Posts Tagged ‘branding’

by Allan Haley

Type is one of the most important aspects of any branding solution. Type can easily differentiate an entity. It can unify diverse documents and products. It can also build powerful brand recognition. These are the issues that faced the creative team responsible for the branding of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. The team was, however, aware of the three general guidelines for choosing a typeface to help create a brand identity.

  1. If you can afford it, have a custom font created that is explicitly for your brand. If you can’t afford a custom design, choose a typeface that is both distinctive and versatile. The key is to pick something that walks the fine line between a bland design that is versatile and a distinctive design that will not be appropriate for a multitude of uses.
  2. Chose a type family with several styles. Roman, italic and bold versions of a family are almost never enough for a large branding system. Perhaps not immediately, but sooner or later the client is going to run into instances where condensed, very bold, or even other styles may be required.
  3. Use typefaces that have legs. There are more than 200,000 fonts in the world to choose from. Many have a short life – and then become about as fashionable as tie-dyed t-shirts. Brands are supposed to last a long time. Pick a typeface that will not look out of date in a short time.

The Vancouver Organizing Committee took all three of the guidelines to heart when they chose the Neo® Sans typeface design as part of the branding for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Ali Gardiner, vice president of brand and creative services for the Vancouver Organizing Committee, sums it up perfectly. “We selected Neo Sans,” she recalls, “because it felt contemporary and would represent Canada as a modern, progressive country, but it also feels like it will ‘age well’…which is important for Olympic design because it’s seen for decades and even centuries after the Games themselves. Neo Sans also has many weights, which made it practical across the tens of thousands of uses for which it would be required.”

To add a little more distinction to the use of the design, the Vancouver team requested that a special custom font be developed by Monotype Imaging. According to Gardiner, “We thought that a unicase font (one that had several lowercase characters designed to the height and proportions of the capitals) could be used for display text in a way that felt both warm and friendly as well as contemporary and cool, which was how we wanted to represent Canada to the world. It also had the potential to become a unique, recognizable typeface for Vancouver 2010, which was important as we established our own look and feel and brand identity leading up to the Games.”

Sebastian Lester, the designer of Neo Sans and the custom unicase font, is delighted that his design was chosen for the Winter Games. “I’ve always sought to design appealing, useful and versatile typefaces,” he says. “The face that the design was chosen for the Winter Games confirms that I met my goal with Neo Sans.”

Allan Haley
Allan Haley is Director of Words & Letters at Monotype Imaging. Here he is responsible for strategic planning and creative implementation of just about everything related to typeface designs.

by Simon Rockman

Simon Rockman met with Bryan Rieger from to find out how he works to make mobiles beautiful.

Brian has a problem. He’s a developer and a designer. Now to most people that seems eminently sensible. You design a mobile application and then you build it, but the mobile world seems to think you should be a developer or designer. So he and his wife Stephanie broke from constraints and set up Yiibu which will craft mobile applications for companies. Free to design, develop or both.

Where he sticks with conventions is in not talking about his clients with whom he has signed non disclosure agreements so while you may have used his stuff he can’t lay claim to it.


Working for a number of clients over a number of devices means he often wants a commonality of experience. That can be difficult. “Specify something as eight pixels high on a two in screen with a 120 by 120 resolution and it looks fine, ask for eight pixels on an iPhone and you won’t be able to see it”. Brian laments how far behind mobile is. “In the web world you can specify ems or percentages”, but mobile is yet to catch up. There is some spotty adolescent progress. “Android has Device Independent Pixels which is equivalent to about 160 DPI”. But that’s just size, trying to change the font is even harder, Brian would like to be able to embed fonts. “We do it now to some extent with pixel fonts, you can use flash and SVG but they are not yet well enough supported.”

He continues on the thread of inconsistency, talking about how fonts look on a PC. “When you mock something up using Photoshop or illustrator you have Adobe’s fantastic font rendering. Even Nokia Series 60 Sans looks awesome. It has perfect kerning and hinting. Even with Adobe’s Device Central you have the amazing font rendering technology. Unfortunately phones don’t. Use any phone manufacturer’s font rendering engine on a three inch screen and it looks nothing like it did on the PC.”


Designers don’t bother looking anymore it’s been terrible for so long.

Brian has become pragmatic about doing creative things with fonts on phones. “Budgets are not usually there to do clever hacks with fonts”. Brand will be conveyed using logos while the body copy will be in a system font. This might be more comfortable for users, but few phones have anything where emotion has been a consideration. Even the Blackberry which has 14 fonts only has two you’d actually want to use. “Designers don’t bother looking anymore it’s been terrible for so long”. This is a man who clearly struggles to craft beautiful designs on mobile. He worries about fonts and enjoys making them do his bidding on non-mobile platforms.

He’s also worried about the lack of consistency at lots of other levels. “Where the font lives depends on the platform, with Java it has to be within the JVM or the phone OS, with Symbian it might be possible with QT, I need not just a font but its outline version, bold and italic. It needs to provide me with something more romantic”. As he switches from a developer talking about QT framework to a designer calling for a romantic font I start to get unnerved and understand how being the two can be seen as being quite so different. It’s the clash of art and science.

by Simon Rockman

What mobile phone do you have? If you are reading this in the UK you are likely to answer “Nokia”, “Samsung” or “Sony Ericsson”. If you are not in the mobile world and reading this in the US you might answer “Sprint”, “AT&T” or Verizon. The US is the only place in the world where the operator comes first to the consumers mind but it is symptomatic of the battle between handset manufacturers and networks, or carriers, for who owns the customer.

A good deal of this is the user experience and part of that is Brand. Of course this is the blog and we are interested in how fonts represent brand in the handset.

Ron Bird is the Lead UX Designer at Hutchison 3G where he is working on projects which help integrate the 3 brand and experience into the handset. He’s been around the mobile industry for a long time having worked at Nokia, Symbian, Fujitsu, Orange and Vodafone. At 3 he’s working on a service delivery mechanism that will help users enjoy the range of services 3 and their partners offer more easily.

You can have a look at some of his work, in particular some very effective shockwave animations at

The 3 network has built a very strong brand, and uses the fonts Verdana, Modena and Tahoma. While these haven’t made it into a phone or on to the keypads of devices the use of the fonts is a strong part of the 3 branding message.

by Simon Rockman

When two industries collide interesting things happen. People who have been into design and typography appreciate the value of fonts but tend to know about them from print on paper and not about the implications of phone technology.

Those in the mobile phone world know lots about display technologies but little about the value of fonts. Traditionally they have been about making the phone display as legible as possible and little thought has been given to the design.

Technology however has now caught up with design. Mobile phones have a screen resolution that allows the font to do more than just represent the letters.

They can now tell an emotional message.

When you read something the font has done a lot of its job before you start reading. Just as you form an opinion on the taste of a meal by looking at it, chefs are taught “the first taste is with your eyes” you form an opinion on what you are about to read by how it is laid out and the font before you read it.

We spoke to Matthew Menz, head of user experience for Motorola in Europe about how he, and Motorola use fonts in and on their phones. He sees the important role that the font plays in building the brand: “A single custom font has been created across the portfolio of products to provide brand continuity. Several aspects affect the screen design from x-height variations, to available weights & impacts to text translations.”, but you need to remember that Motorola is an international company and so the font has to be reflected in places where non-Latin fonts are used “Consistent typographical treatment is crucial”, says Matt, and it’s not just on the screen that this matters “Screen and physical presentation differ to ensure optimal legibility in each context. The distinction provides the necessary flexibility as it is applied to multiple languages.”

Building a phone is a series of trade-offs and cost is an important issue all the way through. Fonts take up memory and memory costs money. When every cent matters a smaller font is better, but how does Motorola strike a balance between memory footprint, legibility and conveying brand? “Very carefully.” says Matt, they do it differently for phones at different prices, “The balance between these factors are always in review as the tradeoffs are unique across the portfolio.”. One of those cost issues is processor power, there are special challenges are posed by low end devices which don’t support Scalable Vector Graphics (which make a font look nice at different sizes or alpha blending which lets fonts overlay other graphics with different levels of transparency. To deal with this on cheaper phones Matt says that “Multiple font optimisations are necessary to accommodate the variations in device support. Memory management is key for resource constrained devices.”

As well as the internal pressures of legibility, brand, emotion and memory footprint, some carriers want to specify fonts. Matt is a little enigmatic on this “Support for multiple fonts and font customisation within a single device continues to be a topic of discussion across the industry.” It’s a new field and something that is just starting to play out. Even newer is the ability for users wanting to use different fonts. Matt agrees it’s an important direction. “Providing typographical diversity is important, both in core OS rendering & application specific areas like the browser. The ability to support this is directly related to device enablers. The more powerful devices will continue to be as the leaders in this area and these benefits will cascade to the more resource constrained products over time.”

It’s good to see that mobile phone designers are thinking about fonts. A mobile phone is an emotional device – in Sweden the nickname for a phone is the same as the word for teddy bear. Better use of fonts can only make you feel warmer to your phone. Even if it is a text message from your boss.