The “F” Word

Now that I have your attention, I’d like to discuss the other “F” word. A word that represents a data file comprised of glyphs, characters or symbols and can bring designers to their knees and their blood to a boil—all with the mighty power to crash a computer.

I’m speaking, of course, about “Fonts.” Not in regards to the aesthetic or technical aspects but on the matters of purchasing, usage, licensing and compliance. I’ve recently had discussions with many corporate creative managers on establishing best practices for moving forward with new font purchases, as well as ensuring that not only are the appropriate seat licenses in place but companies are compliant when interacting with affiliates (domestic/foreign) and third party vendors.

So to get the ball rolling, I thought I’d throw out a few questions to initiate an open discussion on the topic.

  1. Do you purchase fonts on a regular basis?
  2. Where do you purchase your fonts (Adobe/Émigré/Fontshop/House/Font Bureau)?
  3. How are they used (internal communications, advertising, sales, packaging, web, other areas)?
  4. What type of license do you purchase beyond the multiple seat license (extended, embedding, logo usage, product for sale)?
  5. Do you purchase fonts for any other groups beyond your design team (affiliates—domestic/foreign, production team, third party vendors including service bureaus, printers or design agencies)? Or are these groups responsible for purchasing their own licenses?
  6. Do you use a font manager (Universal Type Server, Fontwise)?

Feel free to include additional info on this often discussed and controversial subject. I look forward to hearing from you.

Glenn John Arnowitz is Director of Global Creative Services for Pfizer and co-founder of InSource. He is a designer, musician, composer, writer, actor and speaker, always looking for new ways to scratch that insatiable creative itch.



2 thoughts on “The “F” Word

  1. Kristin

    Three years ago, I joined a design team that had absolutely no font management processes in place. It took me nearly a year of research and implementation to get font management software in place, but we now have an organized (and legal) way of managing our fonts. Hopefully this article and its subsequent posts will help others that are navigating the world of font management. Here are my answers to your questions:

    Do you purchase fonts on a regular basis?
    Working in-house with brand guidelines in place there isn’t a big need for new font purchases but I do purchase fonts occasionally on a project basis (4-5 times a year).

    How are they used?
    Almost exclusively on consumer-facing materials: advertising, packaging, store signage, web, etc.

    What type of license do you purchase beyond the multiple seat license?
    Typically just the multiple seat license. I have never been in a situation that I needed anything more than that.

    Do you purchase fonts for any other groups beyond your design team?
    All partners outside of the corporate office are required to purchase their own license. We have international offices and product licensees around the world that buy their own licenses based on the corporate direction for fonts.

    Do you use a font manager?
    Yes, we use Universal Type Server and it is truly a godsend. Prior to implementing UTS, every designer had to manage fonts on their individual machines and you can imagine what a mess that was. UTS has an excellent training team that helped our I.T. department get the software in place from an administrator level, and they also trained my entire team how to use the software from a user level. The software is very straightforward and easy to use and I would recommend it to anyone!

  2. Glenn John Arnowitz Post author

    I appreciate your responses. Your experiences with font purchasing, usage, distribution and licensing are inline with those shared by my peers at other organizations. Universal Type Server sounds like an invaluable and essential asset and something I will definitely explore. Thanks!