Theme : Advertising – Ford’s Typographical Revolution

Ford’s influential adverts of the late ’90s set a style still in use throughout Ford’s communications. We look at an early example here.

2000 Ford Fiesta Zetec S
2000 Ford Fiesta Zetec S

At the end of the 20th century, Ford introduced a distinctive new style for their print advertising. The sans serif typeface indicated straight-forward modernity. It looks like a variant of Helvetica but is actually a font called Antenna  The ads use both bold and non-bold type depending on the function. In the ad shown here it’s all big and bold and very clear. You can read more here. It was quite a striking use of this typography. Some used it better than others as part of a general trend to sans serif fonts.

The Irish postal service, An Phoist, revised their corporate design sometime in the ’00s. The consultancy responsible showed little understanding of the relationship between the font and the meaning. Like the Ford ads, both bold and light are used but somewhat randomly. The post offices received a new look with the name “Oifig An Phoist” (that’s the Irish for post office, literally “office of the post”) written using a meaningless mix of bold and light fonts. “Office” was stressed visually and “Post” was under emphasised.

If they’d have got that right, they’d have put “Post” in bold as that was the most important bit of information, not the office part. If they had been clever they could have used a light type for one language and a bold type for the other – this convention had been used on bi-lingual road signs in Ireland until recently.


Ford’s sans serif typography and overall layouts were in tune with the times and the brand. In comparison with the busy-ness of the Ford Mondeo ads inspired by the X-Files, they were visually clean and easy to digest. Contrast that with the Renault Espace advert where the car is a small item at the bottom of the spread and you see what I am getting at.

1999 renault-espace-aquarium-small-92644

Finally, the Ford advert shows the face-lifted 1999 Fiesta from the front.  This is where the face-lifting was done. From the mirror backwards it was the same as the previous version.  And notice also how little copy there is: a strip of words at the bottom of the page, almost serving only as a graphic frame rather than to convey any information.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: