Typefaces for Human-centered Branding

Dr. Nadine Chahine

If typography is the voice of a brand, what sort of typeface would fit a human-centered one? For many years now, branding design has been dominated by sans serif typefaces, particularly neo-grotesques and geometric sans serifs. Both of these genres typically appear quite neutral and the typefaces are often characterized by the absence of references to pen movement, or in other words, the absence of the human touch.

This trend has held for many years, but the hegemonic impact of the neutral sans serifs has transformed the branding landscape into a sterile one, often devoid of quirks, of idiosyncrasies, of imperfections. In other words, devoid of all that make us human.

Fast forward through a global pandemic to 2022, and we now live in a post-neutral world. The neutrality of geometric sans serifs no longer speaks to the shared trauma of the past two years. It is no longer possible to look at customers without recognizing their humanity and connecting with them on that level. When typefaces speak, they will need to do so with empathy and grace. This is not to say, that neutral designs are out. There will always be cases where they are perfectly suitable and necessary. But we can say this: it is time to bring the human back into design.

Below is a selection of typefaces that we think are suitable for human-centered branding design. These typefaces are able to project that contemporary feeling of modernity, but they are anchored with a human soul.

Pembroke by Jeremy Tankard Typography

There is such excellence of craftsmanship in this design, it is envy-inducing. The design is distinctive and forms beautiful words. There are subtle hints of pen movement in the uppercase S, in the swing of lowercase y, and in the arm of lowercase a. The outstroke at the bottom of the lowercase b is a feature borrowed from serif designs, perfectly anchoring the stem in place.

Code Next by Fontfabric

At first glance Code Next appears to be like every other geometric sans serif, but upon closer inspection, another story is unfolding. The design is wide, so wide that even the closed aperture of the lowercase e cannot alter that feeling of openness that it has or how warm and friendly it looks. Overall it still feels very human which is a great achievement for a geometric sans serif.

Antarctican by Dunwich Type

This one leaves us stumped. For all intents and purposes, this is a neutral design and we’re not able to pinpoint why or how the design is able to connect to our common humanity. And yet it does. When we say it has a certain je-ne-sais-quoi, we mean that literally; particularly when it comes to the heavy weights. They are ones we want to spend time with.

JAF Bernina Sans by Just Another Foundry

This is a sans serif with a beautiful soul. You just want to read in this. Disciplined but without the coldness. Those triangles at the tops on lowercase m and n are masterful hints to the origins of the pen-based movement. Small detail, big impact.

Americane by HVD Fonts

These are letters that want to make words. There is no fighting here, just harmony of shapes and movements. Love it. Lots of references to pen-based movements, particularly in the lowercase a, the ampersand, and the uppercase Q.

FinalSix by Type-o-tones

This typeface is superb. It’s quirky, it’s fun, it winks at you with that kick in the uppercase K and R and the shallow intersection in uppercase N. It feels adventurous, energetic, and very much alive and brimming with energy. It’s a versatile sans serif for a brand that does not want to sit still. Very solid design full of very positive vibes.

Taz by Lucas Fonts

Taz is a design that feels different without being weird. A daring strategy pulled off by expert design skills and craftsmanship. The family is huge and incredibly versatile, which is always handy!

Pandera by Lazydogs Typefoundry

Pandera has calm and generous proportion that immediately put you at ease. It’s quite paradoxical as it is full of unexpected details like the lower right stroke of the uppercase X, the highly energetic uppercase S, the tail of the uppercase Q, and the steep arch on lowercase r. And yet it evokes a sense of comfort and makes the world feel calmer. A soothing voice in these difficult times? Yes please!

previous: Steven Heller’s Font of the Month: Nicholas

next: Celebrating women-led foundries


Typeface Categories

Copyright © 2022 , I Love Typography Ltd. Typeset in LFT Arnoldo and Lektorat