Everywhere you look on the internet there is a freeware option available that easily competes with its licensed premium version. This competition can become so close that the question of why the premium option is even a possible choice for one often arises. The comparisons of productivity suites Microsoft Office and freeware open source options like Open Office and LibreOffice are a great example of this predicament. This positive change for consumers of course isn’t just for applications. This freeware shift has found itself to every aspect of all content one can find on the internet, of course the font world is not excluded.
Let me attempt at painting a common scenario for you. Imagine that you are starting on a new project, and have come across two fonts. One is a premium licensed font, and the other is a free font. Now the typical answer to this situation would be to go for the free font, save some money on the project, and the client really won’t know the difference so no complaints there. However, is the typical answer the choice that is always right? Is there any additional value that can be gained by going with the premium font option versus choosing the free option? Let’s take a look a look at some reasons why fonts cost so much.
When a creative goes looking for a resource to help improve a project they are working on, the quality of the said resource should be at the highest they can find. Well in the font world, like anywhere else, you get what you pay for. The issue with dealing with free fonts is that one really has to do a lot of searching to find one that is nice high of quality. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of nice fonts out there that were created by good typeface designers for free public use. However, there are a lot more in the free font market that are not of high quality. There are many cases in which a free fonts have glaring flaws that make you wonder why a designer would release this to the public. Such as:
- Consistency in style with all letters
- Botchy curves
- Missing letters
- Not completely crisp throughout
Now, a premium font will rarely ever have these types of issues. This is so because like anything with a price tag, in an area where there are multiple alternatives available freely, a higher standard of quality is the only thing that matters.
Digital Rights and Usage Licensing
Okay let’s be honest here, how many people can actually say that they have gone through the license and usage agreements every font has before putting it to use? Especially for fonts you find for free? That is a big problem because that font that you find for free and say is a steal, could land you and your client that you used it for into some legal issues. When using a free font, people always assume by them being able to download them at free of charge means they can use them however they want without any problems, right?
This couldn’t be more wrong. The majority of free fonts, especially the ones of higher quality, are only okay to use for personal implementation. Anything outside of personal use is a violation of the agreement you agreed to before being able to download them, and will cost you some money and a shot to your reputation as a designer to get out of. I don’t think the legal headaches and lower standing with your clients is really worth it.
Premium fonts however when purchased, can be used for commercial use like in client work, web use, etc. In many instances with some fonts, that is the whole purpose behind their price.
The most annoying thing any designer dealing with free fonts has to go through is that as soon as you find one that you really like, you realize its been or soon will be used everywhere! The once great find font you found is now the poster child for creative overkill in the community. You can look at Helvetica, Impact, Times, or Comic Sans for great examples of this.
Fonts that are free for use, always come with this nagging issue. This issue can lead to lower the overall view placed on your work, and its originality. Let’s be honest how many times have you seen a design with a font that has been used too much and that fact alone didn’t take away from the overall design?
Typically with free fonts, they don’t come as a true font family. The only option you have is that one, or two in some instances, style. That is okay for some forms of graphic work, but for the most part it is a challenging thing to overcome. Font families gives you choices an options for different looks and better results for different instances. Also giving you a better font hierarchy in your designs, if that one font is the only one you are using.
Premium fonts always come as font families with different styles and font weights to choose from, giving you the options you need to make your design all the better.
It is a sad world that we live in where the truth is that if you create something remarkably astonishing, it will be reproduced and sold at a lower price, maybe even given away for free. Well, typeface designers know this disappointing truth all to well. Typeface designers spend a lot of time designing the fonts they create to be of high quality and originality, and quite often you’ll find the designer underselling his work so that it can be more accessible for us in the community.
Then after all that work put into it, to only find out that it only to be duplicated in lesser quality and being offered up for a lower price. Let alone finding out it is being offered for free.
The debate between which is better for use, or is there even really a difference, between free fonts and premium fonts will never end. They both have there qualities that are going to be appealing, and find one being better than the other in certain circumstances. Here is a summary of what we covered.
- Better Quality
- Multiple font styles to choose from in the font family
- Additional licensing may be needed for commercial use, or exclusive use
- Won’t be seen everywhere
- No worries of lawsuits coming your way, or your client’s way for its use
- Does not include all characters
- Occasional lack of consistency
- May require additional licensing to be used commercially, or for the web
- May be a stolen design of a premium font
- Possibly will be seen in many other places
- Lacks font style options
Now after taking in all that information about fonts, and learning the benefits of using a premium font or a free font, your probably asking yourself which one would be better for your next project. We’ll let’s make that decision a little easier for you, below you can find a breakdown of the instances in which each category of fonts have their advantages.
- Personal Use
- Non-Commercial Work
- Personal Logo, or branding(if okay with its designer)
- Commercial Work
- Client Work
- Web use
- Anything where its implementation gains you any monetary earnings.
However now that you have a better understanding of why fonts may seem to have a hefty price tag at first glance, you’ll rethink that thought and see all the benefits associated with using them. Below, you can find a few high quality free and premium fonts that will surely intrigue your creative spirit.