Among the many things that have changed in design, the instant gratification of adding a new font to my system is among my favorites. Gone are the days when type was selected from a book and an order placed with a typesetter. Now, computer users are able, and required, to download, install, and maintain hundreds of fonts. Problems arise when different users – clients, designers, printers, and colleagues – share files. Each user must have the same fonts (and version) to ensure that the file will be displayed and reproduced properly.
To help prevent and resolve font conflicts, keep the following in mind:
Proofing — Many designs are now proofed as emailed .pdf files. PDF stands for portable document format, meaning you don’t need the program that created it (i.e., PhotoShop or Illustrator) to view it, you simply need a copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader If a recipient has an older version of Reader, fonts may not always display properly. Go to www.adobe.com to download the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader. It is free and available for both Macs and PCs.
Ownership — Fonts are licensed, not purchased. Your designer does not legally have the right to “give” you the fonts used in the project. They can be made available on disk to reproduce a specific project, or you can purchase a license yourself.
Quality — Nothing can crash your computer faster than a corrupted font, and it can be difficult to diagnose. Cheap or free fonts are disasters waiting to happen. License your fonts from a reliable source and always make a back up copy. Load only a few at a time so you can catch the problem immediately.
Elements — Type 1 PostScript fonts, common in many businesses have multiple parts. They are made up of one printer font and multiple display fonts. The printer font is the information that tells the printer how to create the font for output. The display portion is what appears on screen and includes files for each weight or style such as bold or italic. If your type looks jagged on screen, the display font is missing or damaged, if it looks fine on screen, but prints badly, the printer portion is the problem. True Type fonts have only one part that serves for both display and printing.
Memory — Fonts use a lot of memory , both in the space on your hard drive and the time it takes to process them on screen. If you use a laser printer, you may eventually have to add memory to your printer and/or system to avoid errors. For inkjet printers, additional software can be added to allow PostScript fonts to print smoothly.
Font Families — Fonts are sold individually and in packages that include bold and italic versions. While more expensive, having the true bold is a better choice than selecting bold formatting in a software program if your file will ever be used on another computer. Sending the file to a printer or colleague that has a different system or software version can cause errors or the loss of formatting.
Compatibility — Macs and PCs can’t use the same fonts. To avoid problems, instruct your designer, up front, what fonts you already have (or plan to purchase) so that if you’ll be using the project on your computer it matches the original design. Make sure when purchasing fonts that you select the right version for your operating system.
Beth Brodovsky is the president and principal of Iris Creative Group, LLC. Brodovsky earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Design from Pratt Institute, New York. Before launching her own firm in 1996, she spent eight years as a corporate Art Director and Graphic Designer, providing a sound foundation in management and organizational standards and structure. Iris Creative specializes in providing marketing and strategic communication services to clients in service industries and small businesses. For more information contact Beth at firstname.lastname@example.org or 610-567-2799.