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Why Choosing The Right Font Is Crucial For Your Business

Choosing the right font is crucial for portraying the mood, personality and general message of your business to the public. Take a stroll along the high street and you’ll see that san-serif typefaces dominate the signage world. From big name brands to the quirky independent cafés, the vast majority carries this current san-serif trend. But when it comes to your signage, do you want to blend in with the crowd or make a long-lasting impact by becoming an instantly recognisable brand? That’s when the underdog of typefaces, serif comes into play. When chosen with the correct aesthetic preference, paired with materials that reflect the business, serif really steals the show.

A serif is a small decorative flourish on the ends of letters and symbols, many people recognise them as feet like-stokes. Type-historians believe that the serif fonts originated from the Roman’s and their hand carved stoned lettering. Stonecutters would use a flat, square cut implement to carve out the letters, causing them to create the serifs on each character. Today, it’s seen more of a traditional font, but the four categories of serif typefaces offer more than enough variety and scope when selecting a font for your brand's signage.

Old Style:

The old style serif typeface is said to have been created in the 15th Century, as a reminiscent of the humanist calligraphy. Old style typefaces are considered to be the best type for large amounts of body text on paper. This is due to the font having drawn inspiration from human handwriting, the diagonal stress, slanted crossbar of lowercase ‘e’ and the inconstant stroke widths, are all defining characteristics of old style serif font.

Good examples are Garamond, Legacy Serif, Centaur and Caslon.

Transitional:

Transitional serif fonts were developed during the mid 18th-Centry. They focused on being neat and uniformed by moving away from quirks of human handwriting, Transitional style fonts reflect the philosophies of the enlightenment. Science and reason were valued higher than art, beauty and experiences. The defining qualities include a vertical axis, greater contrast between thick and thin strokes and larger x-heights.

Good examples are Baskerville, Bookman and Centaur.

Modern:

The first modern serif font was developed in the 18th Century by Firmin Didiot. This style of font is considered to be elegant and professional, although they do appear to be a little bit harder to read in large bodies of text, this is because they do not lead the eye horizontally. They carry a dramatic contrast between thick and thin strokes, abrupt thin serifs and circular shaped stroke terminals.

Good examples are Bodoni, Fenice, Didot and Moderno.

Slab Serif:

Slab serif fonts were created in Britain alongside the wave of advertising mass produced products during the Industrial Revolution. Used in large point sizes and short bursts of text - the slab serif font screams for attention! They are heavy, with thick serifs and a low contract between the widths of strokes.

Good examples are Egyptian Slate, Rockwell and Clarendon.

Serif is more versatile and adaptable than you may originally think. With its traditional connotations, certain serif fonts can look great for rustic style eateries and bars. Steer & Beer uses cut out pale toned slab serif letters layered upon a dark wood to give the restaurant an old western feel, which compliments both the menu and the establishment. The Edmunds Oast pub uses a transitional serif font which connotes locally sourced food and in-house brewed beer with a rural English countryside vibe. This shows just how important it is to choose a typeface that truly represents your brand. Afterall, you don’t want to disappoint potential customers by offering them a burger and coke when they expected a homemade Beef Wellington.

Traditional style serifs don’t stop at hospitality, with the right amount of contrasting elements in place, they can project class and luxury. The House of Beauty hanging sign takes all inspiration from the origin of serifs - Roman stone carving. Swapping slate or stone for a glossy black sign pulls this traditional sign forward into the modern day. Pairing the chiselled out Old Style lettering filled with gold leaf creates an utterly regal, expensive and elegant vibe.

Slab serif fonts hold the characteristic of being heavy, with thick ‘notice me’ serifs. Also known as Egyptian serifs, this typeface is just screaming to outshine the others - it’s no wonder they go hand in hand with festoon lighting. If your brand is bold and brassy enough to carry off a carnival style sign, then be sure to go all out with big bulbs and artificial rusting.

Like the idea of lightening up the street, but want to leave the fairground in the distance and drive full beam ahead towards a more sophisticated sign? Then why not let Dior and Swarovski light the way, the two of them perfectly pair serifs with LEDS, mastering a much chicer and fashionable feel. Swarovski’s backlighting leaves a dramatic impression with its bold and bright halo effect. Dior steers us into a more vintage-esque and delicate style with its slim and subtle lighting just gently outlining the letters.

Many modern, forward thinking and vibrant business are looking to turn the heads of ‘creative types’ with their stylistic signs. They use the serif font on their signage for something both functional and gallery worthy. The string work sign uses negative space to spell out the company name and then fills in the rest with dyed string in their brand colours, making the sign eye-catching and unique. If you’re after something more slick and simple than knotted and tangled, why not use a thinner, more modern serif font. This example of a stacked LONDON sign ticks all the right boxes.

The serifs help to define and distinguish the letters, even with its abstract isolated and missing strokes. This challenges the audience’s brain into having to process the shapes into letters which leaves your company name imprinted in their minds for longer than a sign which requires no cognitive involvement. Just be sure to not over complicate the sign, or else the audience will simply give up by forgetting and move on.

As Identity have previously discussed, the materials and mediums used within signage are just as crucial as the fonts when delivering the brand identity and message. Twofiftytwo’s choice of a muted brushed metal raised slightly off a horizontal wooden wall, creates moody and atmospheric shadows; giving off a professional - yet edgy and stylish character to the clothing boutique.

The coffeeshop’s use of a chalkboard really sets up the cute, homely and laid back atmosphere before entering the shop. The hand drawn logo with illustrative elements gives it a personal friendly feel, complimenting the company effortlessly. Brighton Market’s clear acrylic letters allow for these pretty handcrafted paper creations to be displayed in the letter forms, acting like an art box. Also, these letters also light up during the night, creating beautiful shadows and colours. Our last example of mixed materials used for signage is Moss Graffiti. Moss walls are currently a big favourite at the Identity office. This effect can be achieved with bespoke shaped planters cut to shape with preserved moss bedded within them.