Logo Design Insight – Typography

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Sans Serif Fonts Are…

A category of typefaces (font families) whose letterforms lack decoration at the end of their strokes

Terms Referencing This Style

Sans, Lineal, Swiss, Simplices, Doric, Antique, Grotesque

The Logo Type by Default
Sans serif type is the most commonly used style in logo design, especially with corporate logos. The style was initially developed for big, bold headlines and is therefore well suited for use in logos. Though now quite popular, sans type was not initially well received, and were known as grotesque, because they called to mind the writing of cavemen.
Sans serif fonts are primarily defined by their lack of typographic flourishes at the end of their strokes, known as serifs. The addition of the French word sans, meaning without, provides their name. They tend to be associated with feeling modern or technical, though can also come off as cold or generic. They were designed and made popular by a desire for purity in letterforms. They were a product of a desire for more clean, rational design, free from the excess ornamentation found in much of the type available at the time.
As found in the breakdown of the Top 500 Global Brands, about 3/4 of these major corporations use Sans Serif faces as the basis of their logo design. Using this category of type for one’s logo will often seem appropriate, but without any customization, can come off as bland or ‘default’. It is a style that is well suited for matching with a pictorial mark or icon, and by nature tends to recede into the background, allowing the icon to appear center stage.

NEO GROTESQUE

Target logo example
Red Cross Example
Ebay Logo Exampe
Terms Referencing This Style

Grotesque, Realist, Swiss, Anonymous, Commercial

Example Neo-Grotesque Typefaces

Helvetica, Univers, Akzidenz-Grotesk, Ariel

Humanist sans-serifs are characterized by the presence of the hand, and are therefor more organic in structure. This quality adds a more expressive element when compared to other sans faces. The calligraphic nature of humanist faces is evident by the swelling and shrinking of strokes, and aids in overall readability.
They allow for a more personal expression in form, while retaining the modern, commercial appeal of a sans-serif. These type styles tend to have a wider aperture (opening) on letter-forms such as the ‘a’ and ‘e’ and this aids legibility at small sizes, which is a primary concern in logo design.

HUMANIST

yahoo logo example
Paypal Example
BBC Logo Exampe
Terms Referencing This Style

Antique, Calligraphical, Classical, Organic

Example Humanist Typefaces

Gil Sans, Frutiger, Tahoma, Verdana, Optima, Myriad

Humanist sans-serifs are characterized by the presence of the hand, and are therefor more organic in structure. This quality adds a more expressive element when compared to other sans faces. The calligraphic nature of humanist faces is evident by the swelling and shrinking of strokes, and aids in overall readability.
They allow for a more personal expression in form, while retaining the modern, commercial appeal of a sans-serif. These type styles tend to have a wider aperture (opening) on letter-forms such as the ‘a’ and ‘e’ and this aids legibility at small sizes, which is a primary concern in logo design.

GEOMETRIC

Adidas logo example
Redskins Example
USA Today Logo Exampe
Terms Referencing This Style

Circluar, Triangular, Compass, Modernistic

Example Geometric Typefaces

Century Gothic, Kabel, Avenir, ITC Bauhaus

As their name implies, Geometric typestyles are based on simple shapes. Bowls, or the rounded sections of letters, are often nearly perfect circles. Triangles play a significant role in the design of letters as well, often retaining their sharp apexes, or corners.
The geometrics were initially developed as a response to Humanist faces that were seen as too expressive, and lacked the simplistic purity craved by their designers. This playful simplicity can however cause them to appear primitive or juvenile, and the dedication to geometric form can limit their versatility.

SQUARE

Toshiba logo example
Redbox Example
intel Logo Exampe
Terms Referencing This Style

Circluar, Triangular, Compass, Modernistic

Example Sqare Typefaces

Klavika, Neo Sans, Cachet, Eurostile, Felbridge, DIN

Square fonts are a cross between Humanist and Geometric style typefaces. Unlike the other serifs discussed thus far, this classification of type is in fact modern, only dating back a decade or two. This gives them a distinctly contemporary feel. They have become a popular choice for web identities, thanks in part to their use by twitter and facebook.
That being said, their modern, playful aesthetic may seem out of place for a company who wants to trumpet their longevity and the trustworthiness that history implies. Like all trends, they stand the chance of seeming dated, or just another “20-Teens” logo.