Tokyo-based ecommerce giant Rakuten has worked with London type design studio Dalton Maag to create a comprehensive font family bespoke to its brand. Aside from operating the largest online retailer in Japan, and the country’s largest internet bank, it works in countless other sectors with over a billion members globally. Despite this, until now, it didn’t have a typeface that linked them all. Though the company had its own typeface developed in 2012, it was designed before the group had grown to its current scale, leading its creative team to tack various new external fonts onto the branding.
The former typeface had “a distinct personality and served them well, but it focused predominantly on logo and title usage,” the Dalton Maag design team tells It’s Nice That. Plus Rakuten unveiled a new logo in 2018. With this and the addition of other fonts disconnecting the overall identity, Dalton Maag was enlisted to develop a large type system to include four different styles, to cater to its broadly varying needs. These are Rakuten Sans, Serif, Rounded and Condensed. On the Rakuten site, Sans is described as the “welcoming and accessible default,” for the brand’s identity, while Serif is used for “expressing elegance,” Rounded is more “fun and playful,” and Condensed is applied when the message needs to be “bold and impactful”. The styles all have distinctions but feel familial, responding to the concept of Ichi (meaning one) which is part of the brand’s ethos, and share common parameters such as the x-height and other vertical metrics, plus the font texture.
Dalton Maag summarises the font as clear and functional, “with the right tone of voice to support the distinct personality of the brand,” as well as adapt to the company’s future development and changes. “In the Sans, the terminals of the round strokes of letters like ‘c’ have a slight flaring and are cut to a particular angle, which results in a crisp, sharp texture,” the Dalton Maag team describes. “This style is complemented by a “true italic”, rather than a simple oblique, making a lively organic voice available to the brand.”