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Big business using lower case to make friends

Big business using lower case to make friends

Big business is increasingly using different type faces and fonts to show a more friendly face to customers.

Research by lecturers on UCOL’s Bachelor of Applied Visual Imaging (BAVI) programme have identified a new trend in typography in the rebranding of corporate businesses. Lead researcher Rachel Hoskin says many now use lower case in their signage and other branding to increase their appeal.

“This includes Telecom, BNZ, AMI, Kiwibank, Postie Plus and Ballantynes. Their use of lower case is aimed at communicating a more accessible, informal and relaxed image to their customer base.

“For example, the BNZ logo uses a softer, friendlier, lower case font, more in line with the cute little piggy in the advertising campaigns, rather than the image of a hard-faced corporation.”

The BAVI research team set out to observe trends in typography during a road trip to 43 towns to document signage uniquely kiwi signage. Award winning photography Lecturer Ian Rotherham took the photographs while Ms Hoskins and Senior Lecturer and social anthropologist Dr Mandy Rudge did the observation and analysis.

“There’s surprisingly little knowledge available on business signage, in New Zealand or overseas,” says Ms Hoskin. “But knowledge about contemporary trends is needed by current and future generations of graphic designers.”

The research expedition took three weeks, in communities from Wellington to Whangerei, covering 1,265 businesses and 3,177 images. “There were some surprises. It’s common knowledge that towns and cities are branded and actively marketed with certain characteristics. Bulls has its take on its “Un-for-get-a-bull” name, Napier is known as the art deco capital of the world, Wellington thinks of itself as the country’s creative hub.

“These brands don’t necessarily mean that marketed identity and signage is unified. For example, hardly any businesses in Napier use the art deco style in their signage typeface.

“On the other hand, signage in the creative town of Greytown in the Wairarapa used a wide variety of colour, font and style, generating an impression of diversity and creativity. And areas such as Cuba Street in Wellington and Karangahape Road in Auckland were highlights because of the diversity of the signage and the creative designs and materials used.”

Ms Hoskins says the team also appreciated some of the quirkier signs they discovered. “We liked the roadside sandwich board saying “Last Cheese for Miles” in Puhoi and the pharmacy in Waverley whose startling signage used a racy typeface more associated with an 80s car parts shop than chemists.”

Photographs of signage taken during the research project will be on display in Palmerston North in an exhibition at Square Edge, opening Friday 16 March.

UCOL’s Bachelor of Applied Visual Arts programme includes typography in its subject areas of photography, graphic design, web/interactive design, animation, video and illustration.


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