The VAG Rounded design was originally conceived as the corporate identity typeface for Volkswagen AG, the global car giant. It has a slightly hazy history with several designers involved in the whole process; it was completed by the design company Sedley Place in London after a commission by the Swiss-based marketing agents for VW at the time. Sedley Place was a branding and marketing company created by members of the VW marketing group and still exists today as a powerful force in the world of high-end marketing.
The background to the creation of the VAG Rounded design involved another well-known car maker Audi, which VW acquired in 1964. In the early 1970’s, with the Audi/VW dealer networks already starting to merge, the corporate branding strategy had to be changed to accommodate the marketing needs of these major parts of the group whose dealers were now sharing the same outlets. The commission for a new typeface as part of their brand identity not only included Volkswagen and Audi, but also their V.A.G Bank and V.A.G Leasing companies.
There was no easy way to combine the existing Audi/VW font identities with Audi using a full serif Times and VW using the 1927-designed Futura font. The art and creative director decided that a totally new typeface was required, thus the concept of a rounded-end typeface as a basis for their typographic branding was born. Originally rendered by hand, the VAG Rounded design was later perfected using a PDP-8 computer.
The VAG Rounded typeface was subsequently used in all corporate and dealer publications of VW, Audi VAG Bank and VAG leasing until the late eighties, when VW began another round of re-branding. The VAG Rounded design remained in use by VW until as late as 1992.
The typeface had to be available worldwide so that dealers could continue the branding that included the VAG Rounded design, as it was being used throughout their literature, signage and advertising. To improve accessibility, VW released the VAG Rounded design into the public domain, also enabling the it to be bundled with much of the available desktop publishing software available at that time. This opened the door for millions of computer users to use VAG Rounded license free while simultaneously strengthening VW branding.
In more recent times, VAG Rounded has ecame a familiar sight. On a number of Web 2.0 publishing sites, it has been used within online logos, where the rounded ends make text appear more informal, imparting a friendly appearance.
VAG Rounded is what is often considered a “corporate” font. This rounded-end, sans serif font has been extensively used (especially online) to create very smooth and friendly looking logos. Skype and MySpace are two of the best known examples of companies using the VAG Rounded design in their online logos.
Apple used the VAG Rounded design on the keyboard keys of their iBooks and PowerBooks, further fuelling the desirability of this font family. General Electric saw fit to utilize it as the basis for their proprietary font named GE Inspira, used on their product labeling.