The reason why the Nike advertisement was so successful? Check out font design history

The Nike brand is also impressive with its unique logo and slogan, as well as its striking font design. It is said that this font has emerged as a blue chip in the advertising world after Nike advertisements using bold and strong fonts became popular. 

In addition to the meaning of the letters, expressions and sounds are included in their shape – From simple letters to the use of modern fonts that make various expressions.

▶(From top left)Futura and Cooper Black fonts have considerably different expressions and languages. / The Patface font published by Robert Son in 1803 / A poster from around 1840 designed with Preface

Letters are also sounds. The reason why foreigners use the paradoxical expression of ‘soundless clamors’ when looking at Korean signboard culture also represents that the letters have not only meant but also sound. 

People can’t tolerate that letters stay only in meaning. I am eager to make an expression. This is because there is a limit to communication with only words that have meaning. 

When people speak, they use different accents to strengthen or weaken meaning. Where is that all? When I talk, I even add to my facial expression. You can say the same sentence with a gentle expression, or, on the contrary, you can open your eyes and stagger your lips and eyebrows.

The reason why so many emoticons are developed and sold in the’smartphone era’, where speaking with text is more comfortable than speaking with voice, is the reason to compensate for the lack of sound and facial expressions of letters. 

However, you can create sounds and expressions to some extent by using the letters themselves. The easiest is to choose a font. Futura’s lowercase letters (figure 1) look like a slim and tallboy, while Cooper Black (figure 2) looks like a cute, chubby kid.

However, the type did not vary from the beginning. Types were born in the West when Gutenberg invented metal type in 1450-1455. For more than 300 years since then, the type has not been developed into such a variety of shapes. 

Today, there were only decent typefaces that value readability, which is called the main text. Sounds and facial expressions appeared on typefaces in earnest since the industrial revolution in the 19th century. 

▶Very decorative typeface developed in the 19th century

After the Industrial Revolution, sound and expression were put in print

When mass production began with the Industrial Revolution, we had to sell products to an unspecified number of people. This started the advertising act, and at this time I realized that the letters had no sound or expression. 

When it was necessary to appeal to people who pass by in a noisy market about the merits of their products, it was only then that I realized how well the existing typefaces were. 

In 1803, Robert Thorne unveils a very unconventional type (figure 3) at his type foundry. This font, named’Fatface’, is an extreme emphasis on the contrast of strokes by applying a modern Roman font, one of the existing body texts.


Letterpress basically evolved from handwritten letters. When you write letters by hand, thick strokes and thin strokes appear. 

This is reflected in the type, for example, the M-shaped serif (the small protruding line at the beginning or end of a stroke) is a bit thinner. In general, vertical strokes are thicker than horizontal strokes, and if lines in the same direction are repeated like M or W, it is good to look at one thicker and one thinner.

Anyway, even with this difference in thickness, the contrast has never been as extreme as the fat face. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the illiteracy rate was very high, so the type was always reserved for decent nobles and elites. Their conservatism, that is, the attitude of refusing to change and viewing the existing ones strongly controlled the type design. 

However, Preface, which would have looked bad to the elite, was greatly welcomed by business people. Finally, they found the right typeface for promoting their products. It is because the letters contain sounds and expressions.

The preface is evaluated as opening the era of practical display type. Display type is a font designed faithfully to a prominent role at the expense of readability for advertising and promotion. 

There is a huge variety of display types today, but there was no such concept until the early 19th century. The fat face increased the attention of the letters by utilizing the thickness. After that, various designs such as three-dimensional, inverted, and decorative types were developed explosively. It even appeared in a very complex and colorful font in the category of flowers decorated with flowers. 

▶ In the early 1960s, Futura Wright was used as a font for the Volkswagen Beetle in the United States, which was a great success.

The type that tells a different story just by the difference in thickness

These designs were explored and utilized in the 19th century. It is also a reflection of the vulgarity of the Victorian era, which can be said to be the age of the rich man. In addition, the completeness of the font design itself has fallen a lot due to immersion in making the letters colorful. Even if it is a display typeface, it should have some degree of readability. 

Thus, as the era of modernism in the mid-20th century was in full bloom, companies tried to supplement the sound and facial expressions with the difference in the thickness of the type while using high-quality typefaces. One of the letters that have been greatly welcomed by companies here is’Futura’.

In the 1970s, Nike achieved tremendous commercial success with advertisements designed in the Futura Extra Bold typeface.

Futura was published in 1927 by Paul Renner of Germany, and its popularity was much better in the United States. The most widely known use case of Futura is Nike. 

The letters on the Nike logo, the famous slogan of “Just do it,” and Futura boldface always accompany Nike’s advertisements. It’s not just bold, it’s extra bold, so you can’t help but stand out.

After the success of Nike advertising, many companies have also used Extrabold Futura. The success factor for this is, first, in the design of a nice, well-rounded font, and the second in the design that made it ‘bold’ stand out. It’s a simple and small change, but you can talk a lot with just the difference in thickness. Futura Lite and Futura Bold are completely different fonts. It’s like an angry mother’s face and a gentle mother’s face are different faces. 

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