What the font? Understanding Commercial Licensing

Did you know that a lot of font styles require users to purchase a commercial license before use? Fonts are intellectual property and subject to restrictions just like software. Is your mind blown right now?!

This is something many folks have never given a moment’s thought. But it makes sense once you consider it. Font designers work incredibly hard to develop well-rounded fonts with a full character palette, weights, glyphs.

With growing markets for couture font styles like Creative Market and My Fonts, free download sites like DaFont, 1001Free Fonts and Behance, the stipulations get a little confusing. There are different types of licensing: desktop, web, ebook, app/software. There can be a 1-time payment or a subscription-based purchase. You can have unlimited or limited page views, limits to how many websites on which you use the font, and hosted vs. self-hosted.

How do you ensure you know the details before using a font? Almost all font designers have websites that specify their rules, restrictions, and prices. Go to the source and ensure you have the guidelines straight before letting a font become part of your brand! Sometimes fonts are as little as $15 for commercial use. Sometimes as much as several hundred. It can be well-worth the investment to set your brand apart.


If licensing isn’t something you want to worry with, consider great free for commercial use fonts like Google Fonts that work well both in desktop applications and the web. *Typography shown is “In the Loop” designed and developed By Patrick Seymour. Further Sources:

Wired: You Wouldn’t Think It, But Typeface Piracy is a Big Problem

Aeodilia: Understanding Webfont Licensing Structures

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