Font Ownership is every bit as important as owning your images.

Do I need to own the fonts in my brand?

To answer this question simply, Yes. Font ownership for small business is something that needs to be addressed in every rebrand.

Picture this: You just completed the creative process, and decided on your final unique logo that will be the visual interpretation of your brand. What’s next? You might have already received a magical brand bible that holds all the necessary information about your brand, also known as your brand guidelines. One of the most important but often overlooked pages in your brand guidelines is the Typography page. But What is Typography exactly and Why is it important? Typography is the art and technique of arranging letterforms and transforming them from verbal language to visual language. Typography is important because it helps readers to visually perceive the information they are reading. With the correct choice of color, font, messaging etc. it can be a vital tool to attract your ideal target audience. Think about it, the typography that The New York Times uses is very different from the typography that USA Today uses. It helps each of their readers know where the info that they are reading is coming from, and reinforces each brand.

Once you’ve chosen a font that matches your brands, the next step towards finalizing your brand identity is font ownership. To the unfamiliar, font ownership for small business websites may be a little scary, often people are very confused and unaware what they are doing or what they’re looking at… some people are so overwhelmed or even surprised at the costs of some fonts that they begin to ponder…Do I REALLY need to own these fonts??

Yes! In the long run, these fonts are going to help you generate revenue. They are a piece in the puzzle that attracts the clients you want by effectively transforming verbal language into a visual language to peak the interests of your target audience. Why not give credit where credit is due? Fonts are made possible by Type Foundries (companies that design or distribute typefaces) and Font designers who spend countless hours over a course of months, or even years developing fonts that have several weights, styles and thousands of glyphs. These artists are often overlooked and taken for granted, even though Type is EVERYWHERE.

What is a font license?

A font license is a type of font ownership for small business that grants the purchaser, a certain right/freedom to use the font/typeface as they see fit, for both commercial and non-commercial works.

Some variables to look out for:

  • Some fonts come with 1 license, and others come with 5 or 10. licenses. A font that comes with only one license means that you could only install that font on one of your computers. If a font comes with a 1-5 licenses, then this allows you to install the font on five computers. If there are additional members of your team that need the font, then you would need to purchase another instance of the font that allows more than five users to install the font on their computer.
  • Who should purchase the font? The designer or client? The answer is the client. If the designer were to purchase the font, and the client uses it for commercial use, then the client is at risk of legal issues for using fonts that they do not have legal rights to.
  • If the designer is using the font for the sole purpose of the project, and is not intending to produce work in a commercial environment with said font/typeface, then it is not crucial for the designer to have licensing to the font.
  • What about Free Fonts? We’ve all come across websites that allow you to download fonts for free. But just like in life, nothing is ever really free. Oftentimes, these free resources have restrictions that allow you to use the font privately but are not allowed to be used for commercial purposes, some may even only allow permission unless you get permission from the designer.

Are you hesitant to believe that companies have faced legal issues for font licensing? Well, in 2009, one of America’s leading type foundries, The Font Bureau, sued NBC Universal for failing to secure the rights to several trademarked fonts- which were used to promote programs such as The Tonight Show, Saturday Night Live, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. To read more about this legal dispute, read the article here.


The lesson here is, just buy the font! It’s better to be safe than sorry. You’ll save yourself the headache, the hole in your wallet from legal fees, and you’ll sleep better at night knowing that you have a solid visual identity system.

Below is a list of resources of some of the best type foundries to choose from if you are on the hunt for a great font:

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