many of the questions likely centered on the kinds of choices you would make in certain scenarios. The resulting answers probably helped form an opinion of your strengths and tendencies.
Now, apply similar logic to your brand. What does your brand do for people? How do you want it to make people feel? Just like you might say that being kind is very “on-brand” for one of your friends, you can make similar determinations for your company. Is your brand always fun and light, or is it a bit more serious? Are you selling comfort and ease or luxury? Consider your target audience and how you might want these individuals to feel about your service or product.
Often, companies aim to give off a sense of trust or reliability. Other brands like to show some edge. Sometimes, brands want to evoke modernity or nostalgia. Take the time to figure out what the feel of your company is so that you don’t unintentionally give off a mixed message. The good news is that you don’t need to be a professional designer to get this aspect right. Some high-profile rebrands have been very controversial among consumers because these designs didn’t capture the spirit of the brand they knew and loved. For example, when Mastercard changed its logo, consumers lost faith because they felt the new visual felt sloppy and confusing. The moral of the story is that sometimes even professionals don’t get branding right. It’s all about knowing the company through and through.
Photo by Patrik Michalicka on Unsplash
2. Decide Where You’re Taking Your Brand
Before you decide on a specific vision for your branding, take a step back, literally. As brands grow, their logos will need to take on different formats and sizes, from small cell phone icons to full-size billboards. If your vision includes small lettering, it could be hard to go big later on. If your logo is jam-packed with words, you could run into issues when needing to pare it down for social media platforms and so on. Don’t have a logo yet? Brush up on your logo design skills with our ultimate guide to logo design.
Also, consider your product(s). If you anticipate that your logo will appear on physical objects, think about the size and shape of these items before focusing on any given branding idea. It might be difficult, for example, to put complex lettering in a small space like a candy wrapper. On the other hand, if your branding font will go on the side of, let’s say, tractor-trailers, you’ll want to choose lettering with clean, precise lines that will be simple to enlarge and legible from far away.By considering how your branding will live on your product, this exercise will also help reaffirm whether the tone and feel of the lettering are right.
Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash
3. Do It With Style: Cool Fonts for Logos
Once you have a general idea of the kind of font you’d like to use, you’ll need to get more specific. If you dig into typography, you’ll find that there’s a wide range of font styles for brands, but let’s focus on a few key ones that everyone should know.
First, there are serif and sans-serif fonts. Serif fonts have little lines at the end of the letters and offer a bit more flourish. Some people also think they are easier to read, which is why publishing companies often use them for longer texts, like novels. Then, there are sans-serif fonts, which have no frills at the ends of letters and are associated with more modern, less academic texts. Within these two categories, there is still a lot of variety. But, the basics remain important. Because these two types of fonts inspire sentiments of tradition and modernity, respectively, they often create this effect for viewers who’ve been “trained” to think this way about them.
Example of a serif font
Example of a sans serif font
Then, there is a wide range of scripts: cursive letters that vary in formality and intensity. There are laid-back, modern scripts that look like the work of the average human hand and calligraphy-like fonts that look as if a professional inked them. More relaxed scripts can give off a hip, free-spirited vibe, and more complex ones can look nostalgic, even regal.
Example of a relaxed script
Example of a calligraphy script
Finally, there are display fonts. This type of lettering is the best fit for signs and large printed items, so it’s perfect when you need to go big, like in the example above about trucking company fonts. Display fonts aren’t necessarily simple – in fact, there are some very eye-catching ones – but the components of each letter render well on large surfaces, never looking hard-to-read, confusing, or tight. Conversely, display fonts are not the best choice for small spaces with lots of text. Yes, they make a statement, but they also make a lot of proverbial noise.
Example of a display font
Pro tip: Looking for more ideas? Check out our free logo templates for more logo font design inspiration.
4. The Fine Print: Considerations on the Best Branding Fonts
Time to cross your “T’s” and dot your “I’s.” When you’ve decided which lettering style you’d like to use, research free fonts in that category.
Be sure to try out different ways of lettering before completing your design. Your company could get as big as Facebook someday, so you might need one letter to do the work of representing your brand when faced with small display requirements, much as the Facebook “F” represents the company well across a variety of platforms. Try making a design with your brand name’s entire wording, another that also includes a tagline, and a third that pares the name down to an essential letter or symbol. Play around by using a different font for your tagline to create visual interest by contrasting your brand name and its description.
Photo by Souvik Banerjee on Unsplash
15 Beautiful Fonts for Brands
Fonts aren’t just letters; they’re symbols and part of pop culture. Helvetica is the punchline of jokes for being a little too cool for school, and Comic Sans is synonymous with the 90s. Because fonts say so much all by themselves, you’ll need to choose the one that best aligns with your brand promise. Check out the below 15 fonts for branding and see if they’re right for you.
Serif Fonts: A Classic
Serif fonts take themselves pretty seriously, so they’re a strong bet if you’re preparing a document for work or penning a novel. This type of font brings a literary or academic aesthetic to a design. Not surprisingly, serif fonts are common on book covers and university websites. This said, don’t write them off as outdated. You can bring serif font into the 21st century with bold colors and wide kerning (spacing between letters). You can also play around with pairing serif and san serif fonts in the same design.
- Do you remember your first font love? I remember mine: Garamond. This font is rounder and squatter than some of its popular counterparts like Times New Roman. Garamond is great for an event announcement or a personal website.
- Merriweather isn’t afraid to take up space. Its bold letters make an impression, so when you need to do the same, consider using this font for branding. It’s perfect for your business card or the headlines on that travel blog you just started.
- Opening up a rare books store? A wine bar? Arbutus Slab has notes of timeless class and the inside of books. The elaborate flourishes on the end of each letter bring elegance to a design. It’s a font that pays as much attention to detail as you do.
- This one’s for all the foodies or yoga lovers out there. Whether you’re creating the perfect graphic for your studio or compiling the family recipes, this laid-back serif font is as calming and cozy as child’s pose or your mom’s chicken soup.
San Serif Fonts: Smooth Operators
San serif fonts are no-frills, get-the-job-done types of fonts, beloved by modernists and minimalists. They are hip, smart, and never stuffy. You’ll find them on the spines of art books or heading up the menu at the hottest restaurant in town. Almost everywhere sans serif fonts go, heavy kerning goes with them. Part of getting that sleek look is making sure your letters aren’t too close together.
5. Gallery opening, anyone? Bebas Neue is a narrow font that is all-caps meets Bauhaus. Use this font in an interior design presentation or on an announcement for an art show.
6. Geek out with Source Code Pro. Surprisingly, these early-tech fonts for branding don’t always show up where you’d expect. Instead of being techy, they’re artsy – often found in avant-garde designs. So, while Source Code Pro might be perfect for your tech startup, it’s also great for that underground art ‘zine you run on the side.
7. “Hi, I’m Heebo.” You can practically hear the friendly tone of this font. As such, it’s great for making people feel welcome and making your business look approachable. Use this in the logo for a vacation-rental business or that new app you’re designing.
Script: Sheer Elegance
Script is more than that writing style many of us never use but had to learn in grade school. Script is one of the most exciting font varieties, with enough range to go from a formal save-the-date to an album cover. Contemporary scripts are also social media favorites; they give your weekend-outing posts a touch of effortless chic.
8. Bad Script: this is the font that skipped those cursive classes back at school. It looks like a cleaned-up, consistent version of bad handwriting, and the effect is simply cool. It’s awesome for the title credits of your short film or a local plant-based food truck.
9. Great Vibes is an instant classic. Part traditional and part retro, it’s perfect for posting about, say, your journey to restore an old Airstream camper. Make your design feel nostalgic with this font; it’s the equivalent of putting on a record instead of the Bluetooth speakers.
10. The aptly-named Parisienne font is synonymous with the timeless luxury of the French capital. Whether you’re documenting your trip to the city of lights, designing a logo for a boutique, or creating a design for your bakery, you’ll get that perfect je ne sais quoi with this font.
11. League Script, with its stretched, easy-flowing letters, has that laid-back vibe that’s perfect for a modern brand font. This font invites you to kick off your shoes and relax, so use it to invite your friends to a summer gathering. Stick with it for decorations, too. It looks great on name cards.
Display: Rock N’ Roll
Display fonts live up to their name. You’ll find this kind of lettering on signs, newspapers, and concert posters. The letters look best large so that viewers can appreciate all their intricate details. The rockstars of the font world, display fonts like to be front and center.
12. Maybe it’s the name, but Bungeeshade brings extreme sports to mind. You could just imagine this lettering on an advertisement for–the obvious answer–bungee adventures or a surf school. This funky text would look right at home on a band tee as well.
13. Want to see your name in lights? Codystar is a great option for your premiere. Fully comprised of little dots, these letters are meant to be appreciated. So, when you create with this font, give it the space it deserves, and remember to maintain strong contrast with the background of your design so that the letters stand out.
14. Marjoromo Display: is it a font or a ready-made work of art? This complex font uses color blocking and alternating letter weights to create structure worthy of a modern sculpture garden. What’s more, it’s versatile: you can change its appearance by switching the case. While the letters will always render in uppercase, making the font “lowercase” results in more pared-down lettering.
15. Vast Shadow is a 3-D font that looks as if it were stamped on the page. Use it to announce a concert series, and recreate the print age in digital. It’s also a fun choice for book covers, calendars, and other designs that were traditionally made on letterpresses.
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