Brand font for forms?

Hello. I need some other professional advice out there. Me and a coworker are having a disagreement about which font to use in the company’s business forms and applications. They’ve been in Arial for quite some time. I suggested using our brand font (Quattrocento Sans) and she doesn’t like it at all. My boss is going with whatever decision I make. Quattrocento Sans isn’t the greatest font, but in my opinion not only is it the company’s brand font, it looks better than Arial. I guess my question is, “Is it really that big of a deal to put something like forms in the company font instead of something like Arial?”

Will all the company forms need to be reprinted? Will you need to install the new fonts on a few, dozen, or hundreds of computers? How many forms are you referring to — a handful, dozens, or hundreds? Rather than being pre-printed, do the current forms reside as Word documents or PDF files — all of which will need to be redone?

Depending on your company’s situation, this could be relatively easy or a giant hassle.

As for Arial. It’s a well-designed typeface but frequently avoided by designers — often because if there’s one typeface in the world that screams out generically average, ordinary, bland, and overused, it’s Arial. If the goal is using a typeface that’s distinctive, using the default sans-serif typeface that’s on, probably, three-quarters of the world’s computers, Arial isn’t a great choice. On the other hand, it’s very readable, looks business-like, and everyone already has it installed.

What do your company’s brand guidelines state?

Personally, I’ve never understood Ariel. It’s poor man’s Helvetica. It was originally designed to be an on-screen version of Helvetica, I believe. You can see that in things like the simplified upper case G and R. I’d always choose Helvetica over Arial

However, the choice of either, over the Quattrocento Sans, depends on whether you have a brand manual that makes the choice for you. Often brand guidelines use Arial as a fallback. They shouldn’t, as it often becomes the default.

If there are no guidelines, the choice of font has to come down to the company’s area of operations and personality. Quatrocento sans has more personality. It is more open. It says approachable more than either Arial or Helvetica. So, if the company has, and wants to be seen to have, those former qualities, Quattrocento it is. If, though, you work for say, a hard-nosed financial institution, or a forensic laboratory that isn’t public-facing, maybe Arial is the better bet. But, if it is, please don’t use Arial. Use Helvetica. It is far more elegant.

As to your question, is it a big deal…? Yes, it most definitely is. The choice of font is the one thing that sets the tone for all corporate communications. It is your tone of voice and once you have established it, be consistent with it. Inconsistency is the quickest way to undermine credibility.

I imagine, when speaking to people personally, you are careful to choose the tone of voice you use, and it changes depending on who you are talking to. Typefaces are exactly the tone of voice a company uses to speak to the people it wants to communicate with. You need to get it right, otherwise you risk alienating the very people you want to talk to. I am assuming Quattrocento was chosen for a reason, by whoever created your brand identity in the first place.

If you have an existing brand identity it is a very dangerous thing to be making choices based on the personal preferences of particular employees. In my experience, the ones objecting to established corporate fonts are often the ones least qualified to do so.

If your tone of voice has been set busy your brand, stick to it. Because your colleague doesn’t like it, is irrelevant. Plenty of employees love comic sans!

In reality, a brand needs to be driven from the top down and embedded into company culture. Once established, your boss should be driving it and insisting that guidelines are adhered to, otherwise comic sans will creep in, ‘because it’s friendly’!!

Bet you’re sorry you asked now!

No, these forms will be on our website for clients to download and fill out. As far as I know, none of them will be printed. There are about a dozen of them and they’re all PDFs. If they all needed to be reprinted then I could see why Arial would have to stay, but they’re not.

Very helpful. Thank you Sprout. Yes, we have a branding guide, but obviously she doesn’t care about that. I think it’s a personal thing for her. I personally don’t like our brand color (maroon), but I use it anyway because that’s just…well…the brand color. I don’t like Arial at all and I agree with you that it’s a “poor man’s Helvetica.” I’d pick Helvetica over Arial any day.

If these forms are client-facing, you’d have to argue much harder to convince me that anything other than the brand font is appropriate, at least for the headers. For any body copy you can use whatever legible font best compliments the brand font (or use what is specified in the standards as the secondary.)
Using something else based on personal likes for client-facing material is definitely the wrong decision.

Thanks PD. I’ve actually thought about coming to a happy medium by using the brand font for the headers and Arial for the body, but there aren’t enough contrast between the two. It would look “off.”

After looking at Quattrocento Sans, I’d be more inclined to argue for a new brand typeface than arguing against Arial.

Quattrocento is a nice typeface, but as far as I can tell, it only comes in two weights: regular and bold. It also has a very small character set of only 230-some glyphs instead of the usual minimum of around 500. In addition, there’s no OpenType version — only TrueType.

The creation date for the font files is 2011, which makes me think it’s no longer under development and that additional weights, an updated character set, and the addition of OpenType features aren’t in the works.

Add up all these problems and it would amount to a deal-killer for me as a corporate brand typeface. At a bare minimum, I’d want light, regular, bold, extra-bold, and perhaps heavy — there’s not enough flexibility in only two weights.

Thanks Just-B. Yes, I agree. Like I said, it’s not the greatest font, but it’s what we have to work with for now. We’ll be going through a rebrand in the near future so hopefully that will change.

Maybe instead of making the argument for switching from Arial, you should be arguing for an accelerated rebrand and using the limited flexibility of Quattrocento Sans as one of the reasons. Perhaps at that time, part of the rebrand could consist of updating all forms and all internal and external communications to the new typeface.

Frutiger could be a nice choice. It comes in plenty of weights. :wink:

Oh believe me, I am! Frutiger is my favorite all time font (obviously) so that might be in the cards. I hope.

Agreeing with what most other posters said, stick to your branding at all times. This includes fonts, colors, verbiage, image treatments, etc. Consistency will build brand recognition and trust over time which will translate into sales. The only times I make exceptions are for special events or holidays when a different font or color is necessary to communicate a different mood or when it’s impossible to deliver brand fonts (I’m looking at you, Mailchimp)

Often what happens in businesses is that people within the business need to make forms or promotional material for small applications that don’t warrant bringing a designer on to do, so these employees the just pick a generic typeface like Arial or Times to get the job done; While it’s not the worst typeface they could choose, it does lose the character that comes with using the typeface elected by the original designer and can feel generic.

If Quattrocento Sans is the typeface for copy specified by whoever designed your branding, I would personally roll with that.