It’s like once you buy a blue car, all you see are blue cars… have you ever noticed that? At the grocery store today, checking out the packaged snack aisle (because it’s my favorite aisle!) and all I can see is:
(photo above and examples below from Market of Choice in Bend, OR)
This trend is an evergreen one… we just can’t get away from it. So what is textured type (like, what do I mean by that?) and should it be a part of your food brand or is it better left to the masses?
Textured type is any (usually larger) type that is either sans-serif or slab serif. It often is seen wearing thick, straight lines, and has bits and pieces missing. It looks like a stamp, or like part of it has been rubbed away.
We need to go back into the history of type to understand the trend of textured type better:
Textured type is actually referencing wood block type from the nineteenth century. The design and rise of woodblock type occurred right around the industrial revolution, when mass consumption and advertising were on the rise.
Printers and type designers had a need for a new aesthetic, compared to the blackletter and “humanist” typeforms (letterforms that were more imitative of the human body, curves and all that) that imitated handwriting of the old scribes prior to the printing press. They wanted big letters, all caps, to call attention to products. Newspaper headlines saw this trend as well.
The problem was that the old way they were created type (with metal, cast letters) wouldn’t stand up to this new style. The metal forms were too soft and would become damaged and easily worn. So a new way of making letters was born — by carving them with wood. Wood was actually more resilient at creating larger letterforms and could still be used over and over again.
This was actually a controversial move in the type world at the time. The letters were suddenly big, blocky and some of them were textured if the ink was starting to dry during the printing process, which was a look that didn’t happen all that often with traditional metal type. But now, there has been a trend towards the handmade with this look. The “wood block type” look has been back in vogue for awhile, and I think it’s going to always be a style that we are drawn to.
It’s a little messy looking, a little imperfect and more organic then the pixel perfect type we see today.
Because it’s so easy to get things looking clean and perfect, we actually have to try to get things to look messy and handmade. We do this to create a certain feeling about the product.
So why use textured type?
It calls to a certain time in history.
It still gives the feeling of something handmade.
It looks a little more casual, friendly, and less fussy.
The type can be seen almost more as an element of illustration rather then just straight text.
I most often see textured type being used on products that are trying to evoke a sense of being “all-natural,” organic or otherwise made from nature. Here’s a couple of examples from my trip to Market of Choice in Bend:
From the Late July website:
“Late July is the sweet spot of summer. It’s a moment in time when life is simple, pure & good. It’s also our name and philosophy on snack making.”
Late July is all about being non-gmo, and providing healthy and convenient snacks for busy families (again, taken from their site) and their motto is “real food, real snacks.” Their choice for textured type on their tortilla chip packaging totally makes sense when you think about who their brand is and what they represent.
That’s what great food packaging does — it reinforces the values of the brand and let’s the consumer get a sense of what those values are. Instantly, and visually.
Here’s another example from Dave’s Killer Bread:
Dave’s Killer Bread, textured type subhead
This is a great example of a brand using a trend like textured type to evoke that feeling of being organic and handmade, without compromising their brand equity that they’ve already built up in the existing branding. If you already have an established brand, but you want to appear more natural or organic, think about other ways you can use a trend like textured type to create the look of being handmade. Here, they use it in a sub-head, as a supporting brand element on the package.
Even brands that mass produce goods and are in stores on a global level use textured type to connect with the consumer in a more human way, like Pepperidge Farm and their Texas Toast product:
And check out this new package design for Dreyer’s Ice Cream… there’s textured type in the background, and even type being used AS a texture here (yep, you can do that too).
Textured type is a cool way to show that your product is local, handmade or natural. Yes, a lot of people are using it, but it’s still appealing and probably will be for a long time.
Here’s some resources!
My favorite textured/wood block style fonts:
A great book on type: Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton
To see some actual wood block type, see this article from FastCo.
To learn more about type history, check out this really cool and concise animated short movie!