Differentiation and Exclusivity

Just a quick point I’d like to raise, since today’s USA vs Germany match has completely thrown off my schedule.


When a potential investor approaches a business, one of the first concerns addressed is, “What’s proprietary about this business? What’s to stop a competing company from observing and then producing a product or service that’s just as good but at a lower cost?”

In graphic design, creating an image that’s easily authenticated and yet only with great difficulty successfully imitated follows the general principle of contrast. When something is very much unlike its surroundings, it becomes a definitive point of reference. (Its contrast is high.) When its surroundings respond by becoming similar in appearance, though the initial point of reference may not have changed its appearance, its contrast is lowered. Thus the perceived need for constant differentiation, endless updates and rebrands. And to some extent here, perception is reality, though I think you can feel my reluctance to such an approach, when the emphasis is on changing the appearance, rather than the substance. I’ve long seen great typography as one of the ways of solving this problem. And exclusively-licensed type as a particularly effective way of asserting ownership of one’s image.

Photo courtesy of Puma

Here’s one example: Soccer jerseys (my sincere apologies to the rest of the world who recognizes the sport as football) are commonly counterfeited and sold as authentic, misrepresenting their origin. Counterfeiters are foiled by the original manufacturers who commission new, distinctive typefaces and then exclusively license them from their designers. It’s for this reason that with each new wave of uniforms, something about the type catches your eye. Here’s one of Eduardo Manso’s custom typefaces done for Puma, above, on the Ivory Coast World Cup  jersey, and below on Italy’s. Note the curvature of the diagonal strokes, aiding legibility and also creating an easily-recognized distinguishing characteristic.

watermarked_thumbnail-2If you’re wondering how to go about licensing a typeface exclusively, just give us a call. That’s it. Using Type continues here Thursday. Thanks to Tobias Frere-Jones’s Armada for setting the title.

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