Inside Voice: Custom Font for IDEXX Laboratories
Image provided by IDEXX Laboratories
IDEXX Laboratories was kicking off a new print ad campaign to promote some of their pet health products. The concept for their campaign was to have full spread photographs capturing touching moments between people and their pets overlaid with a headline that depicts the thoughts of the pet owner. The creative team at IDEXX originally spec’d out a retail typeface in a hand-drawn style with a dimensional effect for the project. They liked that the human touch of the hand-drawn style echoed the content of the photograph. While this design had the right feel it was a difficult to read and it was missing punctuation and figures.
To resolve these issues IDEXX approached me to create a custom design. The goal was to retain the human, light-hearted, bouncy nature of the placeholder typeface but improve the legibility. The primary reason the placeholder typeface was difficult to read was that it used high contrast letterforms with hairline serifs. The density of the 3-D effect overwhelmed the thin strokes of the letter. To solve this I suggested using a san-serif design with medium stroke contrast. This would reduce the clutter between letters and create a better balance between the 3-D effect and negative space inside the letter outlines.
The letters were created by hand drawing them in ink. The drawings were then scanned into Illustrator and traced. The final outlines were cleaned up and adjusted in Fontlab.
In order to enhance the hand drawn feel I created three alternate forms for the commonly occurring letters and those that can occur in pairs. The alternates substituted in pseudo-randomly using the contextual alternate OpenType feature. The feature was coded to prevent the same alternate from appearing in close proximity to itself.