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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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There are endless types of additional classifications and styles of letterforms used in typography today, from handwritten or distressed to themed or pixel fonts. Alternative letterforms are typically used to communicate a very specific tone and can often be considered novelty. In general, alternative fonts are the most difficult to work with as they can feel gimmicky if not executed correctly. With the right direction, however, they also offer a unique element for a brand, and alternative fonts are most often seen in primary, bold usage such as headlines, posters and billboards.

One example of an alternative classification is black letter, Gothic-style typefaces that were popularized in German culture. Although black letter is actually a classification in its own, today these typefaces are not used as often—and when they are, they are typically used for a rock ’n’ roll style reference. Kat Von D’s makeup and skin care line and Urban Decay both utilize black letter typography in their core identities for an edgy feel.

Also, beauty brands that want to convey a novel brand personality can utilize alternative fonts that are themed, such as how Buxom uses circus-style letterforms along with retro illustrations for a tongue-in-cheek package design. Real hand lettering or fonts that feel like they were done by hand are also widely seen—Coach Poppy, Vera Wang Lovestruck and Hanae Mori fragrances all have handwritten typography styles in their package designs for a more expressive and unique identity.

Beyond the Basics

Although typography can be complex in its tonal intricacies, the most important principle to keep in mind when selecting a font or family of fonts to represent a beauty brand is to always keep in mind the big picture message the company is trying to convey. Typography may seem simple, as we all have endless fonts at our fingertips with the recent advances in personal computing, but it is actually one of the most nuanced aspects of design and is still considered an art form even though it is not often created by hand anymore. Although a dying breed, there are many designers out there that devote their lives to designing fonts and custom letterforms.

With all this in mind, just like with any other brand asset, it’s critical to rely on an expert to best select and arrange typography to adequately express a beauty brand’s personality. Fonts, like other design elements, fall in and out of fashion over time and can appear dated if one is not aware of the trends. As a brand owner, an understanding of the basic principles of typography will be the beginning to making informed, objective choices and not personal ones when branding or rebranding a package.