August 30th, 2018
Seven years ago Sony launched an ambitious and admirable project – to create their own typeface spanning an unprecedented 93 languages, thereby creating a unified global user experience across all their devices and communications. They worked with Monotype to meticulously craft SST, a modern yet timeless san serif.
We visited Sony’s x Monotype’s launch at G F Smith’s Showspace to learn all about this project. As we walked in, the first thing we were drawn to was the wall of beautifully designed posters, each illustrating an aspect of the typeface.
Sony cites Helvetica and Frutiger as two of their inspirations; Helvetica for its sharp and solid nature and Frutiger for its superb legibility (developed in its original purpose as airport signage). Their aim was to identify what made Helvetica so solid and Frutiger so readable, and use these findings as basic parameters to guide their type design.
Monotype state that,
“A sharp, solid, geometric edge is evident in uniform line widths – tempered here and there with just a few tiny optical adjustments – and balanced by softer, more organic qualities of humanist design to improve readability at all sizes.”
It was not just the case of creating mathematically balanced shapes – each had to be minutely tailored to allow for the quirks of the human eye.
Another aim was to create a unified look and feel across all the languages that SST was available in. The example shown in the image above illustrates how Sony have taken the Arabic script, usually constructed with varying line weights, ornamental marks and irregular line endings, and built a geometric version that ties it into the global family of SST fonts. They have done similar with scripts from Korean to Cyrillic, in the process drawing over 23,000 glyphs.
The result is a typographic ‘superfamily’ that allows Sony products to be uniformly branded the world over, creating a globally consistent look and feel.
It was great to see a company taking a long-term investment in design; creating a font they could own and that sets them apart from their competitors. As well as a branding win, the font is actually set to save Sony money in the near future as they cease having to pay licensing fees for their previous font. Above all, they have created something unique that they can truly own and something that unifies every piece of brand communication, around the world, into one visual language.