Bespoke typeface are on the rise, but are brands making the most of them? As a wave of geometric sans serifs take over, we ask if it’s time branding embraced a bolder approach.
Typeface licensing fees can be killer. In 2017, Quartz reported that IBM had “freed itself from the tyranny of Helvetica” by creating IBM Plex, bringing an end to the million-dollar bill it was paying each year to use Neue Helvetica. It’s notable not just because it’s an eye-watering amount. But also because conversations about how much it costs to license typefaces aren’t generally had in the open.
Prices are dependent on a huge range of factors including how many styles of a family you need. How many people are in the company, what non-Latin language support you’re after and what environments you’re using it in. Things are further complicated when it comes to how many users you have. How many page views your website gets, how many downloads your app has … and so on. A quick look at Colophon’s buying guide shows how complex the process is. For huge brands with millions of page views, and work that’s appearing online, in print and on TV, things get expensive fast.
So it’s understandable that many brands instead decide to commission their own typeface, preferring an upfront bill to a recurring annual payment. It’s also a chance to gain further creative ownership, and build a design for your specific needs – rather than buying an off-the-peg font.