Type Designers
and Web Fonts

Are some type designers too scared of the internet?

Some type designers are criticized regularly for not allowing @font-face embedding in their licenses. We too have admittedly said some things we regret in hindsight, like telling one type designer he was afraid of the internet. Oops, sorry about that. We are passionate about web fonts though. Between Font Squirrel and our sister site Fontspring, we’ve worked hard developing the technology and making it accessible to everyone who wants to try it out.

So, are some of these type designers being snobby about web fonts or scared of the internet? No, and here’s why:

Consider fonts like you would a fine painting. It was a labor of love and involved incredible amounts of technical skill. Just like any artist, type designers would like to be very careful in how their fonts display not just in print, but on the myriad of operating systems, displays and devices.

I once heard someone say: “a font should be considered similar to a can of paint. Once you buy it, you should be able to use it wherever you want”. That is a terrible analogy. A can of paint runs out eventually. Furthermore, a can of paint is not someone’s meticulous creation… rather, it is a medium in which artwork can be created.

Type designers want their fonts to look the way they intended them on the web. Now, we’ve persevered through painstaking amounts of work to get fonts to render consistently and reasonably well. But to some type designers, “reasonably well” equals garbage. They want their fonts looking exquisite on the web and that takes time. A lot of time. A lot of tedious boring costly time.

We developed the Font-Face Generator nearly three years ago. One of its basic features is an autohinter which eliminates the need to do it by hand in most cases. It isn’t perfect and we find lots of ways to improve it, and it certainly doesn’t compare to the hand hinting done by some of your favorite designers. So while the generator has clearly had a big impact on the world of web fonts we must respect type designers requirements as to what can and can’t be done with their masterpieces.

In summary, let me say this: There is no “type industry”. Foundries have no group lobbying for them. They really don’t get much voice on technical matters. They roll along with whatever operating systems vendors will support. On top of that, in many ways, they have to basically rely on the honor system as the basis of their livelihood. So, to all the foundries who have pioneered the way with us, kudos! And to all the foundries who are waiting until browsers get it perfect, we are getting there, and thank you for being patient. To all our end-users, I hope this gives you more respect for type designers. Please honor their requirements as you use their typefaces.


Chuck Green

I agree completely that type designers should be paid for their work. I just wish there was some type of uniform licensing so you didn't have to track down every typeface and decipher what it can and can't be used for. If you want to be diligent about seeing that everything is legal you are saddled with a very time-consuming task.

For example, I've been tracking down one of the typefaces from FontSquirrel.com that my client wanted to use for a series of white papers that would be distributed electronically in PDF form.

I contacted the foundry and they told me that I could embed the font for roughly $400 per quarter or $1200 per year (there's a 500 piece minium) but we would need to sign contracts which would, of course, require my client to engage a lawyer to review it and so on.

I also asked about changing the font to outlines but that is considered the creation of a derivative work and that also requires the same fees.

No sweat. If that's what they think it's worth, that's what it's worth. In this case, I'll move to another foundry or use something open-source. It's just that I've wasted a couple of hours in the process.
August 21, 2012 at 12:06 PM
Chuck Green

By the way... once I explained that we would only be distributing a limited number of PDF's the foundry representative did offer to see if they could find some alternate agreement. But I had already invested enough time so I thanked them and moved on.
August 21, 2012 at 12:12 PM
Brita Starcke

I come from Denmark. In Danish we got three letters: Æ, Ø and Å, which are not in English. Not all fonts supports these letters. Very few actually.
When I search on font-squirrel for a nice font to use, it would help me a lot, if I somehow could sort the fonts, so I'm only displayed to those, which support Danish (or something close to that).
Right now I need to go into every single font and try it out. Quite timedemanding.
August 26, 2012 at 02:38 AM

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