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Michael Meadows Creative has been in business for over 18 years, providing our clients with on-target creative messages that set them apart from their competition. Contact us if you want that next big idea to be for you.

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Thursday
Apr252013

To-May-to, to-mot-o—is good typography just a matter of preference? It can mean the difference between success or failure with your marketing campaign.

What makes good typography? Does the average person even care? The answers to these questions can have a direct impact on whether of not your advertising or marketing campaign is successful.

Typography is one of those foundational elements that every communications effort is built on. Picking the right typeface can make the difference between the viewer staying with your message, or turning the page—and unlike Lot’s wife, never to look back.

The elements of good typography are fundamental to conveying your message in a way that supports the style of the message, without getting in the way of understanding the message. When you use a typeface that is difficult to read, the viewer will always gloss over the message. “I don’t have time to decipher what that ad is all about”, I gotta get some coffee”. Never give your potential customer an excuse to turn the page, because boy-oh-boy do they want to. People are bombarded on the average with over 3,000 ad messages per day. If they had to pay attention to every one of those messages, they would be overwhelmed, and probably not remember any of them. So their message filters have, over time, have become pretty robust. In order to blast through that wall of resistance, to get them to pay attention to your precious message, you can never give them a reason to move on, to ignore you. Using the wrong typeface that is difficult to read gives them that excuse. So picking the right typeface that is easy to read, reinforces the message, and enhances the mood of the message, becomes very important.

To illustrate the idea of legibility, here are some examples. I’ll use a favorite phase “zebra gas” my old college professor had us hand letter over and over (and over and over and over…) back in the stone age when hand lettering was still a viable method of producing typography. 

As you can see, even though the phrase is the same for each example, legibility is quite different. Samples 3, 4 and 8 are difficult to read. Use something like this in your headline and watch that page get turned fast enough to make your head swim. 

Typeface style is another important tool in using typography effectively. The style of a typeface conveys a “mood”, for a lack of a better word. It conveys the appropriateness of the typeface choice. To give you an idea of why appropriateness is important, I need to tell you about a scene in Sofia Coppela’s period movie “Marie Antoinette”. At one point, the camera is panning across the floor of Marie’s closet along the line of shoes she owned. Right smack in the middle of all of the shoes is a pair of bright pink Converse basketball shoes. WTF! Completely wrong for the period, and like a jagged shard of glass jammed in my eye. I’m now suffering from cognitive dissonance big time. What was Sofia thinking? I could no longer think of this as an accurate portrayal of the historical facts; all I could think of was she wanted people to think how edgy she was as a director. I no longer cared about the story. Navel-gazing is a fast was to lose an audience. She threw me completely off by her style choices. There were also inappropriate musical themes throughout the movie that just made it worse. 

To show what I mean by appropriate style in typography, here are some examples. 

I’m using the name “Ozymandias” from the poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Sample #1 has a classical typeface, which is highly legible and very stylish. Sort of high brow, dignified and official, like the king in the poem wants you to think of him when you hear his name. Sample #2 is a script typeface, which is appropriate for setting the mood for the period that the poem was written. It is though, somewhat harder to read. But it says “1818” hands down. Sample #3 is both the wrong period (think river boat gambler), and difficult to read. Watch that page get turned, pronto.

There are a lot of other considerations for functional typography—kerning, line spacing, alignment are just a few. Any competent graphic designer will know how to use these tools. But mood and legibility are most empactful when it comes to the potential customer staying on your message long enough for them to remember it.