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Beauty Typography: A Window Into Brand Personality

By: Aniko Hill
Posted: April 27, 2012, from the May 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

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A sans serif typeface is exactly as it sounds—a font without serifs. Sans serif fonts also date far back in history, although with the popularity of serifed faces they were virtually obsolete until the 20th century. Just like with serifed fonts, there are many different subclassifications, but in general, sans serif fonts are considered to be overall more clean and modern in feel. They are still easy to read but often thought to be not as legible as serifs when used in dense body copy.

Also just like with serif fonts, sans serif typefaces are very common in beauty packaging. In particular, many cosmetic companies utilize sans serif faces as both their primary and secondary typography. Smashbox and Laura Mercier both have straightforward, lowercase sans serif type treatments as their primary brand mark, and they both use clean and simple sans serif typography for their product name and descriptions. Nars uses a common sans serif typeface in its brand mark, but gives it a more unique twist with an overlapping type treatment. Skin care lines Peter Thomas Roth, Murad and Ole Henriksen are other users of sans serif typography in their labels, helping these brands to communicate a clean, modern look to consumers.

Script

Script typefaces are based on letterforms originally created with a flexible brush or pen, and they most often have varied thick and thin weights within each letter, reminiscent of handwriting. The main script subcategories are formal scripts and casual scripts, with formal scripts as generally more refined in appearance and dating back much earlier than their casual counterparts. In general, script typefaces are used to communicate a formal or elegant feeling, and tend to convey more of a feminine tone. Script fonts also are often more complicated and are therefore often much harder to read than serif or sans serif fonts, which is why they are rarely seen in the context of dense body copy.

Beauty brands use script typography for a wide range of designs that range from elegant to expressive. Many classic, premium brands such as Cartier have custom-designed script logos that are often the only element seen on a package, as seen in Cartier’s fragrance packaging. The Frederic Fekkai brand uses script letterforms in its mark as well, but also balances its logo design with cleaner serif and sans serif typefaces.

And even though their name suggests otherwise, formal script typefaces don’t always have to convey stuffy tradition. Benefit, one of most playful cosmetic brands out there, uses script typography in products such as Bad Gal Lash. When given such a twist, taking a font out of its usual context can have a fun and playful effect. Kiehl’s and Salvatore Ferragamo employ more casual script designs for their logos, which are both reminiscent of handwriting or a signature, and some brands use script designs to create a more expressive look. Bumble and Bumble, for example, uses a casual brush script for all parts of its packaging design, including the brand name, messaging and as an abstract pattern in the background.

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