Rena Tom Rena Tom

Retail Typography

Hello everyone! If there is a facet of retail design that makes me instantly itchy and uncomfortable, it is any identity that screams “Microsoft Word”. I’m referring mainly to typography and how many shops and makers use common word processor fonts to represent themselves. Yep, there are a lot of shops out there rocking Papyrus, Comic Sans and Copperplate signage and branding. Beyond my own opinion about those three looks (you can probably guess what that might be), the overall issue with using such common typefaces is that they do not allow your individualism to truly shine. For example, I can think of at least seven skincare companies that use Papyrus. The result? A muddled sea of branding that allows consumers to confuse competitors and makes standing out almost impossible. Your collection or curating might be extraordinary but how will anyone know if you are presenting your talents in a generic (and poorly lettered) voice?

Beyond just ensuring recognition, the use of great typography is a pillar of great design. A fantastic storefront or shop identity often goes viral on platforms like Pinterest because people appreciate and take notice of retail style and attention to detail. While companies may sometimes use the same typefaces, they are often well-crafted designs that stand the test of time, buck trends and are flexible enough to work with distinctly different identities. I just don’t think Papyrus fits into that category!

Whether you decide to commission a hand lettered logo or explore a reasonably priced type foundry site, unique typography is a key component in the quest for recognition, strong design and an identity that truly represents you. As retail typography often grabs my attention, I thought I would feature some great examples I have come across lately. From exterior signage to Etsy banners to your business card, every retail detail should feature a vibrant use of type. Let’s ponder! – Chloé

As you may have guessed, retail signage and storefronts is a design fetish of mine. One look I am loving lately is the use of beautiful typography at a rather small but powerful scale. This style allows your windows, products and surrounding design details to really speak for themselves.

Another favourite? Typography based on hand-drawn lettering. From hiring an old school hand-letterer to draw on your window to gorgeous cursive neon, the look has so many options. Done right, the style is less trendy and more modern.

A striking blade sign, vertical signage, words formed with the exterior materials, shop names in floor tile — storefront details are ripe for typographical exploration.


images via ddmmyy,BP&O, and toolbox

Whether you have an online shop, collection of products or brick and mortar store, a strong identity is vital. While your needs may vary from a few pieces of collateral to an massive suite, it is still important to have a cohesive look that makes you recognizable and buzzworthy. These identities for Triumph & Disaster, Pizzaluxe and Walrus featuring beautiful typography and fantastic attention to detail.

Product packaging is one of the most important parts of a retail identity and typography plays a big role in a powerful design. I love unique type treatments, typography that works seamlessly with bright colour and designs that make a great typeface the star of a packaging design.

Build a letter from products, draw on windows in graffiti or geometric style, make a tone on tone installation of words — typography in retail need not be limited to signage or identities.

As long as we are retail dreaming, check out this extraordinary bookstore in Brussells covered in typography!

I could go on forever with examples (as per usual) so maybe there will be “Part Two” one of these days. Before I go, I want to mention something I spotted on Pinterest the other day. Someone wrote, underneath an image of a beautifully designed taco shop, “if the food is as thoughtfully prepared as the design/interior, then the tacos must be something pretty delicious”. To me, that perfectly sums up why great design and branding is so vital. Creating a company of any kind requires insane amounts of dedication and attention to detail. Please don’t represent yourself with a sad, overused and uninspiring typeface! Hire a designer, explore online type foundries, ponder typographical research, create a moodboard — there are so many ways to ensure your branding truly captures you. Until next time, I am off to work on my anti-Papyrus petition… – Chloé

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  1. […] using “Word magic” but standing out in a stylish way becomes virtually impossible. In my latest post for Rena Tom, I showcase how great typography can make all the difference in the quest for […]

  2. Suzanne says:

    I’ll sign the petition once you have it written…as long as it’s not in comic sans :)

  3. erin says:

    for 8 years, i never got around to seriously thinking about the logo for my shop. since i was doing everything myself, i just never got around to that aspect. making stuff and opening the doors each day took priority, and lots of details took a back seat. and yes, i used copperplate as a default for many years. i just didn’t give it any thought at all :( reading this post was the kick in the butt i needed to finally get around to designing my own logo, thank you!!

  4. […] collection of beautiful retail typography. I think typography is hugely impactful, and great typography can really make a business or brand […]

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