Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Guilty Pleasures - Typography

I love looking at letters. Chinese script is best; the different fonts you see walking down a street in an Asian city blow my mind, all the better because I don't know what any of it means.

New York Life logoI was stopped in my tracks the other day by the New York Life logo in a bank window. It's a lovely piece of work! It revels in typography -- more than the client might've liked, perhaps -- and creates a quirky yet consistent image. The letters are tied together in a way that seems inevitable, but there are neat tricks. The eye is guided from top left to bottom right by the aligned diagonals, e.g. of the N and the R, and the W; and the link between the Y and the L. I also like the way the L I F E hangs from the first two lines.

Wells Fargo logoThe Wells Fargo logo, on the other hand, is just boring. The "WE" and "AR" ligatures are workmanlike, and the typeface evokes the frontier feel the bank wants to project. Beyond that, though, the only adventure is in the color. A rich amber on a saturated crimson ground; a golden sunset awaits those who trusts their wealth to the stage coach...

Edward Jones logoEdward Jones also had a little fun, contrasting two typefaces. The combination of Bodoni and Franklin Gothic suggests that the organization wants to be seen as both elegant and solid; that it's diverse; and that it might be able to hold two distinct ideas in its head at the same time.

Morgan Stanley logoTo Morgan Stanley, though, just using different shades for the two words was glamour enough. Flair and color is provided by a spurious glyph hanging over the end of "Morgan". Sure, a decent solution for cases when there isn't a tone gamut (faxes happen), but just what is that triangley thing? According to the press release that accompanied the launch of the new logo, it "symbolizes change and the inclination to innovate". Huh? As you probably knew, "[it] points toward the northeast, the general direction of financial success." And last but not least, "[the]three points symbolize the three groups served by the Firm: clients, shareholders and employees." That's a lot of weight for a little blue triangley thing, sorry, "a directional triangle", to bear.

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