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malevolent design weblog

This blog is now defunct, but you can find more stuff over at my personal site

Web Font Embedding Fully Arrives

It’s been over two years since I last wrote about font embedding and the situation has gradually evolved since then.

Major font foundries were adamant that they wanted some kind of special “protection” (despite none being afforded to images, audio, text, HTML, and so on), and this requirement has taken on two main forms: the WOFF format, and hosted services (such as TypeKit, Fontdeck and Webtype). WOFF seemingly hasn’t had much effect in practice, and I’ve mixed feelings about the hosted services — in my experience, clients are wary of the ongoing dependency & rent (however low), and designers still need to somehow have fonts installed locally for use in Photoshop etc.

Google has its Web Fonts free hosted service, and if they happen to have the right fonts for your project then it’s an easy option that also lets you download and install the fonts.

Some of the major foundries are also selling licenses for self-hosting popular fonts, but they tend to be expensive and restrictive (often only WOFF & EOT allowed, page view limits, per-site licensing). Recently a client of mine even decided to change their brand identity simply to get away from using a highly-restricted font from a major foundry. They want something they can use locally or embed for reasonable one-off costs, and I can see that kind of thinking increasingly influencing the way graphic designers work.

For me, the biggest impact has come from two sites: Font Squirrel and Fontspring, both the work of Ethan Dunham (interview). Font Squirrel offers a range of free fonts and a generator that’s the only sane option out there for creating the files needed for cross-browser support. Fontspring has reasonable pricing and simple licensing, making it the first place I currently look when needing an embeddable font.

So we’ve got the browser support, a tool for easily supporting those browsers, and a range of free & low-cost options for licensing. Font embedding has fully arrived, and web designers can now look far beyond Arial and Verdana…


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