In the world of packaging, the design can make or break a customer’s experience. The different components that can make custom packaging successful are the structure, the artwork, and the typeface you use.
Typography can be something that is easily overlooked but plays a crucial role in any packaging. Having the right typeface will work to reflect your brand’s personality.
What is Typography?
Typography is the technique of arranging type. It’s an essential part of packaging design because it allows for your customers to gauge whether your brand stands out and if the information on the box is legible.
Typography comes with its own dense terminology but its good to get started with the basics: Type Classification.
There are generally 5 Type Classifications, each with their own distinct features. Type Classification is essentially categorizing typefaces and fonts based on historical periods and key visual characteristics.
Serif typefaces have short lines that extend from the open ends of a letterform called serifs, hence the name. Typefaces in this class are typically seen in your everyday documents; books, newspapers, essays, and so on. With this type of association, you can say that serif typefaces express a historical, traditional, and formal essence in packaging design.
Take a look at Evermore London’s candle boxes for instance. The serif typeface “Sainte Colombe” expresses elegance and maturity throughout the box’s simple design. Adding the embossing and foil stamping to the Serif typeface further reflects this luxury atmosphere as well. Also, keep in mind how large the font size is so that the type becomes the statement piece to set the mood.
Sans means “without a line” which makes this classification the opposite of Serif typefaces, which again are letterforms without short lines or strokes. This type of classification is a modern and simple approach to letterforms as sans serifs strip away the excess details. Sans Serifs can display a youthful, approachable, and even high-end appearance. You can say that sans serif typefaces are highly versatile, appearing in electronics packaging (Samsung, Nintendo, etc.) to luxury brands (Dolce & Gabbana, Micheal Kors, etc.)
In the example above, you can see that the Italian backpack store Okkaido uses the “Boogie SchoolSans” and “Univers” typefaces to create a minimalist and modern aesthetic to reflect their products.
Script typefaces are reminiscent of handwritten letters due to their fluid strokes. Some script typefaces connect letterforms while others display varied stroke weights. The typefaces in this class can be both formal and casual depending on the flourishes and strokes. You can still see this typeface in a traditional application like wedding invitations.
There are many variants of script fonts out there, as you can see from the previous images. Pappas uses a traditionally styled script to emphasize an old-school, familiar vibe to represent their barbershop aesthetics. KitKat, on the other hand, uses a casual, almost handwritten approach to exude playful energy for their chocolate bars.
Monospaced typefaces mean that every character in that font has the same width (this includes spaces and special characters) while other types have varying widths. This type class has serif and sans serif variations.
Monospaced type was invented to suit the requirements of typewriters. Now, we see this type class in computer programming. In terms of packaging, it is not the most common type to use since it takes too much space compared to fonts in other type classes. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it. If you choose this typeface, it’s best if you use it for short lengthed text.
Display typefaces, like its name, are made for display purposes. Typefaces in this category can vary greatly and can take from other type classes like sans serif, serif, and script.
Most, if not all, display typefaces are not recommended for body text because their complexity makes normal sentences hard to read in smaller font sizes. Imagine Château des Arras‘ “Intro Inline” typeface was used for the informational text on a box design. It’d be hard to even read a couple of sentences using that font wouldn’t it? So always remember that display typefaces serve to grab attention rather than feed tons of information.
Choosing a Font Size
The font size will depend on the dimensions of your box, your target audience, and the typeface you choose. For example, if you have a smaller surface area, you may need to have a smaller font size to fit all your informational details. If you are targeting an older demographic, it’s best to have a bigger font size in order for them to read the text better. In terms of the typeface, remember that fonts carry different weights, widths, and letter-spacing that can affect the text’s layout on packaging boxes.
It’s also important to consider the material you are working on as ink has a possibility of spreading, causing text to bleed and become hard to read. If you ever find yourself having a tough time figuring this out, you can also seek the advice of a product specialist to help you make a decision with your packaging solutions.
Show Off Your Brand’s Personality
Typography doesn’t always have to be the “Standard” look, especially when it comes to the brand’s or product’s name! Sure the instructional information needs to be free of experimentation, but your product name can have some fun.
Kerning is the space between two consecutive letters. The space in between each letter can vary, some letter combinations will have less space, others will have more. With kerning, you can adjust the space in between to create uniformity and prevent text from being misread.
The Baseline is an imaginary line where most letters sit on. Think of it like a lined notebook, we always try to write on that line to keep our alignment neat. For product titles, you don’t have to abide by the baseline, you can change up the elevation of some of your letters to create a playful tone on your packaging. Take a look at I Dew Care’s products for example.
Notice that every alternating letter rises slightly above the baseline to create a sense of airiness and fun.
Of course, you don’t want to get too crazy with your typographic layout, your information still needs to be clear. Imagine if all your text is in script fonts. Imagine if your kerning was too tight and ended up creating a chain of endless letters. You wouldn’t be able to read anything and that will prevent people from remembering your brand and affecting their experience with it.
There’s always going to be something to think about when creating a custom packaging experience. Choosing between the different typeface classes is completely up to you! Anything you choose should always keep your brand’s identity as a priority in order to make your custom box design worth remembering.