Why should pay for your fonts?
Typography Twitter is raging because Marc Hemeon, the Head of Design Q&A Music, said in a now deleted tweet:
"I think one of the best things you can share with a brand new, broke designer is your font collection.
Yeah, its probably illegal, but lets [sic] be honest - you didn't pay for those fonts either..."
Hemeon's tweet and the ensuing frenzy (read some responses here) of typeface designer anger made me realize that one topic that designers and non-designers alike don't fully understand is why they have to pay for fonts. I am not the only designer, by a client or co-worker who has been asked: "Why do we need to purchase this font? Can't we just use a free one?" So here is an article that attempts to explain the importance of purchasing fonts, even if you are a "broke designer." Or what you can do if you or your client, can’t afford to buy a font license.
Why should I pay for a font
No one ever questions whether or not they need to purchase software from Apple of Microsoft. Of course, you need to. Well, surprise, typefaces are a piece of software. So when you purchase a font, you are actually buying the license to use that piece of software. Software that a designer has spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours creating.
When you do the math on a software license, they are relatively cheap compared to what you are getting. A license for some of the most popular fonts—Helvetica, Avenir—cost around $20-$30. When you think about how much time a typeface designer spent creating a typeface, this doesn't even cover one billable hour. It should be a no brainer that you should be paying a designer for their work. Yes, even if you are broke.
Yes it is illegal
One of the significant problems that Type Twitter has was that Hemeon wrote: "Yeah, its probably illegal." The answer is Yas, this is definitely illegal. In every EULA (I have read a lot of them which you can check out here) it is directly spelled out that you are NOT allowed to share fonts with anyone else. Even if they are broke. Encouraging people to illegally share font files is the same as sharing photographs, vectors, and other people’s work. It is illegal and opens you up to litigation. No designer would tell you to use someone's design and not pay them for it. So why is it ok to do that with fonts?
Not only is it illegal to share fonts is also immoral. I like to assume that most people share similar morals regarding right and wrong. Most people agree that it is wrong to steal or to skip out on a bill at a restaurant. Sharing fonts is stealing fonts. It is the same as stealing a physical object from someone or skipping out on a bill at a restaurant.
If you can't afford a font, it is not ok to get a pirated copy. You wouldn't go to a restaurant and expect a free meal if you couldn't afford it. Instead, you wouldn't go out to dinner. If you can't afford a font, don't expect a free copy. Especially when you can use one of the countless free fonts out there.
Free fonts that are legal
Now that we have covered that it is illegal and immoral to steal fonts, we can talk about where you can get LEGAL free fonts. The first most obvious place to get high-quality fonts is Adobe. If you have a subscription to Creative Cloud, you already have access to hundreds of high-quality typefaces from well-regarded type foundries. All of these are "free" for you to use, and the typeface designers get paid for their hard work.
If you want to adventure outside of the world of Adobe, feel free to check out this list of great high-quality free fonts to check out this list.
If the perfect font cost money, and you can’t afford it, and there are no other options, there are a few options. First, a lot of foundries have trial licensing so you can test out a typeface, and put it in your designs. If the font is that important to the design, you can use the trial license to mockup your design and then get the client to shell out for the font.
If you are a student, a lot of foundries will have licenses for students that range from cheap to free, so you can build your library (for non-commercial uses) and learn how to design with great fonts. Then you can purchase a commercial license for the font in the future if you need it for a paid client (since you are actually getting paid you can afford it, or even better bill it to your client).
At the end of the day if you really need a font and are having issues affording it, especially as a young "broke designer," email the foundry or designer. Typeface designers are people, and designers, they want others to see and use their work. We are happy to talk with. And who knows we might even be kind enough to work with you. At the worst, you now have a relationship with a typeface designer, which can be mutually beneficial. Knowing, and being kind to your typeface designer is a good thing!
Don’t do bad things
Moral of the story: Don't steal fonts licenses.
What Hemeon was saying is terrible and immoral. It doesn't matter if he received the fonts for free himself, two wrongs don't make a right. Instead, of saying that we should be giving fonts away for free he, as all of us should, be teaching everyone, especially designers, the value of typefaces and the work typeface designers do.
Don't steal your fonts!
August 9, 2019—Hemeon has apologized for his tweet saying:
“I want to apologize to all the great font makers out there- fonts are the lifeblood of design- always pay for them and secure the right licenses to do so.
I want to apologize to all the great font makers out there - fonts are the lifeblood of deisgn - always pay for them and secure the right licenses to do so.— Marc Hemeon (@hemeon) August 2, 2019
As a sign good faith he said that he was going to review his font library and remove any and all font that he hadn’t paid for and encouraged others to do the same.
I would like to declare this Friday - as #fontfriday - go through and audit of all the fonts you're using and make sure you have licensing for them -— Marc Hemeon (@hemeon) August 2, 2019
Im doing this too, I have a desktop license for the font im using on my site, but not a web license - so securing that now. https://t.co/MApLbDgHHL