Origins of Corporate typefaces

Hello to all,
Firstly, a little hello from a new user! 

I am trying to look into the origins of corporate typefaces and am a bit stuck as to where to look to find some answers. 

I am doing this research out of personal interest but equally as a base for a type course I am giving. I am curious to try and trace the origins of when brands started investing and creating their own typefaces as opposed to buying 'of the shelf' designs.
In recent years, we have seen a rather large number of brands investing in their own typefaces but it seems like quite a contemporary case. So my questions would be:
1) Would anyone know of ressources or books that have covered the topic of corporate typefaces?
2) Does anyone know of the first brands that started to use their own corporate fonts as opposed to commercially available typefaces?

I am trying to avoid publications who would have a 'real' use for typefaces, things like the work of Stanley Morrison for the Times or the nameplate works for other magazines or newspapers and focus more on the branding side, so typefaces made for a brand like the work of Dalton Maag or others.

Hope my question is clear and thanks in advance for any input!




  • James Puckett
    James Puckett Posts: 1,979
    There's an old book about proprietary types for cold metal book typesetting. I don't think there's a book about digital proprietary types.

    IIRC the first corporate identity type was part of Peter Behrens' work for AEG.
  • George Thomas
    Look at the history of some of Goudy's works. He did a fair amount of proprietary types.
  • Deleted Account
    I think 'Brands' started investing and creating their own typefaces first, buying 'off the shelf' designs came later, when such things as standards in sizes, heights off the press and common presses arrived. 

    Then... a whole bunch of stuff happened and eventually people started thinking Gubeburghe had a bunch of fonts on the shelf to begin with, and churches just lined up one day and started buying them.;)
  • Dan Reynolds
    Dan Reynolds Posts: 176
    edited August 2015
    Does the Century family count? I think that pre-dates Behrensantiqua (which was used by Behrens for AEG, but which I think he may have designed & been released by Klingspor before he got his job with AEG).
  • Michael Parson
    Thank you for the answers.
    I will have a look at the work of Peter Behrens and Goudy.
    Nina, you make an interesting point with the Romain du Roi since it even includes a design feature in the l letter! 
    But to clarify my questions, it was more along the lines of when corporations started to view typeface design as a feature of their brand guidelines. Many companies seem to be creating their own typefaces as part of a wider communication effort and I wondered if this is a modern trend or if it was something companies would have done in the past?
    You could obviously consider a foundry a brand, or corporation, but their main product was selling the actual fonts they produced. 
    David, not too sure I understand what you are saying with the churches lining up?
    Thanks again!

  • James Puckett
    James Puckett Posts: 1,979
    Nina's comment about the Romain reminded me that Drucker & McVarish's Critical History book has some nice tidbits about specific uses of different writing hands in Europe prior to movable type. You'll find similar stuff by researching medieval court hands.

    Also, Made With Fontfont has a nice article about the development of FF Meta for the Bundespost.
  • Jack Jennings
    Jack Jennings Posts: 151
    edited August 2015
    I'd venture that the Golden Type at Kelmscott Press (~1890?) accomplished a lot of what corporate faces today set out to. Granted, it was designed by the "internal team", but I believe that type was an attempt to embody the spirit of the wider pursuits undertaken by William Morris.
  • Ray Larabie
    Ray Larabie Posts: 1,401
    Times New Roman?
  • Nick Shinn
    Nick Shinn Posts: 2,169
    edited August 2015
    Gill’s work for WH Smith was seminal.
    First with the News gives a good account.

  • Chris Lozos
    Chris Lozos Posts: 1,458
    It was much tougher in metal type days but it was done.  On a small scale, Paul Rand had an individual cut made for Westinghouse Gothic with his "g" among other things.  While I was at Westinghouse Corporate Design Center in the late 60s, we used it quite a bit. Westinghouse had their own printing plant so it was easier to manage. We all got very tired of using it but as time went by, Rand reserved it more for specific uses.
  • Mark Simonson
    Mark Simonson Posts: 1,687
    Didn't Goudy design and cut some custom fonts for different companies?
  • Michael Bundscherer
    This is a somewhat difficult topic. Because the borders of corporate design to corporate type are not clearly drawn. Strictly speaking, even the Carolingian Mminuscule is the attempt of a unified representation of a “corporation” through a typeface. 

    Starting from the industrial revolution, it’s become to be interesting. 
    The first company that uses graphic design (for advertising), trying to imitate a certain style – for example, Alfons Mucha (1897) designed advertising posters in Art Nouveau style.

    From 1907 the architect, designer and typographer Peter Behrens went further: He tried to give the company AEG by design a new consistent identity.

    Even the people from the Bauhaus (Herbert Bayer, Max Burchartz und Josef Albers) try individual designs with some self-made fonts.

    The Helvetica was one of the first typeface, which was exclusively mentioned in many corporate design manuals as a corporate font (that’s just a guess from me, but at hot metal setting times there was not much sortiment, Helvetica fit many designers concept and you could presuppose at the most composing firms).

    After the war, it took a while until companies were strong and confident enough for a consistent corporate design again.

    Otl Aicher (HFG Ulm, Deutsche Lufthansa, icon system of Olympia Munich 1972) should especially be mentioned. His font “Rotis” belonged in the design of many firms e.g. Audi, ERCO Leuchten and Bulthaup.

    Then I remember Adrian Frutiger. In 1968, he was commissioned to develop a sign and directional system for the new Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and everyone thought he would want to use his successful Univers font family. Frutiger decided instead to make a new sans serif typeface, later called Frutiger. 

    In addition, Kurt Weidemann (Corporate A S E) and Erik Spiekermann (Meta) come to my mind.

    The subject interested me very much! Do you do a written assignment?
  • erik spiekermann
    When I worked at WolffOlins in London from the late 70s, we designed lots of exclusive fonts, for German companies like Aral, VAG, Bank für Gemeinwirtschaft; for Renault and Enka. These were usually single weights for headlines only – photosetting was the prevailing technology. At MetaDesign in the 90s we designed corporate typefaces (by now full families) for clients like Heidelberg Printing, Berlin Transit, Symantec,  Audi, VW  and others. After 2000, at Edenspiekermann we designed families for Deutsche Bahn, Bosch, Nokia, ZDF (German TV), Cisco et al. I’ve probably forgotten a lot of projects here.

    British Rail had a custom font in the 70s, and the British Transport Alphabet was designed in the mid-60s. Weidemann's work for Daimler-Benz had been mentioned. Gerard Unger designed a sans for Allianz and the work by Dalton Maag for Sparkasse,  Vodafone, Toyota et al has already been mentioned. GE has fonts designed by Mike Abbink. 

    Not sure whether all these are what you mean by Corporate typefaces. Rotis was not designed for a company and neither was FF Meta, although the original version was meant for the German Post Office in 1985. They didn't take it.

    Now pretty much every major Corporate Design programme comes with an exclusive typeface, more or less original.
  • Max Phillips
    Didn't Goudy design and cut some custom fonts for different companies?
    In 1902 he did a headline face for the Pabst brewing comany. In 1921 he did one for Nabisco. In 1929, one for Strathmore.  A suite of faces for Saks in 1934. All this is in addition to bespoke headline faces for magazines like the Ladies' Home Companion and Architectural Record. D.J.R. Bruckner's Goudy book has the details.

  • Marc Oxborrow
    A revival (with Margaret Calvert's participation) of the British Rail typeface mentioned by Erik Spiekermann:

  • Kevin Cawood
    If memory serves Herb Lubalin was commissioned to design the corporate face for Gulf Oil in the early to mid '70's. "Gulf Lubalin Graph" I recall.
  • Miles Newlyn
    Doyald Young's book Fonts & Logos covers the design of several corporate typefaces.