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Three typography mistakes to avoid for effective healthcare marketing

October 1, 2015
Creative, Design, Healthcare Marketing

Typography influences perception and persuasion, so avoid these three mistakes.

Message, content and visuals aren’t the only factors by which healthcare marketers should judge their marketing materials. Typography is critically important, too, as it plays a big role in influencing perception and persuasion. In fact, it is just as effective as color in influencing mood and emotion. Several studies have shown that an identical message can affect perception differently with readers based solely upon the typeface used. Here is one such experiment.

Art directors, graphic designers and Web designers deal with type in almost every part of their job, so paying close to attention to the myriad of ways in which typography can look, feel and be used is vital–especially in the healthcare field where so much of the marketing work can look staid and it’s critical to stand out.

Here are three common oversights and mistakes marketers make with typography which we try to avoid here at bp|d:

1. Using outdated typefaces

The first, most common mistake is not keeping a type library up-to-date. A lot of agencies and design firms fall into the trap of using the same out-of-the-box set they bought for their systems a couple decades ago.

Sure, there are classic, timeless typefaces that have been around for centuries; but there is a whole world of constantly evolving and newly designed faces coming out each and every day.

To understand why staying up to date is important, think about it this way: Typefaces are the clothing your piece of marketing communications wears and you don’t want your healthcare organization being represented by a guy in a cheap, leisure suit from the ‘70s. 

2. Improper use of type

Thanks to the desktop computer replacing typesetting machines and actual typesetters, many creative people have not been properly educated on the subtleties of good typography and end up using the desktop computer like a typewriter.

Yes, a lot of typography is subjective; but proper readability and basic cleanliness is paramount. Unfortunately, the average designer today has not been properly trained in the basics of typography.

By this I mean they don’t understand basic kerning, spacing and selection techniques that are so important to making a well-crafted, good-looking marketing piece. They don’t manually correct what the desktop computer/typewriter automatically spits out. They don’t pay attention to the kerning. The word-spacing. The line-spacing (leading). Tucking the punctuation. Adjusting the appropriate word spacing. Using the right mix of appropriate typeface weights for emphasis. Avoiding mixing and matching inappropriate typeface family combinations. Making sure the quote marks and accent symbols are correct and not the default computer-generated ones…and so on.

Below is an example of how typography adjusted by hand looks much better than that generated automatically by a computer.

Manual Kerning of Font

3. Not investing enough in typography

Too many marketers don’t understand the investment in typography needed to truly be competitive and proprietary. A lot of high-end magazines, websites and packaging design firms do understand this investment; but for some reason a lot of advertising agencies and digital firms do not.

Type foundries (where typefaces are designed and sold) can charge upwards of several hundred dollars for one family of fonts. Custom, proprietary cuts can cost even more. So many of the lesser agencies choose to not make this investment and merely pass the same old, tired looking typographic solutions onto every one of their clients. And what ends up happening is one client starts looking like the next.

The key to having an inspired creative product is giving each client a unique, ownable look so they stick out and don’t blend in. This takes time and investment, understanding and respect for the art of typography. That’s something we choose to do for our healthcare clients here at bp|d.

James Hale

James Hale is a Forever BPDerr. At the time of this post, he was Senior Art Director at Brown, Parker & DeMarinis Advertising. His career included stints in the San Francisco, New York and Miami ad markets at Saatchi & Saatchi and Ogilvy & Mather New York, with work appearing in the One Show, Communication Arts, Andys and the National Addy Award competitions.

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