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Designs of the Times 01: Font

Abigail Shipps
September 11, 2020
Design

January 2020 was the beginning of...a lot of things. One of those things was the beginning of Karen Hibbert’s career at Bustle Digital Group as the VP of Creative. Her first task? Completely overhauling the digital design landscape of Bustle. Fast forward to July 2020, and the new Bustle is born. Hibbert tells Variety, “We want to reflect [the diverse audience] creatively to make it inclusive. We also want to make it contemporary in terms of type, design and photography, to have relevance for today without being elitist or austere.” 

The digital platform’s new era is marked by, well, everything, including a revamped color scheme, an editorial-style layout, and most notably: a massive, magazine-style logo in bold serif font plastered on the front page.

It’s the inside, and outside, that count 

Massive design rebrands, like Bustle’s digital overhaul, or simply strong branding are notable because of the clear punch of aesthetic that certain color schemes, fonts, language, and layouts emulate. Hunter, Head of Design here at Yaguara, says that as a brand it’s important to “understand what community and brand image you want to emulate on the aesthetic end, and have that be an extension, rather than a determinant, of the foundation of your company.” 

As with all good processes, recipes, LEGO sets, and tool kits alike, design departments are hard at work to carefully craft design elements that transcend beyond product towards defining space, and even community, within the realm of e-Commerce. When a company owns their branding, people notice. And they want in. There’s a lot of pieces to the design puzzle, but we’ll explore some major players that reflect how the inside, and thus outside, count. 

Let’s explore font. 

To serif, or to sans serif? 


Dating back to the 1400s and mass produced with the printing press, serif font was used in the first print books and newspapers. As a result, the font evokes a nostalgic, editorial, and manmade charisma. On the other hand, sans serif is characterized by crisp, sleek lines. The traditionally digital and modern font is geared towards innovation, simplicity, and Yaguara visual designer Kat Akin notes, inclusive neutrality.

With the modern branding of today, both fonts have been reclaimed and reused to root companies in the culture they wish to emulate. For instance, the rebrands of Bustle, Mailchimp, and Gusto are notable because of their shift from using a typically digital font to a traditional print font. On the flip side, major fashion houses associated with non-digital retail such as Yves Saint Laurent and Burberry changed their logos from serif to sans serif. Additionally, while Brooklinen’s serif logo visually articulates the digital company’s values of transparency and personability, Warby Parker’s sans serif logo reflects the brand’s modern hot-take on socially conscious eyewear. While the two DTC brands use different fonts for their logos, they both distinctively utilize serif and sans serif throughout their websites– modern and digital, with a human touch. 

The inherent aesthetic meanings carried with serif and sans serif create a perfect apples-and-oranges situation. One is not better or trendier than the other– they both evoke  different attributes of equally modern brands. Design teams get to choose which font, coupled with other elements of design, best emulates brand voice. Even better, that design vision gets to evolve with time in order to accurately capture a brand’s vibe. 

More than words

Font creates a massive effect on brand reception, and typography infuses meaning into a company’s words. As a result, strong branding reaps the rewards of building a consumer following, which can eventually cultivate a wonderful community. The power of Times New Roman and Arial, who knew! 

DTC brands in particular have the ability to extend a hand directly to their consumers. If there’s a strong sense of design in relation to a particularly bold serif or sans serif logo, you’re sure to find unique brand initiatives that connect to consumers beyond the purchase of a product. The essence of DTC is built on valuing customer-to-company connectedness, after all, and font helps to extend that mission towards experiential initiatives.

Love Billy! nods to editorial and puts the human at the forefront of its serif logo. Candice Pool is a high end jewelry designer who wanted a creative outlet, so she digitized her untamed creativity for whoever wishes to see. The company’s social media has a human rather than ominous brand voice, so you feel like you’re interacting with a funny friend. Similarly, Outdoor Voices fosters an unfiltered and inclusive celebration of movement in all shapes and forms. The serif logo is simple, streamlined, and positions the brand towards the future of athleticwear. That future can already been seen with the brand’s dance sessions on Instagram live, crowdsourced content, The Recreationalist blog, and their all encompassing hashtag, #doingthings.

Destigmatization feeds into the community companies build with their mindfully crafted branding. Wellness brands Hims and Hers cater to all things sex, health, and beauty for men and women. Rather than beat around the bush, Hims and Hers enable conversation rather than embarrassment about health needs almost all humans experience. Similarly, State Of, recently launched by arfa, is a self-care brand built for catering to menopause. In their brand voice, State Of facilitates support, care, and conversation surrounding a natural human process. These wellness brands have serif logos, which emulate human connection and perhaps veer away from the sterility of sans serif as it relates to health and wellness.

With the innovative applications of serif and sans serif in non-traditional formats, the line between digital eCommerce and nostalgic editorial blurs. Curating a customer experience is one thing, but fostering brand following and community is a process strengthened through strong design. A company’s design decision to use a particular font goes far beyond product, and it defines their footprint in the commerce landscape. 

To branding, and beyond

Typography sure packs a punch. Style infuses a company’s words, purpose, and product with meaning, and choosing between Times New Roman and Arial can cultivate brand following and community. The magical thing about transparent design is that nothing is set in stone. Just like people grow and learn with time, so do mindful companies. The human behind the text shines through with every bold serif or crisp sans serif design decision, and it especially shows when a brand decides to completely overhaul their aesthetic look to reflect their developing goals. 

In the newly rebranded July 2020 of Bustle’s website, editor Charlotte Owen speaks directly to the readers in the Editor’s Letter: “We’ve been quietly working to refresh the site and elevate it to meet you, our readers, where you are now. Within the new Bustle, I hope you find the information you need to thrive, as well as stories that surprise and delight, because we all deserve joy in our lives, too.”

By reflecting on brand goals and reinventing design norms, companies like Bustle are also breaking down the digital barrier between themselves and their customers. It’s also what many brands, like Yaguara, are seeking to reflect in content and customer relations. The togetherness of modern design marks the ‘Convergence Era’ of modern times, where brands project themselves to a future, multifaceted brand identity of converging points, i.e. environmental social, tech, physical, and more.

Font is just one piece of the design puzzle that helps brands uniquely define their place in e-Commerce space and beyond. We’re looking forward to diving into more pieces of innovative brand designs of the times- stay tuned.


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