Seriously friendly — the development of immo Sans

immowelt is a popular real estate portal in the German-speaking world. With a bespoke and owned font family for all channels, they uncompromisingly strengthened their corporate identity.

The launching of an extensive refreshment of the immowelt brand and user interface design in 2020 included a custom made typeface – immo Sans.

Custom Typeface Immowelt Sans Digital Interface Font 03 Branding

When we started with a circular benchmark, thankfully lead designer Danilo Leicht and team were just sure what kind of typographic image they wanted and not gridlocked on how the letters have to look like in detail.

Playing collaborative ping pong by sensing demands and possible solutions led to a fresh realist sans-serif typeface in tradition of typical American gothics from the early 20th century. We developed an utilitarian family suited for everyday uses: circular, geometric sans yet space-saving with fundamental friendly atmosphere.

Custom Typeface Immowelt Sans Digital Interface Font 04 Geometric Humanist

Pure geometric type (left) vs. quite organic humatistic sans (middle) vs a balance of both (right)

The main focus was put on text specifically for small use on screens. Anyhow, a bold and powerful voice for Heros and Headlines is brand alignment, so immo Sans has become an all-rounder, to work well in different sizes to maintain readability and usability in every usage. Pivotal moment in this challenge was with the serifed l: implemented for better readability, it quickly developed into a brand-defining characteristic that transports a familiar and friendly air — for the team at immowelt this new designed letter used in the logo felt even more familiar than the actual one.

Custom Typeface Immowelt Sans Digital Interface Font 05 Serifed L

What a particular detail is capable of: logo and text with (right) and without the serifed l.

The fundamental framework

Shaping text for optimal user experience: even if the most important factor is the work of the interface typographer, we contributed an essential component —the typeface— and made that already in its core highly legible:

Custom Typeface Immowelt Sans Digital Interface Font 06 X Height Legibility

An initial design decision was the tall x-height to have a better legibility, as the white space within each letter is more visible. Larger x-heights tend to translate to easier legibility when set at small sizes. Plus balanced proportions of familiar non radial shapes with circular freshness.

Custom Typeface Immowelt Sans Digital Interface Font 07 Lettershapes Legibility

Another crucial design choice was to easily distinguishable letterforms to clarify things fast for the users eye. This even boils down to little but important details like the counter shapes.

Custom Typeface Immowelt Sans Digital Interface Font 08 Figures

The next trick in the type architecture derived from challenging usage of figures within the text for real estate announcements: when combined with uppercase letters the figures perform best at capital height, when standing out as a group, the figures then appear too large in comparison to most lowercase minted text.
Therefore ascenders of lowercase are designed to top the height of capitals. But just a bit, to keep a fresh and contemporary impression.

Custom Typeface Immowelt Sans Digital Interface Font 09 Button Proof

Last but not least, for UI a well centered vertical alignment in buttons is worth a mint. Tweaking the vertical metrics allows time-saving out-of-the-box use without having to adjust top or bottom padding individually.

Full family flexibility

To create hierarchy, immo Sans features a spectrum of seven styles from extreme Hairline to Black. On screen, the more robust Light and less swamping ExtraBold represent the comparable mix.
And, of course, Regular and Bold for text. The Medium weight, in many cases poorly treated, somewhat superfluous, makes absolute sense here: for UI a Medium is a great alternative for the Regular when it is used, usually quite small sized, as button copy, or if the Bold looks too fat.

Custom Typeface Immowelt Sans Digital Interface Font 10 Weights And Styles

all seven weights of immo Sans and their intended use.

immo Sans has wider tracking to improve its readability. The increased letter-spacing focuses on Regular and Medium weights that are most relevant for text.

Custom Typeface Immowelt Sans Digital Interface Font 11 Spacing Readability

increased letter-spacing (on the right) improves readability significantly.

Unconventional but appropriate

together with the client, we implemented some design features in immo Sans that might be wrong for retail but are totally right in a custom tailored design:

The figures are slightly too condensed in comparison to the letters. But for mobile-first layouts that feature a lot of figures in portrait mode, e.g. prices and square footages, they’re balanced to fit the typeface and simultaneously become as space saving as necessary.

Custom Typeface Immowelt Sans Digital Interface Font 13 Spacesaving Figures

What is properly derived correctly (left) does not always have to be the right solution (right).

The regular style is kept quite light. On purpose. Together with the design team, it took us several reviews to find their ideal grey value. However, no problem at all, as it performs well in the interface plus has all its adjoining styles in balanced accordingly to make the family’s weight system work.

Custom Typeface Immowelt Sans Digital Interface Font 14 Light Regular Text

The light body text typography creates a sense of ease.

Pixel proof performance

As the brand is the UI first, there is no question of additional hinting to a screen centered typeface design.
With the expertise of Christoph Koeberlin we tried and tested an appropriate rendering of the fonts on screen: Smooth rendering PostScripts for display weights and more manually tuned TrueTypes for styles that are meant for text.
This screen optimisation even is so elaborated to perfectly preserve generous x-height and semi-circular look and feel.

Custom Typeface Immowelt Sans Digital Interface Font 15 Hinting Pixel Proof Screen

For low-res screens a reader-friendly design is not always satisfying: additional hinting controls the rendering of the font to pixels perfectly (on the right).

Extra treatment of logo

While we were working at the corporate type, we helped with a bespoke logo as well. Adding a more circular touch to the logo than in custom font to to better refer to the rounded outer shape. With shortening the ascenders we created a more compact logo appearance. At last we put an optical emphasis on the word „welt“ within the brand name.

Custom Typeface Immowelt Sans Digital Interface Font 16 Logo Refinement

Logo with new typeface applied (top) and how we helped to improve the logo finally (middle).

One family, one look

The previous design situation was a clear and geometric typeface for print and brand, substituted by a humanist sans for screen. Now these inconsistencies are resolved and joined together in one family, one look: an all-rounder typeface with legible architecture, stylish geometric traits plus a familiar and friendly air. A custom font family that is key component of all branded communications, transfering the brand values to the smallest entity, the letters.

Custom Typeface Immowelt Sans Digital Interface Font 17 Family Specimen

TypeMates have 200% met the mission of bringing brand and UI together.

Danilo Leicht, Lead Designer bei immowelt

Licensed under an unlimited Enterprice licence allowing immowelt to use it in the most flexible way. We love those combinations: a full family flexibility in design combined with a full flexibility in usage.