Here at Punch, we’re all about the words and the magic they wield as part of the whole creative package – driven by how our audience consumes that final message. Yet when it comes to copy – in place of a moving GIF, illustration or infographic – we’re instead at the mercy of whatever font our social channels happen to embody. From Facebook’s Lucida Grande to Instagram’s Proxima Nova, whilst the names may not ring a bell, their usage across the social playground most definitely will. These are fonts through which we’ve come to consume information (and impart it as authors) on a daily, if not regular basis. Yet as content creators, we are left with little or no choice as to how these words are perceived (to the painstaking point that uppercase will have to do in place of conventional italicisation). With Twitter having just updated its interface last month, we ask: what is the secret behind this new-age typography, and does it really matter?
A font by any other name…
From that secondary school project through to further education and beyond, we all have a font that we cling to, whether it’s traditional Times New Roman or the meme-worthy Comic Sans (you know, for posterity’s sake). But while this could mean the make or break of a project elsewhere, how relevant is this in social? Whilst text-led assets can help draw a scroller’s eye to the core message of a post, the copy above will always remain the same…but at what cost? Imagine, for a moment, a world where social allowed us to select our tweet or Comment font in the same vein that we meticulously post photos under the guise of our favourite filters; when we think about it, there’s a clear reason why a network’s font remains steadfast: branding.
And for this reason, a social network’s choice of type is perhaps more important than we realise. It does, after all, form a huge part of a brand’s identity; it’s what a brand’s voice looks like (if it were to have one). If we think about marketing – both digital and in print – font choice is synonymous with the household names we’ve come to know and love, and representative of their evolution through the years. And that’s exactly why such text must remain untouchable as a non-negotiable cog in the machine; as writers, it’s not about the choice of font at our disposal, but what we do with it that counts.
On the face of it
“We’ve refined our typography to make it more consistent, and added bolder headlines to make it easier to focus on what’s happening.” With Twitter’s blog announcing the channel’s most recent overhaul across twitter.com, Twitter for Android, Twitter for iOS and beyond, font choice would seem to play a major part in the future direction of the network, and how it’s perceived by the outside world; in this particular case, a more clean-cut, streamlined text, with @handles and key titles highlighted in bold. Not only is this in response to user feedback, but it also shows willing on Twitter’s behalf to evolve with the times, offering a clutter-free platform where users’ messages are heard loud and clear thanks to an improved, more intuitive user interface. As with any network overhaul, the new look may well throw up its own set of teething problems, but in the footsteps of others, will soon resonate as the familiar face of a platform we visit every day.
Though it may not be such an overt change, it will be interesting to see how typography in social continues to shape social networks as the world-famous brands they are today. Font, it would seem, has still got kudos.