Web Fonts: Breaking Limitations to Form Customer-Focused Brand Communication
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Brand communication expanded rapidly during the last decades of the 20th century and throughout the first decade of the 21st century. Brand valuation emerged as an important metric to evaluate business performance, and brands penetrated society at an unprecedented level over the course of that time. Brands emerged as social agents, and it became common for individuals to express identity and community via the brands they embraced and the lifestyles they indicated. As brand communication evolved, so too did the World Wide Web as a communications medium. From 1995, when commercialization of the web commenced in earnest, communication designers faced a host of challenges and limits of web-based design. Software improvements and bandwidth expansion removed many of these limits, and the aesthetics of the web evolved to match its communications capabilities. One notable area of design witnessed a near-total lack of progress from the state of the early web—the availability of fonts. The digital age ushered in a tremendous proliferation of fonts for use in computer based design, with over 13,000 fonts available to designers by the mid-1990s. For a variety of reasons, the web never adequately addressed the designer’s need for font options that matched those available for printed communications, and there remain only a small set of fonts that functioned on a universal basis. This significant challenge witnessed the emergence of a genuine solution with web font technology. A string of developments began from late 2008 forward that addressed font technology, design and licensing issues. These developments gave communication designers greatly expanded resources to design with type on the web. In Web fonts: Breaking limitations to form customer-focused brand communication, the full historic consequence of typography (i.e. design of type using fonts), web communications, and brand communications formed the context for evaluating this technology. Applications revealed new possibilities to not only use typography without many of the previous limits, but also to connect message and typography in ways that create new relevance to customers, based on their expressed and implied needs. This emerging view of brand communication placed a much higher premium on the customer’s viewpoint and allowed the customer to actively connect with brands via the web’s unique two-way message and information conduits. Web fonts brought visual manifestation to these new connections. In doing so, web fonts enabled a higher level of intuitive communications with customers, and brought a powerful—and previously untapped—resource to brands.