07 March 2014

Typography: From Sublime to Ridiculous

Not everything in advertising has changed.  Typography is still an art.

In the days of Ye Olde Marketing, typography was a labor of love as art directors worked with typographers and keyliners to put the copy in exactly the right font, size and placement.

Here in the 21st Century, of course, all this can be edited on a screen.  But it still has to be done, and done well.

Here are two examples from the Out-of-Home advertising medium – one sublime, one ridiculous.

This Is Your Typography

I’ve admired the Colorado tourism billboard, shown at right, for the past couple of months.  It’s a beautiful snowy landscape that dramatizes the Centennial State’s natural beauty.

What really struck me, though, was the typography.  The line of copy separates its six words in a way that further dramatizes the landscape and – if I may – the benefit.

How.  Sublime.  It.  Is.  To.  Be.  Small.


This Is Your Typography on Drugs

Our next example might have been forgivable coming from the state that just legalized marijuana, but ironically it comes from the product whose original recipe included the coca leaf.

Diet Coke’s new campaign has had a lot of negative publicity, and I don’t mean to pile on.  The point is that typography mattered a lot.

“You’re On” could have been a terrific line for Diet Coke if it wasn’t adjacent to the brand’s logo, which in and of itself is very intricate typography.

Both ads, unfortunately, wound up giving the white stuff a starring role.


  1. Steve when I first glanced at the CO billboard (which is what lots of folks do with billboards), I missed the "HOW" tucked in behind the family, and read it as the very Yoda-esque "Sublime It Is To Be Small". I actually loved that Zen statement.

    1. Mike, it does work nicely that way! Next ad in the campaign: Yoda with a spliff?

  2. Steve - so glad you celebrate typography - you may have heard of Mike Parker - the man who invented typefaces. He died last week and the Economist has a great obituary

    Worth admiring a pedant in his space.

    1. Rebecca, thank you so much for pointing that out. My copy of the Economist arrives on Mondays so I haven't seen that one yet (the print edition is one of my weekly off-the-grid rituals). Strange that I posted on typography at the same time....

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