Creating Typography for a Client Site: Case Study

By Jason Beaird

Some time ago, I charted the development of a new website for a company called Southern Savers. Eventually, we reached the point in the project when all the pieces of the site were collated, just begging to be assembled into a fresh new design. We’d laid the groundwork with usability research, information architecture, and wireframes. And we’d presented mood boards to the client to gain an idea of what colors and textures were favored for the new and improved Southern Savers branding.

It was at this stage of the game that it was time to knock out the website design. Working from the branding elements, Matthew Smith, the designer’s, first order of business was choosing typography. “When working from a brand,” said Matthew, “I try to maintain its authentic nature, but interpret it through a web lens.” Part of that interpretation involved finding a typeface that paired well with the unique hand-lettered, arched type in the new logo.

After browsing through his options, Matthew finally settled on the slab serif face Fago Office Serif. Considering that the logo type is a hybrid of a slab serif and a script, this option fitted the look of the branding while still providing enough contrast to stand out on its own. For the body copy, Matthew wanted a simple out-of-the-way typeface that would let the Fago headlines stand out rather than compete with them. Helvetica was the best option, he decided, making the default font stack simply: Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif. The figure below shows how the new logo looks paired with Fago Office Serif and Helvetica body copy.

Southern Savers Typography

With the typography selection nailed down, there were still some color and texture decisions required to flesh out the wireframes. Matthew decided to use the flower portion of the identity as his inspiration here. “There’s some really nice texture happening in those petals that feels elegant but earthy, and I wanted to bring that through the rest of the site.” Drawing from that illustrative style, Matthew incorporated a teal ribbon for the header area that arched out of the page geometrically to give emphasis to the logo. Above that ribbon, he used the dark green from the color palette, accented with copies of the magnolia’s leaves. These elements provided a visual container for the site’s navigation elements that were defined in Emily’s wireframes.

As Matthew was continuing with the design comps, Kevin Smith, the project’s development kung fu expert, was starting on the front-end development and WordPress integration. It was Kevin’s job to determine just how all these typography decisions would get baked into the site’s build. He knew he had to use a dynamic font replacement technique, so he decided to go with Cufón for most instances of the headline font, and image replacement for some of the buttons and static items. The screenshot below shows how these typefaces, as well as Matthew’s header design elements, ended up looking in the finished site.

Southern Savers home page design

How do you develop typographical styles for use on the web projects you complete? Where does typography fit within your own design process?

  • marybaum

    Why cufon and image replacement instead of @font-face? Was this so long ago that there was no face available they could use legally?

    • Simon Pascal Klein

      Yea, this was back in January, and unless I’m mistaken I think this was a post by Jason pulled over from SP when DF launched. You should certainly use @font-face and host yourself, or grab freely available fonts from Google Web Fonts, or from another hosting & licensing service these days. :)


    • Anonymous

      Yea, the article is back from January. While not the best practice now, Cufon and well-done image replacement still triumphs over direct use of images. Now, essentially all of this is possible with @font-face — you’re quite right. (:




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