Type on wheels

Written by Carl Nas & 

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.

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