Most popular and recognizable typefaces? Sure, there’s a long list of names that comes to our mind; Garamond, Helvetica, Baskerville and oh, the all-time favourite of designers (not): Comic Sans!
While most people may fail to notice, typefaces are everywhere–right from the fancy texts used in magazines to the very words you’re reading right now. Though they are such an essential part of design, how often do we actually pay attention to the details even when they are dangled in front of our faces?
How many brand logos have you come across whose typefaces you can identify? Let’s find out some popular typefaces incorporated by famous brands, shall we?
The Bodoni typeface surfaced during a time when type designers were experimenting with the contrast between thick and thin type characteristics. The Bodoni font family dates back over two centuries to its founder, Giambattista Bodoni (1740–1813), who ruled the world of print publishing in the late 1700’s. Giambattista was hailed as the King of Printers when he took over the family printing business. He was famed for moving away from the traditional calligraphy style that dominated the print press business to create a rather modern typeface, now called Bodoni.
It falls in the serif category. The serif superfamily usually dominates the world of print, as it has been labelled easy to read. Bodoni was widely applied in the fashion industry and print media, therefore using the serif font was a mark of its time. This modern typeface is characterised by its elegance and flexibility, and it remained the most popular type until the mid 19th Century. Since its inception, it has undergone many modifications and changes, but is still reminiscent of the original serif created by Bodoni.
The Bodoni typeface has been largely used for display and for headings due to its timeless style. It has resonated through time in famous logos and has been a favourite of many fashion brands and upmarket magazines, for example Vogue, Calvin Klein, Burberry and Elizabeth Arden. Bodoni has a lot in common with the Didot family of typefaces because it was created around the same time in history. Regardless, the Bodoni typeface has its own style.
The Garamond typeface we know today has many variations, designed by different typeface designers inspired by the original punch cuts designed By Claude Garamond in the 16th Century. Claude Garamond had a unique style of designing type that did not exactly resemble a scribe’s handwriting, rather a kind of typeface which even though boasted a calligraphist feel, was easier to use with printing presses. Claude Garamond’s typefaces were used in the printing of many books in Roman and Latin.
Garamond has an elegant appearance. The serifs on each letter are carefully crafted to convey their own personality, most notably the ones on the capital “T”. Interestingly, the Garamond typeface became one of the first “famous” typefaces when it was presented at the Paris World’s Fair in the 1900, and dozens of variations soon followed. This fame has continued into later decades. Adobe Garamond, created by Robert Slimbach is one of the most widely used Garamond typefaces due to the fact that it is one of the first digitized versions.
Garamond truly lives on paper, so it is unsurprising that you find it quite often in books. Some of the most popular books have been set in a form of Garamond including the books of Dr. Seuss and all of the Harry Potter novels in addition to many book covers. A few other notable uses include Google’s original logo, Abercrombie & Fitch’s logo and Apple’s Think Different campaign.
The Futura typeface is a classic sans-serif that holds its own against other typefaces of any era. Futura was designed by renowned German type designer Paul Renner in 1927. It was commissioned as a typeface by the Bauer Type Foundry for the New Frankfurt project, which was an affordable modernist housing project. The typeface was based on the geometric Bauhaus design style that had its boom between 1919 and 1933.
The Bauhaus ideology was based on simple, modern, and functional geometry. Function over form resulted in a typeface that didn’t include unnecessary ornamental elements. The Futura typeface resulted in clean, simple shapes that conveyed a modern and forward-looking idea. It became instantly popular upon its release, and now it’s pretty much everywhere. It’s considered a timeless classic by many in the world of design because of how versatile it is. It’s just as effective as a display type or used as body text.
Perhaps its most well-known usage was as the type that was used on the plaque left on the Moon by the Apollo 11 Mission in 1969. Since then, it’s been used extensively in advertising and branding. FedEx, Nike, PayPal, Redbull, Supreme and Domino’s Pizza are some of the many companies who have built strong brand identities with the modern—yet friendly—letterforms.
Univers was one of the first typeface styles to present the idea of a consistent font family. The Univers family includes a wide range of weights, widths and positions. Univers was designed by Adrian Frutiger on Swiss principles for Charles Peignot at Deberny & Peignot. Frutiger imposed strict discipline across all elements of the series, from light to dark, extra condensed to extended, a concordance of design that was possible in the foundry type and photo composition fonts.
Frutiger was not the biggest fan of purely geometric typefaces and described Univers as having “visual sensitivity between thick and thin strokes, avoiding perfect geometry.” This attention to detail gives the letterforms a deep nuance. It may be argued that the design of the most popular central series is limited by strict conformity to little used extremes. If Helvetica gives us the strongest central designs at some sacrifice in uniformity across the series, Univers gives us a uniform series by disciplining the central designs.
The logo of Unicef creates an international and utilitarian look through its use of Univers uppercase letterforms. Meanwhile, the eBay logo shows a lot of personality. The arm of the lowercase “e” has a slightly lighter stroke than the rest of the character, the inner edge of the bowl of the “b” is shifted slightly to the left—creating interesting stroke variation—and the “a” and “y” feature delightfully unexpected shapes and cutoffs.
One of the most popular typefaces that famous brands use is Helvetica. Formerly known as Die Neue Haas Grotesk, Helvetica is a sans-serif typeface which was developed by Max Miedinger, a Swiss typeface designer with contribution from Eduard Hoffman in 1957. It was created at the Haas type foundry (known as Haas’sche Schriftgiesserei) of Münchenstein, Switzerland.
Since then, Helvetica has gained international fame, as seen in its expansive usage. That’s because the typeface is simple and utilitarian, with quirky touches—like the rounded square tail of the “R”, the narrow “t” and “f”, and the bracketed top flag of the “1”.
Helvetica is more than half a century old among other typefaces but still it dominates the world of typefaces. You would observe it on every other Hollywood movie poster, in books, in designs and corporate identities. Over 40 major companies are using Helvetica because of its clarity and uniformed lettering. For instance, Target, Jockey, Lufthansa, Jeep and many more.
Proxima Nova is a typeface that bridges the gap between Futura and Helvetica. Based on a broad spectrum of typography styles, a bridge between those extremes was welcome. These two long-time favourites are clean, versatile and go perfectly fine with many design projects, but they have also been around for so long that many young designers find them quite stale.
According to designer Mark Simonson who created this type in 2005, he “tried to make the letter shapes simple and clear.” Proxima Nova offers a modern and trendy look, while maintaining the simplicity and versatility. It balances the roundness of geometric sans serifs like Futura and the proportions of modern grotesques like Helvetica.
A comparatively new and young type, Proxima Nova has gained quick attention in just a few years and is used by major companies like Spotify and Buzzfeed.
Didot, before becoming one of many vintage typefaces, was a name for a family of printers in the late 18th century. Firmin Didot, along with the Italian Giambattista Bodoni, helped create the style of what we know today as Modern or Neoclassical Typeface. These typefaces can be identified by their flat, hairline serifs, or end caps, and a high contrast between thick and thin lines. An important feature of modern Didot typefaces is the ability for the hairline serifs to stay intact and maintain clarity no matter the size of the font.
Created in 1799, the Didot typeface has been revived many times throughout history; one of the most recent versions is HTF Didot. Hoefler & Co, who have designed typefaces used by companies such as Twitter, Coca-Cola, and Apple, was commissioned to design this family of Didot typefaces in 1991 for the brand redesign Harper’s Bazaar, one of the leading fashion magazines.
It has become a staple with many brands for its gorgeous style. Brands like Giorgio Armani and Zara use the typeface to evoke a sense of mystique and drama.
Released in 1992, the Myriad typeface family has become a popular choice for both text and display composition. Since it was made available in a Pro character set in the OpenType format, Myriad’s considerable reach was increased through the addition of Greek and Cyrillic glyphs, as well as old style figures. The Myriad family includes condensed, normal and extended widths in a full range of weights. Well-drawn letter proportions, clean, open shapes and extensive kerning pairs ensure that the design retains a comfortable level of readability across all of its variants.
Myriad is the result of a collaboration between type designers Carol Twombly and Robert Slimbach. The design was introduced originally in the multiple master format, which enabled the design to be rendered dynamically from light to extra bold weights, and from condensed to extended widths. Myriad is easily distinguished from other sans-serif typefaces due to its “y” descender (tail) and slanting “e” cut.
Because of its readability and accessibility, Myriad – and now Myriad Pro – has been adopted by a wide variety of small and large companies alike. Noteworthy companies using the Myriad typeface include Apple, Linkedin, Rolls-Royce and Modern Telegraph. Additionally, recent additions to the Myriad fold include Walmart’s corporate rebranding in 2008.
Gotham is one of the most well-known typefaces of our time. It was designed by American type designer Tobias Frere-Jones in 2000. The letterforms are inspired by architectural signages that achieved popularity in the mid-twentieth century, and are especially popular throughout New York City. The urban landscape inspiration and the perfect basic engineering of each character have made Gotham one of the most used typefaces of the early 21st century. Gotham is one of the latest geometric sans serif typefaces to take on the world.
The Gotham typeface is fresh and masculine, and it has a very geometric structure. It’s a workhorse all around; its design doesn’t feature any unnecessary lines. There’s little contrast between the thick and thin strokes. The characters feature near-perfect circular curves. It has a particularly large x-height, which comes up to halfway between the ascenders and descenders. Characters like “e” or “a” are a little larger than usual.
Gotham has been highly visible due to its exposure in many notable places since its creation, and so far the most prominent usage is probably the 2008 presidential campaign of Barack Obama. With its bold appearance and its sense of trustworthiness, it is also favored by companies and nonprofits as its branding typeface. Some of the companies that have previously used or are using the typeface in its logos and advertisements include GQ, DC Comics, Balenciaga, Discovery Inc., etc.
Neo Sans has become somewhat of a touchstone for sans-serif typefaces with curved corners. It was one of the first typefaces to use the technique in such a subtle and sophisticated way. This typeface was designed by the British type designer Sebastian Lester and released by Monotype Imaging Corporation in 2004. Lester began working on the design when Monotype Imaging was approached by a large branding agency to develop a custom typeface for one of its clients that was versatile and futuristic typeface.
It is an ultra modern typeface with simplicity of structure: a monoline form, open character shapes and smooth curves. It decreases the intensity of the type and creates a friendlier energy. Highly functional and versatile, Neo Sans is an excellent choice for branding projects, as well as for editorial or publication design.
A customized version of Neo Sans, called Neo Sans Intel, was created for use in its 2005 redesigned logo. The typeface itself, as well as its unicase and rounded variant, were used as the official typeface by Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, 2010. Other brands using this particular type also include Kia Motors.
The Frutiger typeface, designed by Adrian Frutiger in 1975, is playful and professional, simple and fun. As a sans-serif typeface, it offers good flow and readability, ideal for a logo that lives in the digital space. It was originally designed for signage at the Charles de Gaulle airport in France. The intention was to design a typeface that could be seen clearly from a distance, and it remains one of the most legible typefaces in both print and web.
As with most modern typefaces, Frutiger adapts well to large and small screens. Like Futura, its clean and simple shape makes this type flexible for use in business logo design. The family also comes in several styles ranging from the lightest to the boldest weight.
This modern typeface has been reworked by Akira Kobayashi – the Japanese designer behind Monotype – and you can find it on many well-known brands including Flickr, Ericsson, Radioshack and American Airlines.
The American calligrapher Arthur Baker designed Baker Signet in 1965. Like many of Arthur Baker’s influential script faces (e.g., Marigold, Kigali, and Amigo), Baker Signet shows off its historical influences.
Baker Signet’s calligraphic style comes from the delicately broad strokes of its letterforms and the fine hints of triangular serifs. The lively descendents of the lowercase y and capital Q emphasize the typeface’s relationship to handwriting. Baker Signet is particularly suitable for headlines and logos.
The bold version of this type is used for the Coke logo all over the world. Some other brands using this type in their logos include Bisleri.
Alternate Gothic was designed by Morris Fuller Benton for American Typefounders Company in 1903. All three weights of Alternate Gothic are bold and narrow. In fact, this face is essentially a condensed version of Benton’s other well-known sans serif types, Franklin Gothic and News Gothic.
In the early twentieth century, the modern concept of type “families” had not yet been formed — and though Benton designed these sans serifs to harmonize with each other, the foundry gave them different names. Robust, dark, and coolly competent, Alternate Gothic is a good choice when strong typographic statements must fit into tight spaces.
It was the typeface used in the Youtube logotype until 2017, when Youtube rebranded. Since then, they’ve used a custom type called Youtube Sans.