….and this week is a break down.
Because of my profound love of Switzerland, I thought it would be fun to look into an advertisement from one of their major wholesale and retail companies, Migros (pronounced ME-grows). This billboard ad is for a product available at the deli/take away counter, or at one of their sit down locations. The ad, written in German, asks if the product was made either as an easy meal while living in a dorm/apartment, or whether it was made by one’s own mother. The text in the arrow invites the patrons to try it for themselves and then decide. At the bottom, the little sentence says “For a satisfied Stomach.”
What I plan on breaking down is a little bit of the typography employed in the ad.
A little into Migros
Migros is Switzerland’s largest supermarket chain, founded in Zürich in 1925 by Gottlieb Duttweiler. Think of them as like the Swiss equivalent to either of America’s retail tycoons of Walmart or Target. They generally provide basic grocery, stationary, and clothing needs at almost every location. Migros is ever conscious of their patron’s health (healthy patrons naturally meaning returning patrons), and since its founding has refused to sell either alcoholic beverages or tobacco products in any of their locations. Their locations have three general sizes, ranked as M, MM, and MMM, and the more “M’s” is a larger location with higher volume and range of inventory and services available.
Commence the breaking
What is nice about looking at an ad in a foreign language, especially if you weren’t able to speak or read it, initial typography analysis goes rather fast. To the left, I took the ad and circled every time the “e” glyph was utilized. Each time the glyph went through a font change, I changed the color of the circle. What we see is that in this ad, there were at least four different changes. Looking at “WG oder Hotel Mama? Erst Essen dann entscheiden” (the red circled “e’s”), although the “e” glyph seems to change in appearance, what we are observing here is just simply a weight change from Roman to a more bold or black/heavy weight.
Identifying the red circles
There are three major families that a typeface fits into: serif (Oldstyles, Modern, and Slab Serif), sans serif, and script/decorative. As each family has its own characteristics, it is important to look for the indicators. When I do this, I like to look at both a lowercase glyph and an uppercase. To the left, I pulled and enlarged two glyphs so that we can look closer at the these characteristics. The first thing that I look for is what is circled in light blue. Is there a serif on the glyphs? If so, which these do, where do we place them from there? We narrowed it down to either Oldstyle, Modern, or Slab Serif.The next step is to look at the stess mark direction on the glyph (shown on the glyphs with a blue dotted line). Oldstyle is the only one of the three to have a diagonal stress, so it can’t be that. In addition to that, the serif on Oldstyle are also slanted. We are left with either Modern or Slab serif. What sets these two apart is the extreme contrasts in the varying thick and thin of the glyph’s strokes. For the glyphs we are looking at, I circled different parts with a green circle. What we see is that our glyphs have very little change from stroke to stroke, making this typeface a Slab Serif.
Just one more identification… of the blue circles
Just like with the Slab serif, the first place to look on any typeface for its family is if it has a serif. Circled in the light blue, are areas of the two glyphs where we would expect to see any serif. What we see with the typeface here is that it does not have any serifs, making it a Sans Serif. Sans Serif have other identifying characteristics as well that I will quickly point out. What you see circled in the green is that there is not weight change between each stroke of the glyphs. Because of this, Sans Serif typefaces do not have a stress direction (thus the absence of the dotted blue line like in the Slab Serif break down).
Why should we care about this?
What we need to understand is that the two are used to communicate two different ideas on the ad. The Slab Serif was used to promote the product available at Migros. Although we didn’t look into the light blue or the green circled type together, they are also just like the blue circled type, Sans Serif. When we look at where it was used, it was used in places where they were to be identified with the company. The light blue and green circled text had to do with the different logos for Migros, and the blue circles were for a company statement that helps connect the product back to Migros. Knowing Migros’ philosophy and dedication towards providing healthy products, they are saying that they guarantee the product will provide the consumer with both health and a full stomach.
The Slab Serif is written huge, in fact, until you get up close to the billboard, you don’t really see any of the tiny Sans Serif fonts sprinkled throughout the page. The Slab Serif family was designed to do just that. Be put on a billboard or a poster and be easily read from far away. Migros doesn’t want anyone to miss what they have available to any of their consumers.