Branding the funny

Service Typeface development Partners Kerns & Cairns and Victoria Rushton in collaboration with loyalkaspar Date 2019

Defining Comedy Central’s brand through type

Branding is both an art and a science. It’s also a business aimed at winning over fans—those people who keep coming back for more. Comedy Central has been successfully bringing fans back for 30 years as the top all-comedy network. Now, with the branding experience of loyalkaspar and the type design expertise of Kerns & Cairns for Type Network, Comedy Central has amplified its voice across platforms and a changing media landscape.

What do you do for a client whose launch date is April Fool’s Day? The first step is to find the core of who they are: to them, humor is life, levity is necessary, and everything is funny. But as any great comedian will tell you, timing is everything. That quiet pause or lull in the dynamics is needed to appreciate humor’s full force. So from a branding standpoint, the commercials, scheduling, and bumpers provide the platform upon which the shows themselves are served up as the punchlines.

Comedy Sans, in two widths commissioned by loyalkaspar for Comedy Central.

loyalkaspar’s branding work for Comedy Central grabbed onto its full potential when they commissioned Type Network for this project. Type Network represents some of the top independent type designers in the world. They connect agencies with the right match for their custom type needs, which is precisely what loyalkaspar requested. Having previously collaborated well with foundry partner Dyana Weissman of Kerns & Cairns, this was a natural fit. Victoria Rushton provided assistance as the project grew in scope. Anna Minkkinen, loyalkaspar’s Executive Creative Director, was part of the team working closely with Weissman to outline the font family’s voice, the styles needed, and the “right amount of wrong” it should contain.

The strongest commitment guiding the entire process was that a custom typeface is a core solution to build brand trust and cement a distinct voice for the long haul. Unsurprisingly, custom type helps define the voice of a brand, especially in a fluid media landscape and across many platforms. Type Network and its foundry partners are adept at turning rough sketches into working fonts. Weissman says, “I do my best to put clients at ease about terminology, walk them gently through the process, and make it fun, interesting, and painless.” With these branding and conceptual pieces in place, the main direction for Comedy Sans was set.

As the font came together it became clear that the logo would need to be updated and informed by the custom typeface, particularly the rounded letters that needed to be more consistent.

Early sketches of Comedy Sans veered toward a “reverse stress” family that was heavy on the top and bottom of each glyph. In use, with the sparse amount of words shown at any given point in time, viewers had to be able to immediately recognize each glyph, so this direction was abandoned in favor of something more understated, easier to set in all caps, and that would render more consistently across platforms. Importantly, it needed to be at home in an ever-present supporting role since the typeface is the setup and not the punchline.

“When you develop a custom typeface for a brand, you want it to have enough unique personality to aid in brand attribution, but at the same time you need legibility across many platforms. Plus, in this particular instance, we needed a typeface for a comedy brand that could support funny content without overshadowing it with too much whimsy. With her vast knowledge and experience in crafting letterforms, Dyana was a great resource in helping us in the process of refining the fine details that made all the difference in the end product—a typeface that has proven to be both very functional and expressive for Comedy Central.”

 

–Anna Minkkinen, loyalkaspar Executive Creative Director

The result is the eight style Comedy Sans font family that has won awards, increased Comedy Central’s brand recognition, and proven how useful it is for the range of tones needed across different media platforms. Funny enough, hard work pays off.

This piece was written by Joshua Farmer.

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