I am not an expert in graphic design which means the very subtle differences in sans-serif fonts often elude me, especially when the font is a version of Helvetica.
For graphic designers such differences are as clear to them as the difference between an Audi A6 and an Audi A4 is to me. Thus it is with some bemusement I note VW has elected to change their corporate font to something very slightly different. If you look closely you notice the “a” has changed the most and the letters seem slightly different.
Car Design News reports VW’s change with a straight face: “The carmaker says that its new typeface is inspired by “its distinctive vehicle design,” and that it’s “more contemporary, less geometric, and features more dynamic contrast” than the outgoing font, which is a customized version of the Bauhaus-inspired Futura.” Jalopnik are more critical, correctly identifying the part about dynamic contrast as being PR nonsense. You get the feeling that the writer wanted to say three things but could only think of two good things and the third was an act of desperation.
Why is this interesting? I suppose becuase this kind of change is driven by people really focused on their work who can see small changes in the way ordinary people can’t. And while this is sometimes good – that’s the expert’s insight – sometimes this level of detail awareness is destructive. Someone in the graphic department at some point began to get worked up over the previous font and saw it as an “issue”. A succession of meetings resulted in passionate explanations of why the old font was destroying VW and a new one would save it as certainly as pennicilin saves you from blood poisoning.
The reality is that there is not a single person on planet earth who would not consider a VW car on the basis of the font used to sell it, not in the sense that they’d notice the previous font which was essentially generic. In a way this is analagous to the very tiny changes made from model to model that only the designer notices. Such changes add nothing to the car but cost and seem to me to be only there because someone is trying to justify their job.