Written by Amy Schroeder & Molly Wiggins
Fonts are kind of a big deal here at Minted. Over the years, we’ve amassed a collection of hundreds of them in our ever-growing Font List, a database of the fonts we’ve obtained commercial server licenses for.
Because there are a number of factors to consider before selecting and purchasing a font, we asked four respected Minted artists for their top tips. Here’s a compilation of their insights, ranging from top sites for purchasing fonts to rounding out your “wardrobe” of fonts … and some technical jargon clarified along the way.
Shown here: Five of the many fonts you can view in Minted’s Font List, which Minted artist Sweta Modi calls “her bible.” “I consult the Minted Font List to discover new fonts, choose a specific typeface from a particular style, and check the minimum size specified for a font.”
1. Find fontspiration everywhere
Fonts are on billboards, book covers, clothing, album covers—they’re everywhere you look! As Minted artists attest, it’s nearly impossible not to be typographically inspired in your everyday life. Amy Ehmann of Design Lotus follows her favorite type designers and foundries on Instagram, and Erika Firm maintains a typography Pinterest board that serves as her “running wish list for fonts.”
Erika also stays on top of font trends by flipping through magazines—a great way to see fonts in action, in actual print. “It’s one thing for a font to look lovely on screen, but it has to actually translate well on paper in order for it to work for stationery,” the South Carolina designer says. “I think Bon Appetit magazine does a great job of incorporating typography into their design.”
2. Purchase fonts purposefully
When it comes to purchasing fonts, Minted artist Julie Green of Up Up Creative tells it like it is: “Don’t feel like you have to buy every cool new font you see. But do remember that your font purchases are business expenses, which can help at tax time.” Point taken.
Amy Ehmann suggests shopping for fonts with a specific purpose in mind. “Ideally, I’ll be able to use a particular font for a minimum of two to three designs,” she says, adding that if she doesn’t envision using a font multiple times, in her mind, it’s probably not worth it.
As for pricing, fonts can cost between $10-$1,000, so keep this in mind as you’re establishing your design expenses budget. “The high-cost fonts are oftentimes large families of fonts such as Avenir that has 24 weights,” says Molly Wiggins, Minted’s Font Specialist.
Erika Firm, a designer who creates work for Minted and private clients, tends to steer clear of expensive fonts. “If the cost is more than $100 for the font family, I won’t use it in a Minted design. If the cost is more than $250 for a font family, I won’t use it for branding clients. I don’t source fonts that don’t include numerals or special characters. For branding projects, I don’t use fonts that don’t include ligatures.” But when she does find an affordable font she loves, she goes all in. “I buy the entire family—different weights, italics, small caps, etc.—so that it’s most versatile,” Erika says.
3. Purchase fonts from trustworthy sites
You can find dozens of font foundries on the Internet, but it’s important to purchase fonts from trustworthy sources with clear licensing terms. Here are the font sites that Minted artists recommend.
- Creative Market
Erika Firm likes to look at the trending, most popular fonts on Creative Market, which are created by a community of independent creators with a business model similar to Minted’s. “As we know from Minted, crowdsourcing works. The fonts on the first few pages of Creative Market are there for a reason,” she says.Erika suggests reading through user comments and testing the font in Creative Market’s customizer before purchasing. Julie Green notes that Creative Market is currently (as of March 2019) beta-testing a new, curated “Certified” program, the aim of which is to help ensure that you’re able to find fonts that meet high quality standards.
- My Fonts
My Fonts allows you to test-preview fonts in particular phrases (like “Happy Holidays” and “Save the Date”) before you make a purchase. Erika Firm appreciates that Creative Market and My Fonts offer a variety of licenses, including commercial usage licenses.
- Pixel Surplus
Julie Green is a fan of Pixel Surplus’ font bundles. “They tend to have at least two going at a time and typically choose high-quality typefaces for their bundles, and they treat foundries well,” she says.
- Adobe Fonts (formerly known as TypeKit)
If you have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, you’re entitled to unlimited fonts, all with commercial use licenses, free of charge. You can find a number of Minted fonts here, including what Julie Green calls “font wardrobe basics” (explained later).
- Font Bundles
- Design Cuts
- Lost Type Co-Op
4. Budgeting by bundling up
Purchasing font bundles (package deals that feature a collection of different but sometimes related fonts) can be an effective way to save money. “I’ve sometimes discovered awesome fonts within bundles,” says Sweta Modi, who recommends font site subscriptions. “It’s important to keep an open eye; you never know when and where you might find a font that you will fall in love with.”
5. Get your licensing straight
Before purchasing a font, it’s important to understand how you’re able to use it. Every font has an End User License Agreement (EULA), which defines the usage do’s and don’ts of that specific font, and the terms can vary greatly from license to license. If you win a Minted Challenge, you’re essentially selling Minted the rights to your design, which is considered commercial activity. In addition to the individual license that you purchase from the foundry, Minted also must purchase our own commercial server license for that typeface. A commercial server license allow us to feature fonts in Minted products and on our website.
Here are Julie Green’s advice for proper font licensing:
- DO make sure you license ALL fonts you use.
If you’re confused or not sure, read the EULA if available, contact the designer directly, or stick to sourcing your fonts from reputable marketplaces like the ones listed above in section 3.
- DON’T use personal-use fonts.
Typically “personal use” refers to use on personal projects like birthday party invitations that you’ve created for your own kids—not something you’re submitting to a contest that will pay you if your design is selected. Even if you consider yourself a hobbyist, your submissions probably do not fall within the “personal use” parameters for the vast majority of fonts offering that licensing option. Use reputable sources, such as Google Fonts and Font Squirrel, for procuring free, commercial-use fonts. Choose those over personal-use fonts.
6. Take free fonts with a grain of salt
We realize it’s difficult to turn down offers for free fonts—I mean, who doesn’t enjoy free stuff? But keep in mind that not all free fonts are created equally. Sweta Modi says she’s learned about freebie fonts the hard way. “If a free font looks appealing, make sure it’s a ‘wholesome’ font, as some may be missing numericals and other features.” When a font does not contain numbers and punctuation, it limits how the font can be used—for example, on an envelope address or any card text that includes dates and time (such as wedding invitations).
Erika Firm tends to avoid “freebie” font sites because, “the files can be corrupt and do damage to your computer,” she says, adding that she also worries that free fonts may be copies. But she does point out an exception—she’s a fan of the free fonts that Creative Market often offers in their email newsletters. “Every Monday they send out free downloads, usually with at least one font. It’s a painless way to discover new font designers,” she says.
Julie Green recommends Google Fonts and Font Squirrel, which offer free open-source and free-ware fonts for commercial usage. But! Keep this important caveat in mind: Just because Google Fonts and Font Squirrel offer free open-source fonts, it doesn’t mean that Minted is able to use all of them; in some cases, there are additional commercial server licensing restrictions (meaning, we can’t use them in Minted’s customizer tool.) As a rule of thumb, consult the “Unable to License” section of the Minted Font List to see if we’ve already addressed a particular font. Here at Minted, we are always looking for interesting new fonts to add to our Font List, and we rely on the Minted design community to surface those new fonts! When a new font is used in a winning design, Minted will always look into adding it to our Font List. However, in the case that Minted is unable to acquire the necessary license for a font in a winning design, our team will likely replace the font with a visually similar one already in the Minted Font List.
7. Diversify your font collection, with a focus on quality over quantity
All four artists suggest building a diverse collection of font styles, but with an eye on quality first. “I think of font collections kind of like wardrobes,” says Julie Green. “You need a versatile but small selection of basics that will last forever, plus some fun accessories that you’ll want to refresh more often.”
To better define “basic fonts,” she and Sweta Modi suggest three to four serif fonts and three to four sans serif fonts, each of which should include at least regular, italic, bold, and bold italic face, along with a couple of traditional script fonts. “Once you have those, you can start thinking about buying some trendy font ‘accessories’—for stationery design, you’ll probably want to start with a few fonts that are more casual or playful and a few trendy, modern script fonts,” says Julie Green. “For these, I tend to look at what’s new to the Minted font list as well as what’s currently trending at font sites like Creative Market.”
“It’s not the number of fonts you have but how you use them,” says Amy Ehmann. “You could own all the fonts in the world, but if you don’t invest the time to learn how to use them, they are not of much use to you. Slapping a font on a design without any thought is like slapping paint on a canvas and hoping it makes art.”
If you’re looking for tips on basic rules to follow, Amy recommends reading “The 10 Commandments of Typography” on Creative Bloq.
8. Make sure fonts work well for customizable designs
In the case that you’re designing customizable Minted stationery products (e.g., Wedding invitations or Holiday cards), be sure to use a font that looks good with a variety of people’s names. “I generally use two fonts on most Minted designs to keep it simple and easy for the customer to drop in their own text,” says Erika Firm. “Sometimes I’ll use three fonts on stationery with a lot of text, like a wedding invitation.”
9. Think of typesetting as an art
Julie Green’s chief piece of advice centers around the fine art of arranging type. “You want to create type that is legible, but you also want to create type that is appealing.” With that in mind, here are Julie’s additional insights:
Choose a few of your favorite favorite Minted designs and study how they use type. How much letter spacing (tracking) do they use? How much space between lines? Try recreating a line or two in order to see exactly how they created what they did. Are they mixing typefaces within one design? If so, can you discern any kind of hierarchy or pattern to how they mix typefaces?
When creating your own designs, whether they’re type-driven or art-driven or something in-between, take plenty of time to play around with your type. Keep the Character Panel open at all times. Experiment with different spacing. Combine different fonts, weights, and sizes. Play around with paragraph alignment. Learn what you can do with type to make your designs look more modern, or more sophisticated, or more elegant. Pay attention to the details.
10. When in doubt, track it out
Julie Green is a firm believer that you can do no wrong in stationery design by increasing the spacing between letters, aka “tracking.” “That said, don’t add spacing between the letters of script-style (connected) fonts,” Julie says. “Cursive-style fonts are meant to be connected (and in fact the type designers behind them have gone to great lengths to make sure they connect seamlessly), and they tend to look pretty silly when little spaces are incorporated between letters.”
Published March 14, 20191 COMMENT