Can you make the edges rounder?
Modernist typography is often accused of being cold, inhuman and ineffectual in broad mass communication. That’s wrong. The modernist idea, starting with the Bauhaus movement and followed by the Swiss Style, was all about functionality. Readability and objectivity were accomplished through bold sans serifs composed in rational grid systems. Modernists have always started off with the needs of their users in mind and never let trends replace the communicative goal. Many visual identities launched in the 1960s and 1970s are still vivid and effective today thanks to modernist principles.
Typefaces like Akzidenz and Neue Haas can come across as being a bit harsh and unfriendly, but let’s ask ourselves — is a less sharp typeface more human? Do soft shapes reach out to more people? Would Comic Sans turn the world into a warmer place? No, a sharp simplified typeface treated by professionals can be a true friend – a friend who is solely focused on functionality while at the same time being based upon human behaviour – and honestly, who wants a friend without edges?
When we developed Stockholm Type at Essen International together with B+P Swiss Typefaces, our ambition was to communicate activity, trustworthiness and accessibility to one million Stockholmers. Did we make the edges rounder? Hell no.
Type on wheels
A custom-made typeface is almost an industrial standard for car brands. The understanding of good consistent typography within the car industry started back in the 60s with Bill Bernbach’s Volkswagen ads. Futura stayed in the same game until just recently. Volvo has been loyal to its own bespoke typeface Volvo Broad(seen above) since the early 90s. A more recent success is Audi Type, launched in 2009.
When you have a generic product, to stand out you must use all the tools in your visual toolbox. A custom-made typeface is a good start. Let the letter shapes alone convey the message. Nobody is likely to be reading your headlines anyway. If Audi wrote “Slow Asian budget” in their typeface, the complete image would still communicate “Dynamic German quality.” An image will always be stronger than words, and characteristic typography creates images rather than words.
Another reason why car brands enjoy their bespoke typefaces is their overload of sub-brands (vehicles). Especially when there is no naming strategy. The Toyota Display font ensures instant recognition of the brand when the sender is Yaris, Corolla, IQ, Aygo, Avensis or Verso. The same goes for Skoda and their typeface Skoda Pro, when connecting Fabia, Citigo, Octavia and Yeti to their master brand.
Heritage is something car brands want to push in their marketing, and the best way to incorporate this into the identity is also through the typeface. Toyota Display is Japanese and Opel Sans is European. Even my mother can recognize that. And that is a good thing. So learn from the car brands and put your typeface on wheels. Your brand will have a smooth ride.
Rendering something pure
CNA is a design consultancy. True to Scandinavian principles we purify brand expressions by shedding excess.Read more