Corporate initiated typeface designs

Martin LAllier's picture

Hi all,

I'm to give a talk on corporate typefaces this Fall (2006), particularly on fonts designed exclusively for a company's branding. I will also cover fonts designed to answer special technical needs (signage, screen, ...).

My list so far:
_ Jean-François Porchez (Mencken, Deréon, Parisine, Costa, ...)
_ Erik Spiekermann (FF, Meta, FF Info, DBahn, Nokia, ...)
_ Matthew Carter (Bell Centennial, Verdana, Georgia, ...)
_ the Clearview project
_ Nick Shinn (Richler)
_ Underware (Ulrika)
_ H&FJ (Mercury, Verlag, ...)

Any other milestones I should consider? Do you have sources of informations (www, books, magazines, ...) that would ease my research?

Thanks for any suggestions and your help!!!!!!!

Stephen Coles's picture

Christian Schwartz (Bosch with Spiekermann, Guardian with Paul Barnes)

Si_Daniels's picture

This one convers branding *and* technical requirements...

Convection - for Microsoft's Xbox 360 brand and device UI

Many (most) top brands use pre-existing fonts, even if heavily customized, here are few commissions...

Inspira for GE
Champion for Nike
Macromedia branding font - Brody or Dalton Maag, someone in London? (edit - it was actrually by Font Bureau)
Miles Newlyn - various
Matthew Carter - Walker
Myriad for Adobe ;-)

Also Henrik Birkvig did a small conference in Copenhagen on this theme

thierry blancpain's picture

whitney by H&FJ
and the customized neo tech/sans for intel (as discussed on here before)

marcox's picture

Frederic Goudy - Californian (for the University of California)
Matthew Carter - The Yale Typeface

Nick Shinn's picture

I've also designed an early-reading face for Nelson Thomson publishing company.
Named, er, Nelson! See my web site.
And Brown Gothic and Walburn for the Globe and Mail -- although custom types designed for newspapers and magazines are a separate category, there are so many of them, Century, Times, etc. What foundries do is give the commissioning customer an exclusive licence for a limited time, and then release the face commercially. It's a great way to finance new product, although it does direct foundry output in a very staid direction, given the traditional look of newspapers, and the conservatism of the biggest market, American mass media.

For more Canadian content, Usherwood's Flange for a government program, and perhaps his face used for the launch of Canada's Wonderland, Sycamore? No doubt he did others, check with Matt Warburton, who is something of an Usherwood expert, or Steve Jackaman of Red Rooster, who publishes a lot of Usherwood faces.

Frutiger was designed for an airport.

There are a lot of custom corporate faces in the UK.
Dalton Maag makes a specialty of it.
My currrent favorites over there include Jason Smith's design for Channel 4 (2004) and the national Westminster Bank typeface, by David Quay, I believe.

Sources: Goudy's Type Designs will reveal many.

Miss Tiffany's picture

The typeface Suntory was done at Linotype for the Japanese beverage company Suntory.

.00's picture

Our NPS Rawlinson and Rawlinson Roadway for the National Park service.


armin's picture

Go through Joe Finocchiario's type portfolio: (dig the General Dynamics type)

Also, I wouldn't consider Clearview a corporate typeface, specially if you are focusing on "fonts designed exclusively for a company’s branding"... The interstate, as far as I know, is not a company and something as specific as road signage does not branding make.

Stephen Coles's picture

It'd be cool if Finocchiaro listed the typefaces (Avenir, Trade Gothic, Bodoni, Futura, Handel Gothic) that served as a basis in many of those "new corporate fonts". It seems only his Futura stencil gets this treatment.

thierry blancpain's picture

if you're interested in that kind of thing, frutiger himself has agreed to the use of a reviewed frutiger as typeface for the road-signs in switzerland, its now named «astra frutiger».

there was a thread about this one on typophile, the easiest way to find it is to use google with your search-term, adding "" in front of it.

ill sans's picture

BMW has its own typeface & Ikea uses a customised Century Schoolbook if I'm not mistaking.

Tim Ahrens's picture

Kurt Weidemann's design for Mercedes
is my favourite. I think is is a perfect expression of the brand values and an excellent type design by itself. I like especially Corporate A.

Bobby Henderson's picture

Regarding the Macromedia branding font, that one is Vonnes from Font Bureau. It was available on the Font Bureau website at one time. But I just checked and it isn't there. Hmm.

Danilo-Black has developed a number of custom type families for newspapers and magazines. They worked on "Houston" for the Houston Chronicle.

Armin, I agree Clearview Highway is not really a "corporate" typeface (although AT&T has adopted the similar ClearviewOne for much of their stuff). Though the funding for it came from other places than a specific corporation it is still a non-retail oriented font. The work on ClearviewHwy spanned over a decade and involved a lot of testing and research in areas not considered for very many other typefaces. It's a very significant development for sign-specific type.

TBiddy's picture

Wow, great thread. This is a question I've always wanted to know the answer to. If this is not straying to far off the topic, I would like to know how type designers get involved in these projects. Are you approached by the companies, or do you approach the companies?

As a graphic designer I know how many companies (even the big ones) are often very reluctant to purchase typefaces, let alone to buy a custom face. How is there so much difference between corporations and their understanding of the importance of typography?

Nick Shinn's picture

Some advocates are more persuasive than others.
But if a newspaper hires Roger Black for a redesign, they're probably expecting new fonts from the Bureau, followed by SND awards.

Stephen Coles's picture

Regarding the Macromedia branding font, that one is Vonnes from Font Bureau. It was available on the Font Bureau website at one time. But I just checked and it isn’t there. Hmm.

It was never available for purchase, but a sample was available in their Custom section. That section is now AWOL, and I miss it.

Richard Hards's picture

German (I think) utilities company RWE have RWECorporateH

I don't know who designed it, this comes from a courtesy sign for their UK subsidiary Thames Water.

My client wasn't interested in making the the fonts available to me, so I used Frutiger, and everybody was happy ;)

Stephen Coles's picture

That looks very much like a FF Transit-style Frutiger.

rs_donsata's picture

Well, Frutiguer was originally designed to signal the Charles de Gaulle airport.

Reforma newspaper in México used Sinergia, a text face by Font Bureau, I'm not sure if it was custom designed or exclusively licensed to them. Now that they have redesigned they are using a special display weight of Mercury which I have seen nowhere else.


.00's picture


Part of the advantage of offering a custom solution is one of licensing and distribution. If a corporation is going to properly license a font or fonts for worldwide distribution: A. they are going to pay a lot for that license B. It is a license with its own restrictions and C it is a font that is already being used by others.

A custom solution gives the client a unique font, and the freedom to do with it what they want. They still have to pay a lot of money, but they were going to do that anyway.

Sometimes they come to you , and sometimes you go to them.


Si_Daniels's picture

Last few posts reminded me of the story behind Corpid for the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture

brampitoyo's picture

Fontsmith is one of them foundries that specializes in custom corporate typefaces. I love their script face -- Arabic! -- done for Saudi Aramco.

Grot Esqué's picture

Here’s an ID thread.

It’s so nice to see that some companies commission typefaces after all.

vinceconnare's picture

at DaltonMaag we have designed many logos and typeface for corporations. Airmiles
BT Directory
Coop Schweiz
Delta Airlines
Land Registry
The National Lottery
PPP Healthcare
Telewest Broadband
Tottenham Hotspur

timd's picture

Edward Johnston for London Underground
As a side note, what are the earliest instances of corporate typefaces?


londontype's picture

Tim, I believe Johnston may be the earliest corporate face. I know I read that somewhere - true or not.

dezcom's picture

Depends if you count the carved letterforms on the Trajan column as the corporate face of Rome :-)


vinceconnare's picture

today though a Official font in Rome on bank machine (hole in a wall) is Comic Sans!!!!
Metro machines and Venice chocolate stores!!!

londontype's picture

Viva la Comic Sans! Better than Helvetica any day.

dezcom's picture

Todays ATM is equivalent to the marble facades of Rome :-)


robb's picture

"Regarding the Macromedia branding font, that one is Vonnes from Font Bureau... It was never available for purchase, but a sample was available in their Custom section. That section is now AWOL, and I miss it."
Stephen, the custom section will be back, along with lots of new work to fill it with. Promise. Vonnes (now Vonness) was available offline for a brief pocket of time before Macromedia wanted exclusivity again. It can still be seen in Concierge magazine due to that tiny blip of availability.

Martin, contact me at Font Bureau and I can supply you images of Vonness for Macromedia and others depending on what you're hunting for. The bulk of our library was originally commissioned type for publications. Some were for corporations including Proforma for Purup by Petr von Blokland in the mid 80s:

Another one of note is customized monospace Interstate for Citibank's massive credit report operation. You can see them at the very bottom of the list here:

-Robb: rogle [at] fontbureau dot com

Richard Hards's picture

Thinking of custom corporate fonts, has anybody heard from Miles Newlyn recently? His site has been down for a while.

Si_Daniels's picture

>Depends if you count the carved letterforms on the Trajan column as the corporate face of Rome :-)

Great attention to detail. Proves that the letter carvers fiddled while Rome kerned. ;-)

Cheers, Si

dezcom's picture

",,,letter carvers fiddled while Rome kerned"

Freakin outstanding Sii! Your best ever :-)


Stephen Coles's picture

I'm still trying to wrap my head around it.

Martin LAllier's picture

Thanks so much for all these suggestions!

As for Clearview, I will talk about it and other such projects to show how typeface design can be a solution to a technical problem (in the same way as Bell Centennial).

In other words: how selecting a font may be more than a stylistic fancy.

timd's picture

According to this Peter Behrens designed the first corporate typeface (and identity) for AEG, I can't find anything concrete to back it up however, many other sites seem to share the same source.

wolfgang_homola's picture

About Behrens, AEG and his typeface see
Robin Kinross: Modern typography (1992), p 70
Robin Kinross: Modern typography (new edition 2004), p 85/86

I think the Roman du Roi was also some kind of corporate typeface -
at least it was designed for the exclusive use by the Imprimerie Royale...

Maxim Zhukov's picture

> fonts designed exclusively for a company’s branding

Martin, are you asking about branding ('signature') typefaces, or the proprietary typefaces?

Many popular printing types originated as proprietary designs. Among them are Century (1894), Cheltenham (1896), Times New Roman (1931), Bell Gothic (1937), Californian (1939).

In my opinion, Romain du Roi is a fine example of a proprietary typeface...

The typeface for the Prussian Railroads (1905) is probably the earliest proprietary design for railway car lettering and signage. It precedes Edward Johnston's typeface for London Underground by ten years.

Packard (1913), Metropolitan Oldstyle (1914), Saks-Goudy (1934), CBS Sans and CBS Didot Bodoni (196?), Bloomingdale's Gothic (197?) are some of the long-forgotten American branding typefaces.

There are two useful books on the subject: Branding with Type, and American Proprietary Typefaces.

Nick Shinn's picture

The Fell type, cut for Bishop Fell at the Oxford University Press, late 17th century.

Martin LAllier's picture

Indeed, proprietary typefaces, seem to be the appropriate term.

Maxim Zhukov's picture

> The Fell type, cut for Bishop Fell at the Oxford University Press, late 17th century.

I thought that most of those types were not cut to the order of Dr. Fell. He bought punches and matrices in Holland and Germany in 1670 and 1672, and brought them to Oxford. The original collection was complemented by the larger sizes that were indeed custom-manufactured at his request.

brampitoyo's picture

Speaking of Fell Type, I love Igino Marini's take on it in all of their flawed beauty.

Martin LAllier's picture

Interesting article by Erik Spiekermann on Corporate typography in “An A-Z of type designers” by Neil Macmillan. Covers the basic rationale behind the function of typography as a tool for branding - message and identity all at once.

Other interesting articles by type designers. The rest of the book is a list of designers with: fonts designed, bio. This aspect is much better covered by the Friedl, Ott & Stein book.

eriks's picture

Interesting article by Erik Spiekermann

I attach a jpeg with showings of most faces I designed over the years. The fonts for corporations were usually designed by teams, and some of my collaborators were Lucas de Groot, Ole Schäfer, Albert Pinggera, Henning Krause, Erik van Blokland, Just van Rossum, Conor Mangat and Christian Schwartz. I know I've left some faces off the list, as I can never remember all of them and as we shouldn’t get too much credit for adaptions like Univers for Audi Sans, Frutiger Condensed for FF Transit or Futura for VW Headline. And I just noticed that I left out The Economist, so I’ll have a think, try and find the original file and post an updated spiekertypes image soon.

If anybody is interested, I can supply that article as a text file.

dezcom's picture

"If anybody is interested, I can supply that article as a text file."

I would be interested Erik.


brampitoyo's picture

Count me in.

Martin LAllier's picture

I would very much that article, thx!

And anything covering the designs of the Nokia and Glasgow faces - I already have and much enjoyed the DB fonts presentation PDF.

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