Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Microsoft and Google collude to murder the corporate font

Last week I was chatting to my mate Nige, a guy who appreciates a good font, especially if its full of red wine. We were talking about branding and a project I am imminently to be involved in. We came to the somewhat belated conclusion that the nerds had finally engineered the death of the corporate font.

So this blog entry is my official announcement of the font's demise in my future branding strategies. When everything was delivered in print or in tightly controlled, rasterised audiovisual media, fonts were part of corporate identity.

But today, we are constructing channel strategies in which consistent visual image is less important than useability by Microsoft-conditioned office workers and, even more importantly, less important than comprehension by the bots that scour the net on behalf of search engines.

Don't be misled. I'm not celebrating the demise of the font, merely acknowledging that in many applications, passionately policing the corporate brand guidelines is poor business strategy and definitely not career-enhancing. Anything Google is blind too is brand poison these days.

And, in turn, the Google generations have been rendered blind to the role of careful typography in corporate presentations. For instance, I reviewed a presentation the other day for one young colleague. I confess - it was a Powerpoint presentation (50 lashes stretched over a template!). I've almost given up trying to police the use of the 'brand guidelines' font in the headings. But I did have to remark on 'inconsistent' font usage.

When challenged as to what I meant, I pointed out that it was nothing to do with using the 'proper' font, but about at least using the same font on every screen! 'I never noticed,' was the response. I rest my case.

Corporate visual guidelines are fighting a rear guard action against the overwhelming force of convenience (i.e. corporate fonts being loaded and available on on every Microsoft-compromised machine in the office) and the search engine gods. Optimal speed, delivery and effectiveness is triumphing over optimal  presentation.

The hair on graphic designers is noticeably shorter and more geek-like these days. But they still swear a lot. These days it's about having to work with HTML and bloody clients wanting to be on Google's first page. They rant against a world that believes it is far more effective to be ugly and out there than pretty and invisible.

So I'm going to strike a compromise in my next brand phase - I'll let you employ any Microsoft font as long as it's not Times Roman. After all, I am a man of principle! Furthermore, I hereby authorise an invasion of Microsoft's R&D facilitites to search for hidden WVDs - Weapons of Visual Destruction - that have yet to be unleashed.

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