Custom, Modified, and Library Fonts: What’s Right for You? Find out at Adobe MAX
Choosing the right typeface can be a daunting task for any brand. The font you choose will speak for you everywhere, on virtually every piece of printed material and digital real estate your brand touches.
You’ll want a typeface that reflects your brand’s identity and personality, for starters. But it should also have a comprehensive, well-crafted family that provides a rich palette for your brand, supports the languages your customers use, and equips your design teams with features they need to create engaging, distinctive visual assets.
A crucial step toward delivering on these needs is deciding how your font will be sourced. There are three general options:
Library: You select an existing typeface and use it as it is, licensing as many weights and styles as you need.
Modified: You select an existing typeface that fits your brand’s identity and personality, then work with a foundry to adjust the design to your liking, or perhaps add a new weight or style.
Custom: You commission the design of a custom typeface and work with a foundry to create the design, weights, and styles you will use.
Each option has unique pros and cons, and will vary in terms of cost, time, and ease of development.
There are tens of thousands of timeless, distinctive typefaces in the world, all ready and waiting to be licensed and put into your creative. Why not use one of those?
Choosing a library typeface is indeed a simple and quick solution. There is a large palette of designs to choose from, and a foundry can help you identify options that align with your visual identity and brand values.
Of course, a library typeface will never be as “you” as a custom or modified option would be. While there are lots of designs to choose from, brands tend to coalesce around the same subsets of popular, classic, and trendy typefaces. That said, many of those typefaces are ubiquitous because they’re beautiful and people love them, and some are popular because they’re well-suited to the needs of modern brands. Still, it’s an important consideration for brands seeking to establish a unique identity.
You also have to use a library typeface as it is. This means you have to find a design you like that has all the weights, styles, and glyphs you need, and delivers good legibility in all reading environments your customers use. Hardly an impossible task, but something to remember as you weigh your options.
As with a custom option, brands can personalize a typeface to fit their particular needs and aesthetic. There are limits to how much a design can be altered, but a foundry can explain those limits, then work with you to select the right initial typeface and modify it to your liking.
So, what can you change? No two cases are exactly alike, but brands usually make alterations to improve legibility (on a screen, for example), tweak the style to better align with the overall visual identity, or even add a weight that isn’t currently part of the font family. A foundry can address these concerns by increasing the x-height, changing details on specific characters, or even redrawing individual glyphs (for example, to match the lettering in the logo).
Modified typefaces are a good fit for brands that want something unique but don’t have the time to invest in a custom design — brands with a time-sensitive product launch or rebrand, for example.
The primary benefit of a custom typeface is that it’s yours and yours alone. You own the IP and nobody else can use it (unless you let them), so the design becomes synonymous with your brand. You don’t have to compromise on the design, and you can build something that directly services your current and future technological needs. Custom (and modified) typefaces also make sense for companies embarking on a rebrand, because they can help define and energize your new visual identity.
Compared to a modified or library typeface, the up-front investment on a custom project is more substantial. Custom typefaces require the full breadth of a foundry’s capabilities, from initial sketches to design, engineering, and final delivery. This process can take many months, if not longer, so brands should plan on using a custom typeface for years to get good value from the investment.
Of course, that investment goes a long way toward establishing a strong brand identity. Again, the result is a unique typeface that only your brand can use, giving you instant brand recognition everywhere your fonts appear.
Learn more at MAX
Monotype will highlight examples of each option during their breakout session at Adobe MAX. Representatives from Hearst Digital Media, Saatchi and Saatchi, and Thumbtack will be discussing the typographical paths they took to create effective, engaging, and enduring identities. They’ll offer insights into how they arrived at their type decisions, the criteria they evaluated, and the impact those choices had on their brands.
In addition, Monotype’s Steve Matteson, creative type director, and Charles Nix, type director, will outline factors brands should consider when faced with this decision.
Register today to attend the session, which takes place Monday, October 15 at 1pm.