Corporate typefaces are all the rage

This isn’t a recent phenomena. Corporations have been creating their own typefaces since the beginning of type. But, lately, I’ve noticed more and more that they are using it in their marketing efforts or because the scale of these corporations make it cost prohibitive not to make their own typeface.

Let me pull these two things apart.

Corporations will often choose a typeface, or set of typefaces, to use in everything they do. Jujama, as an example, uses a variation of DIN in most of our work so far. This way materials made by them will all be unified and recognizable. However, in this age of enormous scale some typeface licenses make it nearly impossible to use one off-the-shelf.

For example, Netflix recently created their own font called Netflix Sans, saving them millions of dollars in licensing fees. Even if their design team spent 18 months making this typeface (which they likely did, or more) the savings would far outweigh the investment.

But then there is the less pragmatic reasons for creating your own typeface – such as Arby’s Saucy AF (which is an acronym I will not dissect here). It fits their brand, is fun, and likely doesn’t not impact the bottom line much.

Other recent examples I’ve seen include Airbnb’s Cereal (which, if you know the company history, is a fitting name), IBM’s Plex, and eBay’s Market Sans.

I seem to see at least one corporation per week updating their identities with all-new, custom-made, typefaces. I think it is great. And what fun to work on! I do not have the skills, yet, to make my own typeface but I can imagine a time where I give that a try.

    @cdevroe while I agree that its interesting, I also think its a dangerous path in terms of design. Previously the design space was available to anyone who was interested and motivated. As these designs become corporatised and privatised, that stops, and I think we all suffer.

    @dgold How does a corporation having a typeface all its own prohibit new designers from entering the field? As I said, this is not a new thing. It has been happening since the 15th century.

    @cdevroe If all the typeface work, all the leading foundries, are all working in the private corporate sphere with non-competes, then the typefaces aren’t being made available to the rest of us.

    There’d be no (frinstance) Avenir Next on macos, because Avenir Next would be a private font of Mom Corporation. Prior history isn’t remotely comparable to the current world of hyper-wealthy individuals and corporations.

    @dgold I think I see your argument, but I do not think we’ve yet reached the “all the foundries” are working on corporate typefaces moment. There are still amazing works being done and available to all.

    @cdevroe oh, o don’t think we’re there yet either. I do still think that it remains a dangerous path, mirroring other developments where what were thought of as public spheres are increasingly being privatised by the hyper-wealthy, from parks to beaches to organ donation.

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