Designers: When To Customize Type For Logos

Typefaces exist for a reason. They make our job as designers much, much easier, as we don’t have to consider the intricate ins and outs of designing appropriate letterforms to go with our designs. But sometimes, a font designed by someone else is not enough. Perhaps it doesn’t quite have the flair your client is looking for, or something about the design is a bit off, and just isn’t working.

When is it an appropriate time to customize the type you’re working with to suit the needs of your client? Let’s explore some ideal situations for you type-loving designers out there.

When The Client Asks You To

This one is obvious, but it still needs to be said. Some brands, by virtue of being unique to your client’s business, must have all of their elements be proprietary. This sometimes includes the type.

Logos are everywhere, and when too many logos begin to use typography and images that have become the standard in design circles, it can give the appearance of the logo looking the same as all the others out there. The less distinct a logo is, the more effort the client has to make to differentiate their business in other ways.

If you’re designing custom type for a business that already has an established brand, there is a whole system of protocol that you’ll need to stick to in order to ensure that the brand’s target market will still recognize the logo.

Sometimes, this can go wrong – even with big brands like Pepsi and Tropicana. When you are customizing type, it’s important to maintain cohesion with all the other visual elements that already exist in the brand’s mark.

When Your Font Library Isn’t Enough

With the amount of free and low-priced fonts out there, this one may not ever become an issue for you personally. I know I have far more typefaces than I know what to do with.

But sometimes, even that isn’t enough to satisfy a particular client’s needs, and I’ll have to dig deeper into my creativity to come up with a custom type treatment. I’ve studied type for a long time now, and I actually find that my customizations are often better than those you find at many free font depositories.

You can expand even a small font library by making custom modifications to your type. As long as you are aware of the fundamental rules of typography – weights, spacing, composition, et cetera – you can get an almost limitless variety with even the most basic set of fonts.

You can learn more about type and what goes into creating it from many, many free resources online, so there is no excuse not to do it right. The only thing worse than using a boring, standard font is customizing a boring, standard font the wrong way.

When You Want Something Familiar, Yet Different

If a totally unique font would be inappropriate for the project, yet a standard font would be lacking a certain something, the best option is to modify an existing font.

For example, say you want to use something that has the character of Helvetica, but won’t actually look like every other logo out there that uses Helvetica (is there even a way to count that many fonts?). Here, you would use a customized treatment that gives the general feel of the font you started with, but add a certain something that will make your logo really stand out from the rest of the bland, boring logos whose designers never bothered to change anything.

When You Need To Learn How Type Works

This is something that’s often overlooked, yet is very important for designers. Since type is such a fundamental component of design, there is a very good reason for all designers to learn how it works.

A lot of designers are afraid of doing custom type, because they don’t think their skills are up to par. I say: well, of course they’re not – you’ve never done it before! How else are you going to learn how to modify type if you never try it?

Some type designers will turn up their noses at the idea of graphic and web designers taking type modification into their own hands. But I don’t believe that type customization is only something that a designated type professional can or should do.

As I said, we all use type as designers – it’s a core component of our work. Why should we simply accept whatever fonts are available, even when they don’t quite fit our needs or the needs of our clients? We really shouldn’t.

What Do You Think?

Do you customize type for your design projects? What do you think designers need to learn about type in order to properly customize it when they need to?