A Complete guide to Font Licensing for Designers

Font licensing is a crucial element of using typography and any designer is aware that beautiful typography can be the difference between making or break a design. What ever you’re working on your work will be more memorable by incorporating a striking font. The proportions, curves , and subtleties of the lettering will make your design have a distinctive elegant style, drawing the attention of your viewers and pave the way for success. You can go one step further by using one of these combination of serif fonts to make something more original.


However, you must remain aware of most serious dangers. Imagine this scenario: Two weeks after the launch the campaign, your client contacts you to cancel the campaign and demand to know why there’s seen an increase in legal letters from an office type foundry.

It’s a nightmare, isn’t it? That’s the reason it’s so important to make sure that your fonts are licensed to the intended usage. If they’re not, you and the client could be sued, leaving your reputation as a professional in ruins faster than you could say “sans serif”. It is also essential to verify each type of license you come across (even for the fantastic free fonts) and be sure to are aware of the terms used to license fonts.

Check out our full guide to the licensing of buying font (or licensing if you’re from the UK however we’ll stick with the American spelling since it’s fairly widespread across the internet).

What’s a font licence?

Fonts are installed on computers, and therefore are considered software. As with many other programs, when you purchase an individual font, you’re purchasing a license to make use of it and agreeing to the terms and conditions set forth by the vendor. A license can be described as a legal document that defines the terms. The same way as copyright safeguards your design work which allows you to earn a livelihood without having to worry about people copying your designs A font license also protects the rights of the font designer to be compensated for their designs.

While the law on copyright is different across countries like the US, UK and in other countries around the globe The font licenses are written in a manner that grants users the right to make use of the software, regardless of the country in which it is located.

Typeface or font?                                                                   

Although the two words are often employed interchangeably, they each have distinct definitions. The term “typeface” refers to a group of fonts which share aesthetic features as well as a subset of characters with particular weight, size and design.

For instance, VAG Rounded is a typeface. VAG Rounded Pro Bold and VAG Rounded Standard Light are separate fonts offered by Linotype. The font can be licensed by VAG Rounded in full, or only the fonts you require. Learn more about fonts vs. typeface to know more.

Licenses for fonts and their usage

One of the most difficult things concerning licensing fonts is that each foundry or online store comes with distinct conditions and pricing structure. In the end it all comes down to the method you choose to make use of the font. The cost of the license could differ significantly when applying the font to 100 T-shirts or on a website that has 20 million monthly page visits. Here are the most common kinds of font licenses that you’ll see.

Desktop font licenses

Based on Aideen Greenlee, head of account management at Dalton Maag, the most frequent question that font licensing companies get is “Can I use this font to design logos?’ If you have a desktop license , the answer is generally yes..

Sometimes referred to as an end-user license A desktop license permits the user to install a font onto your computer and utilize it for a array of offline applications. Along with logos, you can utilize it to create other graphics including print collateral, signage or products… almost everything printed. It is important to keep an eye out for the amount of users who are allowed to use the font with the license you’ve purchased as well as whether you are able to utilize it in commercial projects.

Most sellers provide scalable desktop licenses. When you buy desks, you purchase more licenses, and once your project is moved from pitch to live , you can upgrade to commercial license. One thing you aren’t able to give this font directly to your customer – they’ll have to purchase an individual license in order to utilize the font, even if it’s only for editing text in an existing layout.

Commercial font licenses

Today, most desktop licenses allow you to create client-facing documents using the font. But, it’s always worthwhile to check. Some don’t and, in such a case you’ll have to purchase an commercial license, and perhaps one for your client too.

Webfont font licenses

If a font is utilized for text on websites generally, it must be integrated into the website’s code to appear properly on the user’s screen. Therefore, the font will be stored on a server and be distributed in a sense with every page visit. This shouldn’t be a problem but it means that when using the font to design websites, you must have a different license.

In certain instances web font licenses operate on a per-view basis. For instance, Good Type Foundry charges EUR450 for its most popular Good Sans if page views are lower than 15,000 per day. The license increases to EUR 2,600 for sites that receive at least 1 million views. If you are using a web font you could be asked to embed code on your website to allow the foundry to analyze the visitors.

Other font licenses on the web don’t have traffic restrictions. They are instead subject to time and/or domain limitations. If your client is using .co.uk, .com and .net and is planning to run their website in perpetuity and for a long time, the cost will rise, so be sure that they are covered.

Visit our free web fonts roundup for a list of web fonts that aren’t priced nothing (of course, make sure to confirm the conditions).

Adobe Fonts licenses

It is likely that your Creative Cloud package comes with an impressive collection of fonts that has fairly simple license agreements for fonts that are already in place. Adobe Fonts (formerly TypeKit) contains more than 1,800 fonts and offers desktop licenses for each of them. When you begin an entirely new project, you can simply sign in, browse, and try out different combinations of fonts. It’s easy, isn’t it?

However, there are a few issues to keep an eye on. If you also purchase an online font license to make use of any fonts that are created specifically for client sites however, the license will come with expiration dates. Then your client will be required purchase Creative Cloud to gain licenses to continue using the fonts available on the website. Additionally, Adobe Fonts can’t be employed in server-based applications, as well as in mobile apps without buying additional licenses for these applications.

Server font licenses

This is an uncommon area, but it’s worthy of being mentioned. Font licenses for servers are generally employed in print-on-demand applications. For instance, if you’re creating a website which allows users to select the fonts that will be used on a T-shirt, card or mug to be printed and then shipped the font’s licensing terms will differ. The license could have an expiration date and you might have to purchase a license for every CPU within your server program.

App and EPub font licences

In the event that your clients have instructed you to develop their brand new website, and also the app, it won’t be covered under an online font license. If the font is required to be integrated into an application, you’ll require an app-specific font license be able to do this. Most of the time, these are granted on a per-app basis , and the cost can rise as the number of users.

This is also true for ePub formats like magazines and digital books. One thing to watch out for is the release of new editions. It is possible to renew the license of an existing font when you upgrade and publish a new edition of an eBook and you may require an updated license for each issue of the digital magazine that you release. There are likely to be specifics regarding the number of readers and the timeframe that you should check carefully before buying.

Unlimited font licences

If the client you are working with is a huge organization, it may be worthwhile trying to negotiate for an unlimitted license from the company. This gives them the rights to make use of the font on any number of computers they like and for any other offline use they choose. From advertisements to applications They’ll be covered, and you’d be your design firm. Unlimited licenses typically cost more than PS10,000, but they ensure that your client is from being in hot water with typographic designers for the rest of their lives.

Exclusive font licenses

It is possible to engage a typo foundry to design a custom font for you and your clients. In the terms of the license, your company will be the sole entity allowed to make use of the fonts. The cost of this type of font license would be at least PS30,000.

These fonts are the top you can imagine. Sometimes, you get what you spend to get… The majority of the fonts for free aren’t as high-quality finish you can expect from authentic fonts made by reliable foundries. Additionally the fact that it’s free doesn’t mean it’s not protected by an agreement. Certain font licenses that are free allow users to use the font in your own work and even in pitching but if they’re used in published work for clients commercial licenses apply, requiring payment.

However, many great fonts are accessible in a totally free-of-cost basis. Go to Google Fonts, where nearly 1,000 fonts are available to download installed, used and installed in print, web and application projects using Google’s no-cost Apache License. We also have a list of the most popular free fonts.

Font licensing How to avoid issues

While font foundries and online shops try to make it as simple as is possible to purchase licenses for fonts and use the right way to you work environment, there will always be problems. Additionally, when issues arise generally they are resolved by purchasing the correct license. The best method to avoid an unpleasant situation is to incorporate a license check an integral part of your process for production especially for work with clients. When you are presenting your first designs, it’s the perfect time to verify that the fonts you’ve selected are licensed. If not, you’ll have a plan of action to make…

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