Typography: The classics are still singing

New technologies are popping up everyday it seems – smaller tablets, bigger cell phones, phones that are tablets, watches masquerading as televisions and televisions that are computers. These pieces of hardware are really impacting communications and often creating new methods of getting your message across. Twenty years ago ‘LOL’ were the first three letters in lollypop and ‘WTF’ was, well, we can’t really talk about that one (my Mom may be reading this). Yes, things are changing really fast. Or are they?

Advertising and Graphic Design History Matters

Take for example a typeface first used in 1530 to set the Erasmus book Paraphrasis in Elegantiarum Libros Laurentii Vallae (I didn’t just pull that book title out of my little brain, I looked it up on Wikipedia, honest). Back in the day, typefaces were cut by hand in wood and metal. It was a labourious process that took a lot of time, amazing skill and craftsmanship. You’d think something created by hand by an old guy in 1530 would be hopelessly out of date – until you see it used in the Abercrombie and Fitch logo in the corner of ads showing impossibly beautiful teens frolicking in their finery. I wonder what Erasmus would think of that? As a theologian that wrote about the reformation (again, I only know this because of Wikipedia), would he see the humour in a typeface first used to set books on Christianity appearing many years later in ads with naked people (who aren’t Adam and Eve)?

Typography Indeed Helps Brands Communicate Effectively

If you haven’t guessed by now – and if you have, you’re a design history savant – the typeface is Garamond, designed by punch cutter Claude Garamond (1490-1561). It is truly a classic that is used daily around the globe. We use it here at Arcas Advertising regularly, including as one of the primary typefaces for our client, Prairie Centre Credit Union (see the work here). Obviously a credit union is a little different than Abercrombie and Fitch, but strangely enough Garamond works well in both instances. Dr. Seuss books are also set in Garamond and so were Apple Computer ads about a decade or so ago. When you start looking, it’s everywhere. It’s easy on the eyes and easy to read.

Good Graphic Design is Always Good Business

According to Mr. Wikipedia, it was Claude’s first Roman type design, meaning it was based on type forms developed in the Roman Empire. Hmmmm, Ancient Rome – that was a bit before the Renaissance, wasn’t it? So when you see Garamond used in contemporary communications, keep in mind that while we’re forging ahead towards a brave new future, especially with the huge proliferation of information, that the classics are more relevant then ever.

What typefaces have you observed that are essential in a brand’s visual communications? We’d love to hear from you via @Arcas_Ad on Twitter!

– Erik Norbraten, Associate Creative Director