The “Share a Coke” Campaign isn’t Stupid–the Typography is

When logos become typefaces.


The “Share a Coke” campaign has been annoying me for weeks, but it wasn’t until a few days ago that I was able to pinpoint exactly what was irritating me.

At first I thought it was the idea in general. I complained to my typophiles in crime, Cody & Jess. The whole thing is so random. What are the chances you actually get a Coke that makes sense?

They argued that the chance of getting something that did make sense, made you want to share it via all your social networks even more. Hell, Jess and her friend Lauren shared pictures of “Share a Coke with Lauren” and “Share a Coke with Jess” months ago from across the pond (the campaign started overseas before it came to the US a few weeks ago).

So, ugh. They were right.

While the two of them got the campaign, Jess and Cody shared in my annoyance about it; something was off. We suggested a few different ideas before it hit us: the custom typeface Coke had commissioned to match their logo had been right in front of us all along, but we were too distracted by the campaign itself to notice how much we didn’t like it.

It’s no surprise Coke chose to expand their logo into a typeface. Lettering is making a comeback. These days we hear a heck of a lot about typography in terms of the web, but there are a whole slew of designers reviving lettering styles once considered old fashioned. Just check out Sign Painters or walk past one of the 5 million coffee shops in Brooklyn (all hand lettered errrthang).

Coke’s typeface, called You, was designed by Ian Brignell of Toronto for the launch of the “Share a Coke” campaign in Australia sometime in 2012. If you look at Brignell’s other work, you can tell he’s a stellar lettering artist. The guy is kind of a superstar—lettering for everything from Chapstick to Crown Royal.

You by Ian Brignell.

Okay, so let’s talk about the nitty-gritty. Is You designed according to its source material (the Coke logo)? Yes. Technically, this is a job well done.

The problem then? The Coke logo is not a typeface. It’s a logo.

Each letter in You isn’t so bad on its own. It’s when the letters begin to make words that the trouble arises. Things go awry when Coke can put anything on a bottle in their sacred logo lettering. Behold, “vos anus.”

Missing tittle over the i. “Vos amis” becomes “vos anus.” Whoops.

The fact that this says “vos anus” (instead of the intended vos amis) isn’t even the issue. Look at the m and the i next to each other. They’re not typographically pleasant. It feels like “m” is kicking “i” to the curb.

Check out the Coke Logo on it’s own. We love this logo. We always have. It references the classic “Coca-Cola” logo but also ties in modern typographic influences.

And see how much better “Co” and “ke” fits together in the Diet Coke logo? Instead of “k” bumping “e” to the side, they form a ligature. And #tgod for that, because without the ligatures, this logo wouldn’t be so great. The lack of ligatures is what we get with You, making it a flop.

If you live in the tri-state area, you probably remember the “You’re on (diet) Coke” ads. Who are we kidding? Of course you remember them. Super ballsy on Coke’s end. You know what else? They used a secondary typeface. Revolutionary, I know. But hey, look how good this looks.

It’s a simple sans-serif. Is it a really vanilla typographic choice? Yes, but it looks nice and its not You, which had already been designed and could have been used instead. Coke should have used something similar for “Share a Coke.”

All the complaining about You aside, the “Share a Coke” campaign works. Back when Jess and Cody were explaining it’s brilliance, I insisted I’d never take a picture of a stupid Coke can.

Today, I stopped at The Meat Hook with David. We ordered two Diet Cokes with our sandwiches. His: “Share a Coke with a Go-Getter.” Mine: “Share a Coke with your BFF.” I took a photo and now I’m writing this. You win Coke, even if your typeface doesn’t. Well played.

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