Probably the most asked and misunderstood question I get from my clients. Especially when we start projects. Admittedly I’ve probably gate kept (is that even a word) this information for way to long but to be honest it’s high time I write it down in an easily accessible resource that others can read at their leisure. And selfishly, It will also save me so much time repeating myself. So if you have a current project going on with me, are booked to start one, or just came across this article let’s dive in.
Yes, people design typography for a living. It’s an art form. I have always had an unhealthy obsession with it. I wish I was one. I have some favorites. I nerd out about it and I wish I had the funds to own more than I do. It’s kinda like all of my fashion, style and influencer clients with their handbags and designer pieces. Maybe I should switch to an obsession that clothes me 🤔. Anyway this isn’t a post about type designers. For that you can go here. This is a post about licensing and the various options surrounding that.
Free vs Paid
- Free fonts. There are many fonts that you can choose for your branding that are free to use and open source. We love these too. Not only are they cost effective but depending on the scale of the project could actually help you spend more on other parts of the project, design and project. Google Fonts and Dafont are great starting points to explore. I like to mix these in client projects sometimes – especially in body copy that requires more than one weight (and where sometimes that can cause price to rack up).
- Cloud based fonts. These are often included in subscription based services. Some of these include Adobe Fonts, Monotype Fonts, and Hoefler&Co. These are included at no extra cost to you as long as you have the subscription and properly install them.
- Paid fonts. My go to. Depending on the client budget this can range from $20 – $3,000+ just to give an idea. Some are pay ounce and some are pay per usage (that’s more so for cloud based subscription services). Essentially type designers sell their work to you! And sometimes there are multiple type designers or a type foundry (and agency or group). So of my favorite type designers are Jen Wagner, Violaine & Jérémy, Margot Lévêque and Jessica Hische. A few of my favorite foundries are Klim, Kometa, and Commerical Type . Many fonts are also sold via online shops or stores fontspring, my fonts, and here are just to name a few.
- Custom fonts. The holy grail. I’ve only had the pleasure of getting to commission one custom font in my day. It was for Kat Jamieson and we used the ever amazing Jen Wagner back in the day. The clients I serve don’t often have the need or budget for this level of type design but it sure makes my heart flutter. The new Flodesk redesign is swoon worthy and utilizes custome typography. If you’re at that level, I am available for hire. 😉
After you find your typeface it’s time to decide how you’ll be using in. For a full brand identity you’ll most certainly need both license types. But there are a few instances where you may just need one for now so your designer (that’s me!) can advise you on which might be best for you.
Desktop vs Web
- Desktop license are for fonts that will be installed on your computer and covers creating things like graphics, collateral, signs, posters, business cards and lots of tangible things that often are saved out into a final format, usually to be distributed or used in marketing purposes etc.
- Web license covers the fonts that will be installed on your website. You’ll need to know your site traffic and page views prior to purchasing as that usually helps determine the costs. The more eyes the more royalties! Hey we all deserve to get paid for our hard work. It is important to note that considering paid fonts does raise the bar for your brand. Not only are they meticulously and lovingly created but it’s also one way to stand out in the crowd. It’s harder for others to imitate your branding when they don’t have the same budget as you.
I hope this was a helpful lesson on fonts. Armed with this info please go forth and spend hours searching through the beautiful letters that make up the words we read everyday and evoke the subconscious into doing and feeling all the things.