Just our type

Mobile phone company Nokia’s newly launched Pure font is being applied across all its communications. Angus Montgomery looks at how companies are paying attention to their typefaces as part of their overall identities

Nokia has certainly put a lot of investment into the launch of its new typeface, which made its debut on 24 March.

The launch of the Nokia Pure font, created by Dalton Maag, was marked by an exhibition organised by Design Studio which saw consultancies including Build, Cartlidge Levene and Studio Myerscough create posters using the new typeface, which are being sold to raise money for the British Dyslexia Association.

Paul Stafford, founder of Design Studio, says, ’As far as we know this is the first time typography has had its own launch.’ Design Studio is currently working to apply the font across all Nokia’s communications.

Dalton Maag says the intention was for the Nokia Pure font to ’reflect the traditions of Finnish design: simplicity, clarity, functionality [and] beauty of form’. The consultancy says it was originally briefed to design a font primarily for use in digital media, that would also be versatile enough for use in other communications.

Dalton Maag managing director Bruno Maag describes the font as having a ’supporting’ role in the Nokia branding and adds, ’Obviously, I believe that typography is one of the major cornerstones of the whole identity. You cannot communicate without type, and it is applied across all the channels the client uses.’

Nokia is one of a number of clients that have been paying close attention to their typefaces recently, either by commissioning a typography-centred brand or by tying their typeface closely to their overall identity.

Michael Johnson, founder of Johnson Banks, places this move in opposition to the high-profile decision by Starbucks earlier this year to ditch the typography from its identity and rely solely on its siren figure. He says, ’To do that sort of thing you have to put an awful lot of money and trust into just an image.’

Johnson Banks has recently created heavily typographic identities for both Virgin Atlantic and the Science Museum.

Typography is one of the major cornerstones of the whole identity. You cannot communicate without type

With Virgin Atlantic, Johnson says the solution came about as the client was keen to use the brand name in full. ’We showed them a design early on where the name was written in full really huge on the side of the plane and they loved it,’ he says.

In the case of the Science Museum, Johnson describes the work as ’pretty much the Holy Grail’ for typographic identities, saying, ’It combines recognition, image, typography and the name of the institution.’

Johnson says the consultancy ’looked at lots of different routes’ before working up the Theo van Doesburg-inspired font. He says, ’We looked at the idea of fitting the letters into blocks. There is a letter’s difference between the two words, but we found a way of amalgamating the “I” and “E” in “science” to fit it into the grid.’

Johnson adds, ’We have big metal walls on the studio and this was one of the ideas that stayed on the wall. When the client first saw it they were a little discombobulated – it looks like a bit of code.’

He says, ’Early on if we see an opportunity to develop a typeface we might do a few letters to show a client and take it from there. In the old days it used to be so expensive to draw your own typeface – you were looking at £50 000-£70 000.’

With the move away from craft skills to computerisation, Johnson says a bespoke typeface can be developed for less than £20 000. Music’s new identity for the National Football Museum in Manchester, unveiled last month, is also based around a typographic route – and in this case the approach led to the consultancy’s success in the pitch, according to the NFM. Music says the identity uses the Breuer font, helping it to stand out from the Gill font, which is apparently commonly used in the football industry. The typographic route also means the identity can adopt a list of emotive words – such as ’drama’, passion’ and ’skill’ – and use a wide colour palette.

Even when typography is not used specifically in the identity itself, it can still be central to the branding. Someone’s newly launched branding for Eurostar is based around a brand sculpture that can be applied to different touchpoints. But also central to it is a new typeface, an adaptation of Fresco developed with Our Type.

The font features both leftand right-hand swashes, to signify movement, including a swash on the ’O’.

The consultancy says the swashes link the typeface to the ’flowing line’ of the central brand sculpture, while Emma Harris, director of sales and marketing at Eurostar, says, ’When we began the journey to create a new visual brand identity for Eurostar I didn’t consider a bespoke typeface to be part of that end result.

But now we have it I can’t imagine not having one.’

Typographic organisations

  • Typographic Circle – a not-for-profit organisation formed in 1976, which stages lectures and events
  • St Bride Library – a free collection of typographic and graphic design material
  • Typographic Hub – launched last month by Birmingham Institute of Art and Design. Runs research projects and maintains a specialist library
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