IDEXX Laboratories was kicking off a new ad campaign to promote some of their pet health diagnostic products. The creative team at IDEXX developed a campaign that spoke to the emotional bonds between people and their pets. Visually, this was achieved with full spread photographs capturing a touching moment between people and their pets, with a headline representing the thoughts of the pet owner. To fit in with the visual language, the typeface had to feel human as well. Originally, the team at IDEXX chose a retail typeface that was hand-drawn and had a hatched 3-D effect. While this typeface had the right feel it was difficult to read and was missing necessary punctuation.
To resolve these issues IDEXX approached me to create a custom typeface. The goal was to retain the human, light-hearted, bouncy nature of the original typeface but improve the legibility. The primary reason the placeholder typeface was difficult to read was that it used high contrast letterforms with hairline serifs. The density of the 3-D effect overwhelmed the thin strokes of the letter. To solve this I suggested using a san-serif design with medium stroke contrast. This would reduce the clutter between letters and create a better balance between the 3-D effect and negative space inside the letter outlines.
Pushing the Concept
Commissioning a typeface with hand-drawn letters makes much more sense than illustrating each individual headline over a period of years. The drawback, however, is that a typeface of hand-drawn letters doesn't do enough to give off the organic human feel that was desired. This is because the letters repeat. To remedy this, I proposed that we add a variety of alternates for the most commonly occurring letters and pseudo-randomly substitute them in using the contextual alternate OpenType feature. The feature was coded to prevent the same alternate from appearing in close proximity to itself thus adding the variation needed to feel more hand produced.