Design Spotlight: Fonts in Financial Services

While investors and traders make financial choices with their brains, most decisions start with the eyes. The optical nuances of how information is presented is what really helps steer decisions, which is why the thoughtful use of type and font in the presentation of financial services content is so important.

Great typography selection and design enhances visual brand appeal, helps provide a clear information hierarchy and helps users find key information quickly and efficiently. In financial services, good designers will practice optical sizing— the treatment of text and fonts regarding where and how it will be seen –including placement in overall branding, websites, mobile, charts, reports, and more.

Optical sizing allows financial brands to quickly and effectively communicate across different media without marring their visual identity, creating an optimal user experience that reinforces reading and understanding.

Let’s take a moment to explore the unique intersection of fonts in financial services.

But First, A Little Typography 101:

Typeface and Fonts

Typeface and font are not the same thing, but most non-pedantic typographic experts have come to recognize that in 2019 it’s OK for these terms to be used interchangeably. However, we’ll outline the technical differences here for posterity:

  • A Typeface is a set of one or more fonts each composed of glyphs that share common design features

  • A Font is the specific tool or file that contains a typeface. Each font of a typeface has a specific weight, style, condensation, width, slant, italicization, ornamentation, and designer or foundry. And a font family is a collection of related fonts.

In short, a typeface is a set of glyphs, usually expressed as scalable vector outlines accompanied by metadata that includes rendering hints. A font is a typeface rendered in a treatment that has a specific weight (e.g. normal, bold, condensed) and a specific point size (e.g. 10pt, 11pt, 12pt).

Serif and Sans Serif Fonts

The small stems or decorative strokes that extend from parts of letters are called Serifs.

Examples of common Serif fonts or typefaces are Times New Roman, Georgia, Cormorant Garamond, and Palatino. In contrast, Sans (“without”) Serif fonts lack the extra decorative strokes.

There are benefits to using both Serif and Sans Serif fonts in designs – as well as using them in tandem. A Serif or Sans Serif font can help set the mood or tone. A Serif font is often perceived as classic, elegant or formal. A Sans Serif font is likely to be perceived as modern, minimal, or friendly.

A good designer recognizes that several factors figure into the careful selection and application of fonts, including the mood to convey, the project, color, content, and more.

Fonts in Financial Branding

A brand represents your company presence both visually and figuratively, conveying the impact and power of your services and corporate values through an all–encompassing symbol of your firm, one that is instantly recognized by clients, leads, partners, and peers.

While a financial firm’s brand is more than a logo, fonts and color palette the branding icon that consumers and investors viscerally connect with is the visual component of a brand. And fonts are often a crucial brand component.

Fonts can convey if a brand is classic, traditional and enduring – as demonstrated by the Raymond James logo:

Or slick, modern and trendy like the Robinhood investing app logo:

Since custom fonts made their way onto web pages, brand fonts can carry over consistencies onto the digital screen. Adobe’s Typekit allows designers to include almost any typeface in a web page design.

>>When Should a Financial Firm Refresh Their Brand Logo?

Device-Responsive Fonts

When creating a brand, your designer or agency should attempt to seek out fonts that display consistently from print to digital. It’s important to note that not all fonts are free or widely supported, so a good place to start when vetting fonts is Google Fonts, which is a free and widely-used resource.

Alternately, if you have the resources of a large financial firm like Barclays, you can always pay to have your own unique typeface created through services like Monotype, which is what the firm opted for in 2004.

In a largely mobile-first world, financial websites must provide a brand-consistent responsive experience across all devices, such as mobile and tablets.

Designers not only select fonts and font sizes for websites but will apply the optical sizing method we mentioned earlier to adjust the same font sizes (particularly in header images) for an optimal mobile or in-app viewing experience where text content not only stacks correctly but is legible for smaller screens.

Fonts in Financial Reports

Because financial reports and annual reports are often text and numbers-heavy, typefaces and fonts must be selected carefully so that they work well with both types of content.

Font families that exhibit a range of weights (such as bold and light) and styles (such as regular, condensed, or italic) are a good choice for text-heavy financial reports.

For example, a page title is often larger and bold, body text is often in a medium-size regular font, and small text in footnoted disclaimers and disclosures is often displayed in a condensed-font format.

With typical numbers-heavy financial reports, a thoughtful designer will consider font spacing as well in the use of tabular or fixed-width as opposed to proportional for the optimal visual presentation.

Below is a visual example of the differences between the two:

Fonts in Hedge Fund Pitchbooks

On the polar extreme end of the text-heavy financial report arena is a financial marketing tool that is characterized by pared down content intended to highlight key program differentiation points and performance numbers: The Pitchbook.

A fund pitchbook is the key selling tool that CTAs, hedge fund admins, and asset managers use to present to potential investors, providing just enough information to spark a deeper conversation with the goal of building assets under management. A pitchbook is carefully crafted in terms design, text, order of text, visuals, and a length that will not overwhelm the viewer.

Gate 39 Media’s design team invests time to carefully select and apply fonts to the fund pitchbooks we create. Download Our Pitchbook Design Samples Here.

Designers will give special consideration to the fonts and treatment of numbers used in key metric charts and performance graphs used in both financial reports and pitchbooks well.

While we cite these few examples, there are many more opportunities in financial services where thoughtful font selection and usage can quietly support a user’s decision-making process.

The special use of fonts in financial services is a largely unsung topic many can recognize on the surface, but the deeper design philosophy around it remains a subtext (no pun intended) of the user experience.

If you’d like to discuss the use of fonts in your financial services firm brand, website, or materials, contact Gate 39 Media.

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