Most people don’t really notice the style of lettering, or “typeface” used on a package – not consciously anyway. But deep in a typical consumer’s unconscious this critical design choice carries tremendous weight. It can be one of the biggest factors in determining the success or failure of your package design.
In the world of packaging, the specific use of words -- called “copy” in marketing and design lingo -- is typically the last thing considered by a consumer behind shape, color, and imagery. Often times this is because products have too much copy and overwhelm the viewer. But mostly it’s because consumers are inundated with choices and desire the quickest and easiest way of determining a product’s value.
Even though the copy on your package is lower in priority than some other elements, it’s vital to handle the treatment of the copy with care. Copy has a visual weight that can help you define your brand’s personality. A typeface’s history, emotional value, quantity in use, and legibility are four things to think about when choosing a typeface for your package.
Much like the trends of bell-bottoms, hula-hoops, and green kitchen appliances, typefaces have a history. For example, before you go using the Stencil typeface, consider its history and determine if that lines up with the personality of your product. Stencil is often found on crates and military items. Does this personality fit your product?
Due to the historical use of some typefaces, consumers will have a pre-existing emotional connection to a typeface. Often times designers use this emotional connection to help convey the brand’s personality. For instance, the typeface Comic Sans (used in comic books) has a cartoon-like feel, which gives the impression of playfulness. However, use caution. Look at a typeface from the perspective of different age groups, cultures, and historical trends. Comic Sans for the most part will feel unprofessional and cheap on a package.
As mentioned before, copy is the last thing a consumer will notice about a package. Make sure it’s worth the time it takes to read. Likewise, make sure the hierarchy of the copy is as clear as possible in order to get your point across quickly. One way to achieve this is to limit the quantity of typefaces you use on your package.
A good rule of thumb is to use no more than two typefaces for your copy. As a side note, the typeface used for your logo (if any) should not be considered as one of these two typefaces, as it will detract from the weight of your brand.
When selecting your typefaces you’ll need a display typeface and a copy typeface. The display typeface is for callouts like product features or points you wish to make about the product while the copy typeface will be used for smaller items like paragraph product description.
Display typefaces will typically be bolder or more decorative, and in many cases will not bode well for paragraphs. Your copy typeface should be simple in either a serif (Times New Roman -- more traditional) or san serif (Arial -- modern) version.
Once you’ve selected your typefaces and you apply them to your package design, stand back and evaluate all copy as if it were an image. Does the treatment of the copy distract from the other elements? Does it look purposeful and intentional? Can you clearly read all of the content? Can you tell what points are more important than others?
Good copy and how it’s displayed will be the final purchase factor for a consumer. Make sure it’s clear, concise, and in-line with your brand.
The right typeface will bring all of these elements together.
Laura Donnelly is the Strategy Director for XO Create! which provides expertise in packaging experiences by transforming consumer brands through compelling branding and packaging innovations.
To contact Laura call 678.319.4242