NewSpring Church Rebranding Process Part 2: Supporting Typography

(In case you missed it, you can read Part 1: The Logo)

Towards the end of the logo design process, I began seriously looking at typefaces to determine what kind of supporting typography would work well for NewSpring Church. I like to think of typefaces in corporate identity as a type of handwriting unique to an individual. One of the constraints this identity package needed to work within was budget. Quality typefaces are often not cheap (and rightly so if they’re well-made), but from a stewardship perspective our budget simply can’t/won’t support more than a handful of font licenses. I wanted a complimentary combo of a solid, modern sans-serif and a functional, ubiquitous serif but knew there had to be some tradeoff involved to get something appropriate and affordable/sustainable. 

I researched a number of san-serif typefaces, particularly Hoefler & Frere-Jones’ Whitney which much of the final wordmark was based on. Ultimately, Whitney was a tad too playful and didn’t work as well on-screen for some of our video applications. But when I began using Berthold Akzidenz Grotesk Extended for the “Church” tagline in my logo iterations, something clicked.

It’s still fascinating to me that a typeface released in 1896 can somehow feel fresh today. Crazy Germans and their great typographic legacy. AG has much in common with other realist san-serif typefaces like Helvetica and Univers (both of which were based on it), but a few of the characters, particularly the capital R, led me towards AG when I began the first comps of wayfinding/environment signage for our facilities. In the end, a combination of AG Extended (for all-caps signage applications and AG Super for mixed-case applications started feeling cohesive and appropriate. We bought two 5-CPU licenses for Berthold Akzidenz Grotesk Collection, which includes all weights of the standard, condensed (occasionally used for web graphics) and extended versions. The Communications and Creative Arts teams create most public-facing graphics and visuals for NewSpring Church, so those teams are the only ones who have/use this typeface. That keeps things tidy and within our licensing budget.

Having settled on AG for “the designers” to use, we still needed something ubiquitous/affordable for the rest of our ministry staff to use in common applications like sign-up forms, internal documents, etc. As much as I wish the Communications team controlled everything, I also don’t — we’d never get it all done. The reality of life in a large organization is that this identity needs to make room for non-designers to create visuals in keeping with the visual identity that is being established. Narrowing the type choice down to something free and widely available obviously dramatically decreased the number of options. This is where my web design background actually helped solve a typography issue for once — the font family Lucida can be found on most modern computer systems. As I understand, it’s on all Apple computers with OS X and on most PCs that have Microsoft Word installed, so there’s no purchasing/licensing to deal with. 

The Lucida family includes a rarely (at least from my experience) used version called Lucida Fax, a slab serif originally designed for fax sheets. The geometric nature of slab serifs appeals to my general design sensibilities, and worked well in partnership with Akzidenz Grotesk in some of my first typography experiments (which littered my workspace for weeks). Other members of the Communications team undertook the fairly large project of resetting all the internal documents and forms and such in Lucida Fax and making sure it was installed on all the computers at the office. We’ve been coaching our other staff and volunteers to think of Lucida Fax as “the NewSpring font” when creating documents. 

The combination of a licensed sans-serif for the designers and a free serif for everyone else saves our church a great deal of money in font licensing, enables us to present a united typographic front in all applications, allows for enough interplay between the two faces to not feel limited and puts certain “design tools” (in the form of templates and a single font) into the hands of untrained ministry-level people so that they can produce visuals that are still in keeping with the NewSpring visual identity.

If I had an unlimited budget, I might have chosen a more-refined serif face (like H&FJ’s cut of Didot they did for Harper’s Bazaar), but that would’ve cost thousands of dollars that we can spend in better ways elsewhere. I think the AG/Lucida Fax combo gets us mostly there, and works within our constraints without cramping our style too much.

Still to come: signage, standards guides, copywriting and the relaunch of