Does your brand need a customised font?
At the beginning of a new brand identity, the fundamental question often arises: Do we develop our own typeface? Should we use a ready-made font? Here we want to share the pros and cons with you based on our experiences from recent years.
What is the difference between retail and custom fonts?
Retail fonts can simply be purchased from a type foundry. They are prefabricated and immediately available. Custom fonts are designed specifically for a brand or application. For our customer noventic, for example, we used the retail font GT Walsheim from Grilli Type. For the Munken brand of our customer Arctic Paper, we developed the customised font Munken Sans in collaboration with Lineto.
Why a retail font?
Using a pre-designed retail font is the obvious choice for many. It is readily available and offers a wide range of pre-designed options. However, off-the-shelf fonts come with a few issues that you should be aware of beforehand.
The cost of a retail font depends on various factors:
- Number of font styles required (e.g. light, regular, medium, bold, etc.)
- Type of application (web, app, print, etc.).
- Number of users
- Number of website visitors (costs are often based on the number)
- Additional licence costs may also be incurred for use in apps, which are usually based on the number of downloads or the sales price of the app
For the GT Waldheim we used, for example, the licence costs for the case mentioned above added up to around 500 euros. This included three font styles, ten desktop licences and up to 50,000 website accesses per month.
The costs for retail fonts can therefore add up, depending on the size of the company, if they are to be implemented across the board. For company-wide use, for example in Word templates or PowerPoint presentations, we always recommend the use of a system font such as Arial in cost-critical projects. It can be used free of charge on all devices and is also compatible with cross-company projects and correspondence.
Compared to developing your own font, a prefabricated font can be used immediately after purchase. This option also offers the advantage that you can change your mind more easily during the design process. The font is usually purchased shortly before the launch.
The seemingly endless variety of fonts in type foundries gives the impression that there is the right font for every task. In fact, the criteria for selecting a font are many and varied and it can sometimes be difficult to find the right font in this jungle. Not all criteria can always be met by a retail font.
Criteria for choosing a font are, for example:
- Fits the personality of the brand
- Easy to read and works on all channels (whether mobile screen or poster)
- Fulfils the country specifications of your target markets
- Fulfils accessibility standards
- Fits licence conditions
What do Louis Vuitton, Monopoly and Mean Girls have in common? They all rely on Futura. While retail fonts are widely used and accessible to everyone, using a particularly popular font automatically loses some uniqueness. So if your brand is looking for a distinctive identity, customised fonts might be a better choice.
Why a custom font?
Customised brand fonts make it possible to create an individual solution that is precisely tailored to the needs of your brand. This sets you apart from the competition and creates strong brand recognition.
Choosing a customised font means an investment that starts in the low five-figure range and is open-ended. This can be a financial hurdle for many. For those who think long-term and strive for a strong, differentiated brand image, a customised font can pay off. One example of this is the Munken design paper brand, where the Munken Sans brand font was developed as part of the rebranding process. This new development made the rebranding even more interesting for many blogs, magazines and design enthusiasts and strengthened the awareness and image of the Munken brand through reports about it.
Developing a custom typeface is time-consuming and requires a careful strategic approach. For Munken, it took us around three months from the first meeting with Lineto to the launch.
In Munken's case, we were able to emphasise the uniqueness of the brand and express its values with the customised font Munken Sans. The new typeface is based on the Swedish Tratex typeface from the 1960s, which was developed for road signs and is still used today. This allowed us to build a beautiful and meaningful bridge to the Munken design paper brand. The paper has been produced in Munkedal, Sweden, since 1871.
Developing your own typeface offers many advantages, especially when it comes to exclusivity. Above all, the customised font creates a unique and easily recognisable visual appearance. At the same time, it facilitates standardised brand communication across different channels.
Interestingly, the Munken campaign had a special effect: the new Munken Sans font could be used free of charge by anyone, subject to certain licence rules. Thousands of users took up the offer and have been using the font ever since.
The choice between a retail or customised font for your brand is crucial, as fonts shape the face of your brand - from legibility to emotionalisation. Both options have their pros and cons. Retail fonts are affordable, readily available and offer a wide selection. However, they can make your brand appear less unique and cost exclusivity. Customised fonts allow for individual solutions, emphasise the uniqueness of your brand and promote its exclusive character. Although this requires a higher initial investment, it pays off in the long term with a stronger brand image. When making a decision, we recommend consulting design experts to ensure you make the best choice.
- Author Hellen Gramkow is Senior Designer at JUNO.