Why fonts matter: An introduction to typography and licensing

Typewriter close up shot of keys

An introduction to typography:

The right font can do a lot for your brand. It is important to use the right one. Typography is one of the building blocks of a brand. It is just as fundamental as your brand colour palette or logo. In this article, you will learn about font styles and their uses in branding.

Different typography styles and their uses:

The font you use should reflect your branding. Fonts can help you to position your brand towards particular customers. This principle works in reverse. The wrong typography can have a negative effect on your brand. The common styles of fonts used in logos by brands you know:

Serif Fonts: Fonts with feet

The most well known of the Serif fonts is Times New Roman. Serif fonts usually feature feet at the bottom of each character. These feet are purely for decorative purposes. The Serif family are used to create a sleek and classic feel. Serif fonts are used by brands looking to appear elegant. Tiffany and Co, Zara, and Abercrombie and Fitch use Serif fonts in their logos. The most popular Serif fonts in 2021 are Georgia and Baskerville. These fonts are being used by brands in their marketing materials. Each of these fonts are in the image below.

Serif Font Styles Georgia and Baskerville
Slab-Serif fonts: Chunky but funky

Slab-Serif fonts are related to the standard Serif font. Slab-Serif fonts are feature bolder characters that stand out more than the traditional Serif style. This style conveys confidence and sureness. The most popular Slab-Serif fonts are Sentinel, Adelle, and Clarendon. Two notable uses of Slab-Serif fonts are Sony and Volvo.

Slab serif fonts Adele and Clarendon
Script fonts: A bit different

Script fonts share the common feature of casual flicks and loops. Script fonts have multiple differences that can benefit different brands. For example, the logos of Cadillac, Coca-Cola, and Instagram use Script fonts. These businesses have different positioning, but all use a Script font. The Script style conveys a more personal approach to doing business. It can be used to highlight creativity, uniqueness, or creativity. Popular Script typefaces include Alex Brush, Pacifico and Lobster.

Script fonts Alex brush and Pacifico
Sans-Serif fonts: Modern typography

Unlike Serif typefaces, it is rare for Sans-Serif fonts to contain feet. Sans-Serif typography has a modern feel. The Sans-Serif style conveys honesty and forward thinking. The smooth rounded characters of this font style are often the most appealing. Brands that use Sans-Serif fonts in their logo include LinkedIn and Calvin Klein. Popular Sans-Serif fonts include Helvetica, Proxima Nova, and Futura PT.

Sans serif fonts helvetica and futura pt
Decorative fonts: Let’s get artistic

Decorative fonts are artistic and eye-catching. Unique design can be used to highlight a brand. Decorative type stands out when used in logos. Decorative fonts are usually created from scratch for brands. It is not practical to use a decorative font outside of logo design. Notable brands that have used decorative fonts include Lego and Fanta.

decorative font fanta logo

How to use fonts for commercial purposes:

To use fonts for commercial purposes, you must have a licence. The level of licence you require depends on your use case. The easiest licencing is through Google or Adobe Fonts. You should note that some brands may need an additional licence.

Google font licences: The easiest solution

Google offer a selection of free and open source fonts. This means they are free to use for commercial reasons. If you’re looking for a font, you should start on Google fonts. You are able to search fonts by style and properties. For example, if you’re wanting a thick or wide font, you can search by width. Overall, Google’s licensing is the best solution for most businesses.

Adobe font licences: Included with creative cloud

If you use the Adobe Suite for work, you can use their licensing. Adobe fonts come included with your Creative Cloud subscription. You can use Adobe’s fonts for all normal commercial activities. Like with Google’s licensing, there are a range of search options. Adobe’s search options are arguably easier to use than Google’s. The only caveat is that you need an active Creative Cloud subscription.

Adobe font licensing software

Other forms of typographical licencing:

In rare cases, some brands may need further licensing. These font licences include web-font, app or e-pub licences, server font, or exclusive licences.

Web-font licencing:

Web-font licences embed the font into a website’s code. The embedding of code enables the reader to access the font. A web-font licence is required. These licences are provided by your hosting provider, such as WordPress. Only worry about these licences if you are building a bespoke website. Application or e-pub licences are similar, just for apps.

Server font licences:

You need a server font licence in ‘print on demand’ settings. For example, an e-commerce website that allows custom products for printing and shipping. The classic UK example would be a site like Vistaprint. You may need a separate licence for each CPU in your server.

Unlimited font licences:

Large businesses can benefit from unlimited font licences. These licences give businesses an unlimited right to use a font. The licences cover both online and offline uses. Unlimited licences are negotiable, but may cost around £10,000. There are a variety of businesses that offer these font licences.

Exclusive font licences:

Exclusive font licences are for bespoke typefaces. You could get a custom font that only your business can use. These fonts may cost over £30,000. The most well-respected type foundry in the UK is the Font People.

Keyboard close up image

A short conclusion:

Choosing the right typography isn’t easy. It may not be as simple as you thought. The correct typeface can propel your brand. The wrong typography can destroy it. When choosing your font, consider these final points:

1. Think about your brand’s positioning. Is it elegant, quirky, industrial or modern?
2. Ensure you have the correct font licence.

Book a free one-to-one appointment with an Identity Agency consultant by getting in touch. Just let us know a time, and a member of the team will be in touch with you very soon!

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