One week in my Marketing Minute newsletter I mentioned the company name “The Muse Is In” in the format of its domain name, TheMuseIsIn.com. Read more about fence repair San Diego
If your email arrives in what’s called a serif font, that would have made perfect sense. The capital I’s in “Is” and “In” would have little horizontal tops and feet on them (these are called serifs), enabling you to recognize them as capital I’s rather than lower-case L’s. However, if your email arrives in what’s called a sans-serif font, you might have been baffled, trying to figure out what a “Musel” was, because the first capital I looked like a lower-case L. And indeed, I received several emails asking me to explain the name.
Prior to mass use of the Internet, this issue did not exist, because companies had nearly complete control of their name and logo in print. Except for when their name appeared in a news article, magazine or directory (and nearly always, serif fonts were used in those settings) companies could decree the color, font, spacing and surrounding graphics of their company name.
No longer is that true. Online and in email, someone’s browser setting or email program often determine the font they are reading in. Additionally, sans-serif fonts are extremely popular both online and in print now.
The same problem cropped up looking at a print ad, where I struggled to read the name of a law firm that looked very much like it ended in I-I-C (two capital I’s, then a C). It took quite a while of staring and pondering to realize that what I took to be two capital I’s were meant as two L’s. Thus the three-letter sequence was an abbreviation for “Limited Liability Corporation,” which commonly appears after professional firm names in place of the corporate signifier “Inc.”
However, here the designer created my bafflement. By stylizing the two L’s so they were in lower case yet the same height as the C following them (which would never happen in any conventional font), she made it difficult for me to recognize that these were L’s rather than I’s. It’s a bad move, however visually pleasing, when you make part of a company name challenging to read.
Although the biggest problem occurs with capital I’s and lower-case L’s, as in the above examples, I have several other real-life instances of font problems in my files.
* Revver – Spelled R-e-v-v-e-r, this looked like R-e-w-e-r to me when I read it online, because the font used did not have any visible space between the two V’s.
* Kijiji – Spelled K-i-j-i-j-i, this looked like a fence rather than a word to me in a sans-serif font which had little distinction between a lower-case I and a lower-case J.
* I9 Sports – This looked to me like the numeral for nineteen, then Sports, yet in an alphabetical list of franchises, it was listed under the letter I rather than under N and therefore intended as the letter I, then the numeral for nine.
To avoid these types of problems with a name, type your top candidates in seven or eight different fonts, both serif and sans-serif, before finalizing your selection. And be ruthless in rejecting an otherwise promising name that will only be understood properly where the company controls exactly how it’s written.