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The best things in life are free… Except for good type.
Graphic Design + Branding

The best things in life are free… Except for good type.

By:

Mitch Wiesen
Mitch Wiesen

on 5/17/2021

With the plethora of free typefaces available through platforms like Google Fonts and Adobe Fonts (which is only free when you already have a pricey Adobe subscription) and the site all designers love to hate, Dafont dot com, why would anyone – designer or client – choose to shell out the big bucks for a pricey typeface? Here are just a couple reasons that come to mind.

1. Uniqueness
2. Quantity
3. Quality

UNIQUENESS

Individuality is everything.

With such a limited selection of free fonts, you’re bound to end up with the same font as a couple thousand other companies. Visual individuality is a key element to separating you (whether “you” are an individual or a Fortune 500 company) from your competitors, and pigeon-holing yourself with a limited font selection is a devastatingly common mistake many people make.

Your typefaces should speak to you, your brand, and your mission. They should look the way your voice sounds. They should be immediately recognizable and own-able. This is best accomplished by putting the time, energy, and money into finding just the right fit for you. It’s worth it – trust me. You don’t want to get caught in a situation like the ones below:

Gallery Image  0Gallery Image  1

QUANTITY

If you want variety and options to choose from, you have to pay up.

When adobe calls their font service “unlimited,” and brags that they have thousands of options, it's tempting to believe that they can satisfy all your typography needs. But when it comes down to it, a couple thousand fonts is nearly nothing. I could eat a couple thousand fonts for breakfast.

If I want to use a condensed, high contrast sans serif, adobe fonts only has three options. (Shoutout to Condor, Battle Station and Fino Sans.) Google fonts doesn’t seem to have any, although my inability to find a single condensed, high contrast sans serif may be due to their sub-par search function. This is no niche typographic treatment– condensed, high contrast sans serifs should be a dime a dozen! But when you’re limited to free fonts, they instantly become a rare commodity.

If you’re not fluent in the language of typography, see the word “Cafeteria” for an example of a condensed, high contrast sans serif.

c559a1a1.jpg

Services like MyFonts and Creative Market, where fonts range in price from $$-$$$$, will always offer more options and newer fonts than free type services could ever hope to offer.

QUALITY

The better something is, the more it costs, and typefaces are no exception.

A great typeface is a work of art meeting mathematical precision. It’s fine art and geometry and architecture and software engineering all in one. A typeface takes hours upon hours to craft, sometimes they take years to finish, from sketches to vectors to the software you download.

I tried my hand at making a typeface in celebration of VIA Studio’s rebrand, and let me tell you– it was a real slap dash effort. It took over 50 hours to complete and I still have a laundry list of things I’d like to add, tinker with and perfect. Check out the font below, and download it for free here.

77e727ae94aed9518f6c1f1eb2f2b35322d4453d-1186x1774.png

It is genuinely unimaginable how many things go into making a typeface, never mind a great one. If you’re interested in learning more about the typographic process, I’d recommend this Ted Talk by Matthew Carter, one of the greatest typographers of our time.

Not every project requires a thousand dollar type-family. Even budgeting a modest hundred or so to invest in typography can make a huge difference in the final outcome of your project.

It's also important to note that when we talk about purchasing typefaces, what we're really talking about is licensing fonts, which essentially just means you're paying not only for the font software but also for the individual ways (logo, website, app, digital ad, etc.) you plan on using the font.

It’s hard to put a price tag on great design work, but we’ll sure as hell try ;)

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