We have been exploring the idea of making a Prada typeface, a work in progress.
Extending a brand’s logo to a typeface feels like an obvious branding solution. It extends a unique asset of a company, the way it presents its name, beyond just its name so that this uniqueness can be presented throughout its content. In fashion this has been done with great success by Burberry, with its stretched Bodoni caps.
Of course not every logo suits this treatment. For example, sticking with fashion, Cassandre’s beautiful Yves Saint Laurent logo has such a particular calligraphic style and letterforms locked together in such a specific way that its best treated as an independent and separate graphic device. The heavy Futura caps of the Jil Sander logo again suit a stand alone and separate treatment.
Branding in fashion is complicated by the larger fashion houses in particular having a myriad of product – separate fashion lines, fragrances, cosmetics, eyewear – and defining themselves differently to a different audience through this different product. This can make for a confusing array of wordmarks and supporting typography which lose any sense of a brand’s singularity of purpose, content, and direction. Burberry and Chanel for example show how a consistent graphic presence focusses a vision and clarifies a brands message to the consumer, even between different product ranges.
David James has been working with Prada since 1996. For a lot of that time we have been discussing the idea of a Prada typeface – what it might look like, whether it was an appropriate idea. Unlike the similarities between the lettering used for, say, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Marc Jacobs, and others, the Prada lettering is striking and specific to that company. In branding terms, where uniqueness and distinctness are primary concerns, a Prada typeface could be a powerful tool in presenting that message throughout its written communications.
For the Candy fragrance, with its very un-Prada pink colour and illustration, the Candy word in the Prada typeface reconnected the branding to Prada. For various fashion films with very little graphic content, again the type in the Prada typeface adds an extra connection to the brand.
In terms of drawing, logos of course exist as themselves only, so the rules of their drawing are narrowed to the extent of – usually – a very few letters. From the letters supplied, there should be enough information to best-guess the rules to complete the font – size/shape of serif, character width, and so on. For the four letters in the Prada logo there are similarities with various ornamental serif fonts from the late 19th – early 20th centuries, but with more inconsistency of drawing than you would expect in a fully drawn typeface – the round inner bowl of the P and R that is straight in the D, the wide difference in thickness of line. When making an alphabet maintaining these differences of drawing, this produces inconsistent but not necessarily unworkable letter shapes. Removing these inconsistencies would make the typeface a different idea to the logo. It would normalise the typeface, removes what makes it special and surprising. Normalising also means giving an extra usability, making the Prada typeface in this work in progress version upper case only and most suitable for headline, impact use.
See David James’ work for Prada at dja.dj.