Our new typeface
Today, things couldn’t be more different. Thanks to the familiar drop-down PC menu, most of us have a favourite typeface – and perhaps also a least favourite typeface. We choose and change them daily on our laptops and e-readers, whether we’re writing an email or choosing how we want to view a website, blog or novel.
No longer the provenance of specialist designers, typefaces have gone mainstream. Books like Simon Garfield’s ‘Just My Type’, aimed at the everyday reader, are in the best-seller list. The eminent German typographer Erik Spiekermann has over 100,000 followers on Twitter. Seemingly everyone has an opinion about typefaces.
We’re certainly all far more aware of how they work and what they mean – so when a major new typeface is released, it generates a barrage of interest and opinion in print and on the blogosphere. That’s why it’s so important to get it absolutely right. The effect of a typeface on a reader happens at a visceral level – they react to its spirit and intention almost without realising it. And yet, the choice and application of typefaces can totally change the nuance and emphasis of the words they convey.
For a brand like Nokia, looking to reinvent and revitalise, the typeface literally sets the tone. In many ways, it’s the touchstone for every other visual element in the branding palette. So it needs to be considered, rigorous and send out exactly the right message.
Logically enough, the starting point for our brand new typeface, Nokia Pure, was also on-screen legibility at small sizes – although now we’re talking about the pin-sharp colour screens of contemporary smartphones. At the same time, we also needed a recognisable corporate typeface, versatile enough to work well in all manner of different environments – from other screen-based formats, to a whole host of printed materials.
Our in-house team started developing ideas for Nokia Pure with Bruno Maag, the highly respected Swiss-born, London- based typographic designer. Acknowledging Nokia’s Finnish design roots, we wanted our new typeface to have an inherent beauty born from function, rather than flourish. It should be beautifully minimal, achieving harmony through simplicity.
Like classic Finnish design houses Iittala and Arabia, and the architects Alvar Aalto and Reima Pietilä, our typeface should celebrate the purity of form.
It was decided early on that we should create a humanist sans face – one without serifs, but with different weights and thicknesses in the stokes. This style of typeface is unfussy and modern, without being cold or machine- like. It references the natural calligraphic form of handwriting, and brings a more recognisable shape to characters, which is especially useful on screen.
Nokia Pure also needed to feel open, inviting and friendly, reflecting Nokia’s heritage in approachable, human design. So we were after organic, flowing forms – nothing stressed, mechanical or too obviously ‘on trend’. There were other considerations too, notably that the design should translate across many different alphabets – everything from Greek and Cyrillic, to Arabic and Japanese. And because creating a new typeface is such a huge investment in time, skill and money, we had to have one capable of doing its job for at least a decade.
“It was a balancing act,” admits Bruno Maag. “An elegantly simple typeface that doesn’t draw attention to itself, but is still distinctive and different. For me, it’s the rhythm of the typeface and the relationship between characters that’s critical. After all, when it’s set in Arabic, you still need to know that it’s Nokia, and this is achieved by creating a recognisable rhythm.”
That’s why Nokia Pure is based on the idea of seamless, fluid motion. The generous, rounded characters seem almost to flow into each other, as if there’s no beginning and no end. Their movement is gentle and pleasing, like ripples on a pond. “First and foremost, the typeface is extremely legible wherever you happen to see it,” says Maag. “Nokia Pure is contemporary without being fashionable, which should give it longevity. It’s one thing drawing a beautiful letter, but another making a whole set work to a high quality. A coherent typeface is an essential part of a coherent branding strategy.”
So the new font also helps us create a sense of harmony. Harmony between the various different parts of a large, global company. And harmony between the different elements of the Nokia brand and design language. These are curvature-continuous forms, a graphic detail that is also apparent the Nokia Pure letterforms.
We plan to use Nokia Pure on our devices. It has been designed specially for mobile and digital environments.