Museums, galleries, theaters, concert halls, artists, musicians … the culture industry is full of opportunities to design the world at large. We’re talking about more than entertainment. This is an essential part of many people’s lives. There seem to be two main approaches when it comes to Culture Branding, both of which are reflected in the selection of typefaces on this list.
One is to pick a font as restrained as necessary and as quirky as possible in order to create a neutral backdrop for the art. Designers of this school are hungry for the magnificent grots and neogrots we find on the market today. The other approach is to go wild with display fonts — let the type become an actor, make typography an expressive performance in itself.
by Jeremy Tankard / Jeremy Tankard Typography
Legible, cool and neutral enough, this superfamily comes in 3 (Egyptian) and 5 (Sans) widths and gives you plenty to work with in terms of culture branding. Brands in culture often use only one or two styles of a given font family, so you’ll get plenty mileage out of the entire Trilogy suite.
by Igor Labudovic / Schriftlabor
A versatile humanist sans-serif, Modal that can be both restrained or expressive, depending on your selection of styles. Quirky variants like the stencil or backslant fonts lend themselves to more experimental applications in culture branding.
by Nick Shinn / Shinntype
I’m probably out on a limb with this one, but here’s my hot take for theaters: Soft serif faces with a “Tight-Not-Touching” or “TNT” look will celebrate a triumphal comeback. TNT means minimal space between letters, achieved through meticulous spacing and kerning. It was popular in the 1970s. This technique conveys the right amount of human warmth that sets the dramatic arts apart from more distanced storytelling devices such as film. Nick Shinn’s Jenson-style Nicholas is innately equipped with the TNT look, which means less work for you, the typographer. Goodchild is the unofficial text variant of Nicholas. They look great together.
by Bogidar Mascareñas / Typetogether
Laima is a calligraphic stencil face unlike any other I’ve encountered. Its dignified elegance begs to be used for the arts.
by Matthieu Salvaggio / Blaze Type
Ever swoon at those jazz club posters with super-tall, super-condensed grotesque headlines? Yeah, use Arges for that. Just pair it with a legible sans or serif for body copy and you’re all but good to go for a strong music brand.
by Moritz Kleinsorge / Identity Letters
These are not stencil fonts per se, but some selectively placed gaps in the letters add sparkling visual interest to the clean design that creates a distinct image. The Glance superfamily is somewhere on the border of almost neutral and expressive. Sooner or later, it’s bound to pop up in a strong branding for the arts.
by René Bieder / Studio René Bieder
A beautifully executed, clean geometric sans, Galano’s tremendous x-height plus dozens of quirky alternates make it a versatile tool for a more neutral yet distinct typographic style.
by James Puckett / Dunwich Type Founders
Is this the best grotesque I’ve never used? Technically a cool, neutral sans, Antarctican somehow manages to be full of wood-type warmth and character at the same time. Both the proportional and the monospace subfamilies absolutely belong into the art world.
by Max Phillips / Signal Type Foundry
Ballinger is a clean sans-serif face with open apertures; something in the spirit of early 20th-century grotesques, but more legible and approachable (without flaunting obtrusive friendliness). It’s a face I’d like to encounter at a museum or art center. Ballinger’s dynamic italics are strong enough to serve as the backbone of a brand on their own.
by Alja Herlah / Type Salon
An incredibly clean (but not bland) typeface optimized for signage and wayfinding. Univerza Sans contains a bonus set of icons originally designed for university use that can be repurposed for cultural institutions.
by Art Grootfontein
Stretch it vertically, stretch it horizontally. Flexible Visual Systems are on the rise in culture branding and this caps-only Variable Font can help you realize a matching typographic look.
by Roch Modrzejewski for ROHH
A digital recreation of a vintage 20th-century typeface from Poland, Paneuropa 1931 emits the optimistic spirit of the time it was originally designed in. It was clearly inspired by Paul Renner’s Futura, so if your brief suggests the 1927 classic (as is common in culture branding), you might propose Paneuropa 1931 instead.
by Anita Jürgeleit / TypeThis! Studio
A hybrid serif face with vertical stroke axis, Mireille comes with an almost monoline look in the Thin weight that increases significantly in the bolder weights. Its main feature are heaps of swashes: there are more than 400 stylistic alternate characters. Whether a dance festival or an exhibition of antique gems, whenever pure elegance is called for, do consider Mireille.
by Jakob Runge / TypeMates
One of the most popular geometric sans-serifs in culture branding (and probably one of the most successful sans-serif designs of the 2010s), Cera Pro continues to be one of typographer’s best friends. I applied it to great avail from day one and am always happy to see another use case with Cera Pro. Meanwhile, the TypeMates turned Cera into an entire superfamily.
Johannes López Ayala is a designer, writer, and artist based in Germany. With a background in languages, he studied Industrial Design and Communication Design, worked in big-corp marketing, managed an art gallery, and eventually took to type. He completed the postgraduate Expert class Type design at the Plantin Institute of Typography, Antwerp, in 2022.
In addition to his professional work as a creative director at Tipogris Books and Brands, he has been teaching as a lecturer at Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences. Follow Johannes on Twitter and read his irregular type reviews at 366Fonts.
Photo credit (header): Mediamodifier