Custom Fonts vs Licensing Fonts

The client always asks “What’s best?  Custom fonts or licensing fonts?”

Sadly there’s no short answer, so buckle up.

When licensing a font, you pay to use someone else’s intellectual property under restriction and that IP has been used before and will be used again.

Now, let’s discuss what the drawbacks are to working with licensed fonts.

  1. You don’t have artistic control.  You may like half the glyphs and you may not like half the glyphs.  But guess what, even when you pay the exorbitant fees associated with making modifications to the glyphs you don’t like which are in a typeface that’s been around since the 1920’s, you still don’t own it! (If you modify a FontPeople font, we rename it and let you own it, but we’re special)
  2. Bandwidth restrictions.  Most of the time you license a font based on how many people you want to use it, how many page views your website receives, and how many applications you want the font to be resident on.  If you’re a major brand you can bet your ass the foundry will multiply that by the power of Greyskull, and you’ll have an annual fee akin to that of a platinum enema, and will feel about the same.
  3. You can’t send your licensed fonts to your third parties, so they have to pay too.  Nope. No. No you can’t. Don’t.  I know you did but you shouldn’t have. Bad girl.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows over in custom font land either.  The design and development cost of a good custom typeface will take you slightly north of £10,000 for one weight and take 6-12 weeks to deliver based on timely feedback and the complexity of the design.

That said, when a custom font is delivered to the exact specification you drew up having had full artistic control, you own it.

You can name it whatever you like.  You can use it on all your web pages. Use it in all your apps.  Send it to your third parties, friends, printers, agencies, vicar, and to the moon; its yours!

So here’s the bit “they” don’t want you to know… If you have a quote for a font license north of £12,000 and you have the time and the budget, go for custom because that’s the economic cut off and you get way more bang for your buck.

All that said, I’m yet to meet a designer that didn’t need a font for a fiver in the next 20 minutes.

If you’re unsure whether custom or licensing a font is the way to go, contact us for a chat and we’ll steer you right.

Be nice.