Glenlivet & Typography

For reasons I can’t explain I am writing up these notes of my Speyside visit 8 months late.  I am a grandmaster of procrastination.  Today this caught my eye ‘J.K. Rowling procrastinates just as much as you do’  (no she doesn’t) but it is not so much procrastination that interests me as the subject – writers discussing typefaces (the Twitter thread is here). I love looking at typefaces and the way subtle changes can make big differences to the impact of the text viagra avec sans ordonnance. There is a pleasure in noticing the craft of design as typography conveys far more than just the meaning of the words.  Just as we react to body language as well as the actual words someone uses in a conversation, we respond to the design of text and the context in which we read. Look at any bottle of whisky in your collection and look at the variations in the typeface. What does it say to you?  How does it relate to the shape of the bottle? Does it affect your attitude to what’s in the glass?

Now as far as I know Glenlivet are the only distillery to have written about typography on their website (here and here) and as they obviously take the subject seriously,  I would like to look at the way their logo has been tweaked. In the rather splendid display area in their visitors centre, there is a panel showing bottles from their past. With one sweep of the eye you can see how things have changed (although the first half of the Twentieth Century seems under represented). The three most bottles, representing the 1950s, 1970s and 2000s, make the most interesting comparison as they show how typeface can be evolved to make it appropriate for its time, whilst retaining enough of its character to be recognisable. I think the current reworking is very clever: by condensing, thickening the arms, and adding a subtle spur on the G, the traditional font looks a shade more modern. It is in touch with its history but a bit smarter, slightly dapper but still upright. This is only half the story: there is a new bottle, which ever so slightly flares at the base to mirror the serifs at the base of the stems. It has been well thought through and the more you look  the more you notice, even though, at first glance, it is not dazzling. It does not look at all designery but in fact is.

In business terms typography, logo, overall design are there to convey an image of the brand and catch the eye of the customer looking along a shelf of competing bottles. For me though, at home, its role is more contemplative. I like to look at the design as I drink – it engages another sense.  For me drinking whisky is an aesthetic experience so the more senses engaged the better.

P.S. Bruichladdich are the only distillery to boldly use a sans serif face. This not only says something about how they positioned themselves after 2001, it says a lot about the inherent appeal to tradition of a lot of whisky marketing. I think I will write more about this later.