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Opinion: Bespoke Typography

Bespoke typography is big news, Airbnb (Cereal) has its own, Coca-Cola (TCCC Unity) has its own. Apple to Google, the BBC and Youtube, all are embracing the benefits of bespoke typefaces. It's a very valuable asset for your brand, something that no-one else can get or use. Not like *cough* Circular. Currently used by every man, his dog...and Spotify. Basically John the Builder could buy (if he was doing well) Circular...and well, look like Spotify (not strictly true we know)...

There is great value in looking different — Looking like everyone else for a brand/organisation/individual is like going back to school with everyone in the same uniform. First impressions really do count. A brands typeface is usually one of the first things people notice. So it's incredibly important to make that impression count. Is the personality of the brand playful, serious or friendly? It's a bit like meeting someone for the first time, how they dress, how they shake your hand, all these things say a lot about the person, and that's the same for type choice/selection.

The ethos and character of the brand should sit side-by-side, hand-in-hand and reflected in all aspects of the brand. Elements such as logo, copy and colour palettes all make up the big picture. All elements that make up a brands toolkit are important, but for me none more so than its typeface and its colour palette. Both incredibly important visual markers for your brand. When done well (and established) you only have to see a certain colour and you think of the brand. A great example is the Yellow of the department store, Selfridge's. I only have to see a yellow bag fleetingly and I immediately think of Selfridges.  

Bespoke typefaces are similar, harder to craft for sure but a key signpost for your brand. More often than not the brand encapsulates the personality of the owner. Capturing that personality in a visual form is, when you think about it, quite an abstract task. Every project we undertake starts with a discussion, from that discussion aspirations, thoughts and facts come to light. These all help to start the creative process, but the thing I enjoy about that discussion is how the personality of the client comes through. The passion, the things that fire the soul, that make that person get out of bed in a morning, what makes that person smile. These are the nuggets that I love getting from talking to a client.

These discussions then start to form a picture, and in the case of type and typography these personality traits inform how a piece of type is designed, and in some cases the conversation forms an ethos for the brand. Which then in turn feeds into the design directly. A case in point is the work we produced for furniture designer/maker Matt Kelly. We met (over a beer), talked about his work, he showed us pieces of his work. From that conversation the ethos of Plaey was born. Simple, Playful, Modular. And from that starting point the typeface we created for him pretty much designed itself. The typeface is made of two elements, a circle (which can be used whole or split into quarters) and a straight piece. These simple modular elements when combined make a very playful typeface (see image at the top of the post, see project here). These simple elements then became OLO, Plaey's logo. OLO was designed to give a human feel to the work. Further reinforcing Matt's personality, and referencing the human-craft that goes into his beautiful work.

Other examples include a typeface for Levi's that takes its cue from the iconic arcuate that adorn every single pair of jeans (see project here). This authenticity came from the brand vision work done by Fresh Britain. The very idea shapes the typographic vision, which in turn is a clear expression of the brand. The brand we crafted for Leeds' first and finest lifestyle store was based entirely around the owners Andy & Becky. Male, and female, the typeface (the male part) we designed was intentionally sharp and classic with nice little quirky characters (like Andy himself). The type was paired with softer feminine forms, referencing Becky. The two in some ways very contrasting, but they work...again like Andy & Becky! See the CMV project here.

Others are based on historical reference, Scott Hall Mills is a beautiful old industrial building in the Meanwood area of Leeds. It's the home to Lord Whitney, Plaey and Prints of Thieves. Amy & Rebekah came to us to brand the building as a creative hub offering spaces to hire and unique events. They gave us a load of historical material about the building and the area, and from that we researched typography from that time. This was brought up to date to reflect the vibrant nature of the inhabitants of the Mill. It fits in, but looks fresh and exciting. See the SHM project here.

The above hopefully gives a bit of insight into the process and thinking behind some of the work we do for our clients. Bespoke type has always been a big part of our world and the work we produce for our clients. It's incredibly powerful, communicating the personality of a brand/business to the outside world. We firmly believe in design being a collaborative process, and we love to talk type (and brand), so if you have a project in mind please get in touch with Nicky here — Michael C Place (Founder/Creative Director) Studio.Build

Key to image carousel (top) 01/10 - B = Scott Hall Mills, E = Engine, S = CRTPS, P = Print-Process, O = Nike Track + Field, K = Solidarity Sports, E = Colours May Vary, T = Tej Chauhan, Y = Plaey, P + E = The Stow Brothers.