Identity Matters: Meet Our Unofficial Font

How do you show unity at a content agency where every member brings a unique angle of creativity to the table? It’s a fun but tricky question. We pondered enforcing full-face tattoos for all staff (too hardcore) and constructing an office zoo stocked with people’s favourite apes (cleaning costs too high).

Finally, two of our stellar designers, Tin and Khai, rocked up with a suggestion: let’s ask each John Brown Novus member to write down one letter of the alphabet. We’ll compile it into a single font.

But how did the process work? And what, pray tell, is this typographic titbit to be called?

How did this idea come about?

Tin: I think it’s safe to say that most, if not all, designers are “type enthusiasts”, so it’s definitely one for the bucket list to design a font.

Khai: We also feel that a John Brown Novus font is something that we can own; something that belongs to us as a company.

We love the idea that “many voices make a choir”. Was this a thematic idea?

Tin: A bit artsy-fartsy, but in a way don’t you think this font exemplifies John Brown Novus’ unity? But on another level, it’s just a curious experiment. Everyone writes differently, so each letter has its own personality. It’s also a good way to get everyone involved without taking too much of their time.

When the right font is chosen, people usually don’t notice it — and that means it’s doing its job."

Khai: I don’t think it could get anymore personal and diverse than handwriting samples, and this way people could leave their mark on the company by being part of the font.

Some may be surprised at how cohesive the font looks! Were you? Did you have to tweak it?

Tin: Yeah, I was surprised as well. During the process there were some people who purposely made their letter fancier so it stands out. We didn’t do much tweaking because we wanted to preserve how each letter was written (#nofilter, anyone?). We were amused at how everyone wanted to make their letters look good. I guess that collective effort helped make the font visually cohesive.

Khai: Also, the fact that people only needed to write one letter helped in hindsight, as opposed to when people write a whole sentence. The differences would have been more obvious.

Can you describe the process of actually designing this font? 

Tin: It’s pretty simple because once we gathered everyone’s handwriting, we just scanned and cleaned it up. Then we uploaded it online and it’s done. The actual process of font designing from scratch is much more complicated, because you have to consider a lot of factors. For example, will it be used mainly for headlines or body copy? Is it for web or print? You also have to consider how the letters kern, and how it looks in action. It’s not as simple as writing A to Z. Having said that, I do think that this exercise is a good start if people want to get into designing typography.

Khai: [Laughs] What she said!

If you were going to give this font a name, what would it be? And how would you like this font to be used?

Tin: The font name is — ready for it? — NovusRox. Cheesy I know, haha! We would like it to be used for good, preferably not in threatening notes. I’m sure the light-hearted nature (there’s a letter with a smiley face) of the font will make it ideal for quirky graphic applications. Best example shown here.

Khai: NovusRox is pretty catchy, right? I like it for its franchise potential!

What's a fact about typography that non-designers might not know?

Tin: Typography plays a big part in setting the tone and conveying the intention of your content. When the right font is chosen, people usually don’t notice it — and that means it’s doing its job.

Khai: You can search the web for the right font for hours and not find it. But when you do, sometimes you get overly attached to it and realise that you keep finding opportunities to use it on every collateral you design. Especially when you find a font that’s so universal. Like the awesomeness that is NovusRox.