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I have delivered an identity for a client. We are using one font in the logo and another complete family (Axiforma) for the actual body text, headlines, etc. The one in the logo is specifically intended to be ONLY used in the logo and nowhere else.

However, I get constant requests to also send the font we used in the logo so they can produce different office signage and who knows what else internally (ie. I know they are working with an interior designer to decorate the office).

I resisted all these requests with some arguments, but not sure: how do you tell a client they don't need to use the font in their logo for anything else, as the other family (Axiforma) covers everything they could possibly need.

How can I explain this properly?

  • 10
    Can you elaborate a bit why you chose the logo font to be different from the main font? I know there are plenty of possible good reasons to do this, but knowing the specific one might help to answer your question. – Wrzlprmft May 17 '17 at 9:33
  • 7
    Is there a brand guidelines / usage document? It should explain in there.... and then your answer is simply "refer to the guidelines" – Cai May 17 '17 at 9:56
  • 8
    This is "standard" practice? – Sure, that’s why I wrote “I know there are plenty of possible good reasons to do this”. Still, your specific reasons – as blatant as they may be to this community – can be relevant for your line of argument. – Wrzlprmft May 17 '17 at 10:29
  • 11
    Why don't you want them to do this? Is there a legal or contractual reason they can't have this? Is it a matter of them needing to purchase rights from you or another party? If none of that applies, you could certainly explain why it wouldn't be a good practice, but in the end shouldn't you give the customer what they want? – sirjonsnow May 18 '17 at 14:15
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    I agree with @sirjonsnow. Understanding why you seek to not provide the font is crucial for answering the question. As written, including comments, I get the impression that the situation is "the client paid for a font, but I don't want to give it to them." I'm pretty sure there's more to it than what I see, but that's what I get from the story so far. – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica May 18 '17 at 21:46
81

I would explain to them that although it is "technically" a font. In this case they should see the logo not as a "word written in a font" but as "typographic word-mark". Ask them to consider the Coca Cola word-mark. Would Coca Cola write body text in that style? No.

I think the key terminology for you here is word-mark.

A second idea, dodgy at best, is to simply stretch the truth and tell them it's simply NOT a font, and that it's a custom designed typeface!

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Vincent May 24 '17 at 14:46
19

You should supply with the identity a brand guidelines and usage document. Good branding relies on consistency and without clear codified usage guidelines then consistency is next to impossible. Logo usage and accompanying typography guidelines should be laid out clearly and any relevant font files* supplied with the guidelines.

Your answer to such requests in the future is then... "Please use such and such fonts as described in the brand guidelines". As simple as that.

How complex and in-depth your usage guidelines are can vary a lot... I've created 20 page brand guidelines and simple 2 page logo usage guidelines... it all depends on the client, the brand, extent of the project etc. But issues like this are exactly why there needs to be some guidelines; and why a little bit of planning and forethought will save you a lot of trouble further down the line.

As for you current issue; I'd draw up a quick few-page usage document with guidelines and reasoning on which fonts should and shouldn't be used (and logo usage etc.) ...the time spent will save you more headaches in the future and help your with a bit of clarity.

* Correctly licensed; with details on how to obtain further licenses if needed and relevant.

  • 2
    Both answers are very helpful, thanks. I will accept mayers' answer since it provides the immediate solution (the reference to Coca Cola should be enough argument for the moment). But yes, on the long run I am now sure I need to spend time and prepare a short PDF explaining things. – Lucian May 17 '17 at 10:36
  • Yes, this definitely the long term solution. Of course sometimes we're simply not paid enough to actually construct usage guidelines! But in an ideal world, this would certainly help, upvote from me. – mayersdesign May 17 '17 at 12:55
12

I much prefer to design type as much as any symbology in a logo. Therefore, although type may be based upon some particular typeface, it's generally not a straight out "font".

So, if asked "what font did you use", I don't hide the name of the typeface, I tell they straight up. I will, however, explain that I used XXXX as a general basis but have altered the letterforms to better solidify the overall brand design and although similar to XXXXXX, there is no font which will match the specific glyphs in the logo.

If the client indicates they want to "match the font", I may express my opinion that doing so is unwarranted and that the brand/logo shouldn't be seen as dictating the overall type choices for any design. But that is just opinion after all.

Clients are going to mangle, degrade, alter, bastardize, or otherwise ruin your logo if they ask this question. They will. No way to avoid it. Perhaps not right away, but as time passes they will slowly change things to better suit that piece... or they won't notice when some other designer alters the brand for some specific usage. Asking this question immediately indicates they have some notion about how branding/logos should be implemented. Your opinion will most likely not sway them a great deal. Any attempt to dissuade them is most probably going to be seen as adversarial more than anything. So tell them the font right away, then explain your position on collateral usage.

Ultimately, for some client requests, all you can do is express an opinion, then give them what they are asking for. You don't really do yourself any favors by coveting such information. It's better to appear open and willing to comply with clients. By all means express your opinion, but don't be adamant about it. It's their branding, if they want to ruin it, that is their choice.

  • 2
    Totally agree - I always break down the font in Illustrator and change some of the nodes, ascenders / descenders subtly. I've paid for the font licence myself but this way (in my eyes) I can legitimately say its NOT a font any more. Its a brand mark in vector format. I then pick a more flexible font for the body which I recommend they buy for internal use. End of typeface supply argument. – Applefanboy May 19 '17 at 8:08
5

Tell them it doesn't exist

I see both sides of it. I see people "ask for the font" used in the logo... And of course the logo was drawn by hand by a genius, and scanned into vector art in Illustrator, and there is no font, and no letters other than the logo letters have been rendered anywhere ever... and anyway, I don't think they want the R whose tongue underlines the next three letters.

I also see the reverse, people trying to "freestyle" our logo, grabbing the closest looking font in their system and slapping the letters down in similar position. It is atrocious!

So I tell people "it doesn't exist", because it doesn't exist.

And to use the correct font that we chose because it complements (harmonizes well with) our logo, despite being notably different from that logo. And that is by design, and that is also true for virtually any other business that uses letters in their logo, Ford, FedEx, IBM, etc.

  • 2
    "In this case the client knows we have bought a 'font' for the logo" - Your answer does not apply to this question because the client is already aware that the logo font is actually a font. – Graham May 18 '17 at 20:36
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    @Graham Oh. Well then you have to, so the company can license the font for themselves. Yet another reason not to use a font straight. The vector list of a font is copyrightable, the shapes are not... Hand trace over it with your notion of curves/splines, and you now have totally new art that belongs entirely to you (or client). Really. If you use a font that you licensed straight-up, you're using copyrighted vector art and you/they could have a licensing problem. – Harper - Reinstate Monica May 19 '17 at 1:59
3

Rework the font file you're using for their wordmark to remove letterforms that aren't relevant to rendering the wordmark. For example, if the wordmark is StackExchange remove the gylphs for B,b,D,d,F,f,I,i,J,j etc, as well as the numerals and punctuation. Make it a sparse font.

Then, if they say 'we want to use your font file to make "exit" signs' or whatever, you can say.

  1. I'm pretty sure it isn't suitable for that purpose.
  2. It's optimized to render your wordmark efficiently.
  3. Go ahead.

They, they'll hit item number 1 pretty quickly. "How come the sign says []x[]t, not Exit? " "Gosh, I guess the wordmark font file isn't suitable for all sorts of arbitrary text. Use this other font file instead."

If they want to use the wordmark you designed for them in signage, that doesn't seem unreasonable. If it's a licensing issue say that. Otherwise get them assets (eps? svg? illustrator?) that they can use for the wordmark. Presumably you charge for your work. Getting them those assets is work. Charge for it.

2

One option is to ask to speak directly to their interior designer.

While the direct client might not understand these things as well, the interior designer should know enough about this stuff enough to understand when you tell them the font should not be used this way as part of the brand.

But this brings up another issue. The interior designer is going to look at AxiForma family and be left wanting more. My understanding is you should generally provide two font families for a brand that pair complementing serif and sans serif fonts. Generally speaking, for print/physical work the sans serif font is for titles/headings and serif font is for the copy/body text. Digital work might reverse those roles, and mixed content uses your best judgement for the situation.

Of course, even that's just a basic starting point, with different brands having different needs. The point is the interior designer is going to see the sans serif AxiForma and wonder where to find the complementing serif font, or at least something else to work with. It's no wonder they're asking about the font in the logo.

2

What about telling the client the truth? There are three possibilities:

One, there are licensing issues. You are using a third party font and you paid for the use of the font in that logo, and nothing else. If they use it elsewhere then they have to pay licensing fees to the font designer.

Two, it is a font that you designed yourself for using in logos, and the five letters used in their logo are included in your fee, but the whole font isn't. In other words, no cash, no font.

Three, it is a font that is nice for logos but using it in a different context would look awful, in your judgement as a professional designer. So you want to prevent this from happening.

Decide which one it is, and that's what you tell the client. In case they insist, in case two you want money. In case 1 and 3 you want their signature that you told them your concerns. (So if they complain that customers think the signage on their office door looks ridiculous then you show them your signature and offer a redesign for a fee).

0

I'm a computer programmer so my experience is different, but they are the client and they are paying you for your work. If what the client wants is stupid, try to explain why it is stupid (tactfully) and make alternate suggestions. If they still want to do it, and they are paying you for your work, just do what they want and take the money. Only reasons to refuse are if they ask you to do something unethical or illegal, the request is just completely ridiculous, or it is going to be so major and complex that it is too much for you to do personally. Or if the request was beneath your professional standards.

I think that if they asked you to design other things with that font and you felt it would look awful and didn't want to do what you feel is shoddy work, that would be a good reason to refuse. But you aren't going to be doing the designing - they are, and they just want to use that font. Unless that font is your property and you have the legal rights to it, I see no reason not to give them the font.

  • I did explain, and I did send the font eventually. The question was not about whether I should hold on to the font or not. It was about how to present to non-designers some reasoning against using that font for other materials. thanks – Lucian May 20 '17 at 4:33

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