In previous articles—on
Creative Suite 3 plug-ins,
—I talked about how adding to your applications can increase your creativity. Next up: fonts.
Fonts are about the easiest way to add to your creative arsenal, and I’ve compiled a long, but certainly not complete, list of Web sites offering fonts ranging from completely free to über-expensive.
Free fonts on the Web are a mixed bag. The quality of craftsmanship can be drastically different and you never know what you’re going to get, sometimes not until you’ve tried every possible letter, number and punctuation mark in the font. I’ve downloaded fonts that appeared to be awesome, only to find out that no punctuation marks were available in the font. Others are complete and look nice, but have horrible kerning, giving you a great-looking font spoiled by giant gaps between letters.
Bust out your pocketbook, because you’re going to spend some here. But you usually get what you pay for. That’s right, just because you’re paying for it doesn’t mean it’s any better than a finely crafted free font. To be clear, though, most fonts from big-name font foundries (such as Adobe, Linotype, ITC) are superb in quality and you need not worry about spending your money with them. I would not hesitate to do business with any of the companies I have listed here.
Both Free and Commercial Fonts:
Mixed-use font sites are tough to figure out. They tend to—though not always—sell cheaper fonts which are of medium to high quality. But then you have to wonder why they give away some or many of their fonts. Usually, it’s as simple as the fact that it gets you there. Some of these sites offer nothing but high-quality fonts, a few of them also have some mediocre fonts, but all of them have interesting type, and they’re worth browsing.
Font Management & Resources
Now that you’ve downloaded every last font you can fit on your hard drive, let me say that you’re going to want to use a font management application if you’re going to be using them all. For a few dozens fonts you can get away with using Apple’s Font Book that ships with OSX. But for larger font collections, you’re going to want to use something more robust such as Extensis’
(which I highly recommend), Insider Software’s
or the free Linotype
. I love Suitcase Fusion’s ability to assign keywords to your fonts, making it easy to find the type of fonts you’re searching for in your collection. This capability is essential for designers with a large collection.
You may come across a font in an ad or brochure that you want or need to use, but you don’t know what it is. In these cases,
can help you. WhatTheFont allows you to scan in the font you’re investigating and upload it to their servers where it runs through some complex NASA-style, gobbledygook algorithm and spits out the name (or possible names) of the font in question. For those times when even their automated method doesn’t work, they offer a discussion forum full of font enthusiasts that can help you out. Similar services include
Identifont, which asks a series of questions to identify your font without having to upload anything.
And finally, you may want to brush up on font management by browsing through this brief
best practices guide
supplied by Extensis.
[James Dempsey runs the
Web site and blog, which offers tips, tricks and opinion on a variety of design topics.]